SALAMINA – Greece is commemorating one of the greatest naval battles in ancient history this year at Salamis, the claw-shaped island skirting the mainland near Athens.
It’s where the invading Persian navy suffered a heavy defeat 2,500 years ago, their large vessels unable to properly maneuver in the narrow seaways.
Salamis, now known as Salamina, has become an extended suburb of the capital, a blue-collar retirement and summer home spot.
It still looks out over a fleet of sunken and partially sunken vessels.
Heavily rusted cargo ships and tugboats, battered sailboats and fishing trawlers are scattered and abandoned between Salamina and Greece’s largest industrial zone with oil refineries, shipyards and a massive Chinese-owned container port.
With the main commemoration events just months away, Greece is in a race to declutter the coastline and has already salvaged dozens of ships, which are dragged to shore, cut up and transported to scrapyards in central Greece.
“This is a historic site and it’s in terrible shape,” said Christos Maridakis, a gruff-spoken retired submarine officer from the Salamis International Foundation, a privately-funded organization helping with the commemoration events.
“People working here are full of passion to get the job done in the short time we have. It’s a battle,” he said, standing near two excavators on the Salamina shoreline, with rollers partially submerged.