Epic voyage for the return of Marbles

ELIZABETH CITY, North Carolina (AP) – A 72-year-old sailor plans a journey from North Carolina to Athens aboard a 20-foot (6-meter) boat, hoping to draw attention to an age-old dispute in his homeland. Charalambos Mavromichalis says Greece has suffered from Britain’s nearly 200-year refusal to return the Parthenon Marbles, statues crafted by ancient Greeks that were removed by a British ambassador in the early 1800s. Mavromichalis is hoping his transatlantic voyage in May will put pressure on British officials to return the treasures to what he says is their rightful home. Still, the old sailor knows his plan is a long shot. Greek governments and citizens have been petitioning the British Parliament for return of the sculptures since 1833. «We’re not permitted to return the sculptures by law,» British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton said. «We certainly consider our legal ownership of the Marbles to be unassailable.» The British Museum gained control of the statues and sculptures through the Elgin Collection Act of 1816, a law named for Lord Elgin, Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the last decade of the 18th century. The Greek government spent much of the latter half of the 20th century negotiating with the British to have the sculptures returned. They want the artworks placed in a museum near the site of the ancient temple. «They should try and put them back into the Parthenon,» Mavromichalis said. «They have to put them back.» Mavromichalis, who has lived in Canada since he was 22, expects the voyage to Greece to take 45 days. He plans to start in Elizabeth City and sail via Beaufort, Bermuda, the Azores and Gibraltar to Athens. «I’ll get there,» said Mavromichalis. «What shape I’ll be in, I don’t know.» His wife, Anita, a schoolteacher in Victoria, British Columbia, is supportive but concerned. «He should be all right,» she said. «He’s very good at repairing things and fixing problems.» An undersea quake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale occurred off the coast of the southern seaside town of Monemvasia – about 160 kilometers southeast of Athens – just before 5 a.m. yesterday. No injuries or damage were reported.