Piri Reis in Bahriye (Seamanship) “The Ceramic Gulf Explained”

Map of Gökova in the “Bahriyye”.
Everything that the mariner needs to know – in a poetic style.
For a comparison, a modern chart to the left. Please click to see in full.

Piri Reis, the Ottoman Admiral of Turkish descent, Cartographer and Scholar, author of several Mappa Mundi surviving into our century, describes Gökova in the following words (Tercüman, 1001 Temel Eser):

Let us start from the mouth of the Ceramic Gulf. At the start is the fortress Ispot (today’s Aspat). It is situated on a steep hill. There are ruins in front of the fortress and here a stream flows into the sea. However, nobody drinks this water. Water requirements are met by water cisterns next to the ruins. When Poyraz, the northeastern wind, blows, the shores off the fortress are safe anchor grounds. Three miles (Two miles of Piri Reis correspond roughly to one sea mile of our times.) to the east there is the island of Gümret (Çelebi Island, the name reminds of Gümbet = Cystern closeby). This and the bay to the west of the island are good anchorage points. This is called Bakla Bükü (Bagla Cove). There are streams inshore of the little island at the cove of Muskubi (Müskebi, Ortakent Yalisi). Three miles east of this island comes the Sigir (cattle) island. The passage between this island and the Anatolian mainland is shallow. Not every ship can pass. The distance from this fortress to Bodrum is six miles. On the way there is a rock awash (the Haremten shoals).

Bodrum is a small castle.
Bodrum town, British Chart, “corrections up to 1953”,
From Kuno Steuben, Abenteuer mit ShangriLa, Ullstein, 1968

Bodrum is a small (sic) castle. There is a nice and wide harbour under the castle. In olden times the infidels had boulders spilled south of the castle in order to prevent wind entering the harbour. One enters the harbour between these rocks. This is because no opening has been left out. There is an island situated five miles off the harbour, called Karaada (The Black Island). Made of steep hills, the island is deep all around it. It is not an anchorage site. Up until the cape (Tavsanburnu, The Rabbit Cape) the shores of Anatolia, two miles opposite the island, are suitable to anchor. Once the cape is rounded, one arrives, after about one mile to the east, at the Kizilagaç (Redtree) Cove. The eastern cape of this location is called Cape Orak (The Sickle). An island is located to the east of the cape, called Kicik (Orak Adası ). These are deep waters. The cove to the east of the Kicik island is called Kilisecik (Little Chapel)(Kisse Bükü). There is a ruined building. Off this building there is an anchorage. Opposite it there is a small island (Yıldız Adası), east of which faces white sandy shores. There is a stream in the middle of them (Şeytan Deresi?). Bitter tasting, the water here is not drinkable. Ahead of the cape east of this stream there are rocks in the sea (Hurmalık Burnu). They can be seen at times and they are awash at times. The East side of these rocks is called Kavak Koyu (Poplar Cove). When this cove is rounded towards east one comes to the Fesilge Cove (Feslegen, Basilico Cove, Çökertme). Solok (?) of this cove there is a burly cape called Cape Fesilge. When that cape is rounded to the east one arrives at estuaries where the kaiks of the levents (able seamen of the Levant) roam. To the east of these estuaries comes the Kereme (Ceramos) Estuary and there is a cove of the same name. To the east of the village there is a sharp rock, called Kara Burun (The Black Cape). When one proceeds to the east one arrives at the Akbük (The White Cove)harbour. It is ten miles from this harbour to the end of the Kereme Golf (Ceramic Golf),.


The research vessel of the “Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi, Deniz Bilimleri Enstitüsü” K. Piri Reis in Gökova off Akbük.

Here grand and lofty mountains surround the area, allowing for no more anchorage. At the end of the Kereme Golf there is the Gökova Stream, next to which there is yet another called the Kemer estuary. Boats can enter these streams, but the water is not drinkable. From here to Bodrum it is ninety miles. None of the brooks found along this shore are drinkable. The grounds off the Gökova Stream are white sand, shallow but good holding grounds. In summer it is only exposed to the Imbat (the local westerly offshoot of the Meltemi). Heavy gusts can be expected. When the Imbat blows and anchoring is required, then you pass the Gökova Stream at the north, then one proceeds to the south, veering to the southwest and eventually arriving at an island five miles southeast of the Gökova stream. This is called Gelibolucuk (little Gelibolu, to distinguish it from the Gallipoli of the Hellespont. Kalliopolis meaning “Beautiful Township”). It is a good anchorage. But ships larger than galleys cannot enter.

One can anchor only in the passage between the Anatolian mainland and the island. Again, southwest of this one and three miles offshore there is another island. It is called Oran (Ören, “the Ruins”) island. This island is embroidered with buildings like the seeds of the pomegranates. It is said that it used to be a large township in the past. Now the buildings are left over. Off here is a natural harbour. Large ships can enter. It has to be entered from the Anatolian direction and from the southwest, because there is plenty of depth here. To the north there are two islands but the passage between them is narrow and shoal. A galley will pass. Half a mile to the west of this island are rocks; care and prudence is required. Southwest of the island is Sögüt Cove (Karacasögüt). At the mouth of the cove is an island with good anchorage. There is no better anchorage here than the Small Günlük (Sweetgum). It is a natural cove. It is wedged between two mountains. It is a huge harbour. It is off the beaten track but even drinking water is available. Not many ships stop here. There are further anchorages in this bay, but if required, consult the chart.