Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Divers Discover 52,000 Year Old Cypress Forest Underwater
Christina Sarich, Staff Writer
Covering more than .5 square miles in the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico, divers have uncovered an enormous Cypress forest. It will probably be destroyed in just a few years by wood-burrowing marine life now that it has been exhumed from numerous layers of sediment, but experts believe this hidden arbor, now being called the Bald Cypress Forest, is more than 52,000 years old. The Cypress are so well preserved that, when scientists took the thinnest cut to determine their age, you could still smell the scent of fresh Cypress sap.
Local fishermen found a site near the coast of Alabama that was particularly full of fish and other marine life. They weren’t quite sure why. Suspecting that there might be something hidden under the Gulf water’s surface, the fisherman confided in a dive shop owner who eventually decided to look into the deeper waters in person to see what he could find. The diver discovered an extraordinary underwater forest but refused to disclose the location for years. He told another diver, named Ben Raines, but swore him to secrecy in 2012. The forest has become an artificial reef - a habitat for all kinds of fish, crustaceans, anemones, and various marine wildlife. The layers of sediment covering the forest had been protecting the reef by creating an oxygen-free environment.
Raines broke his silence and put together a team of a few scientists to create a sonar map to measure the breadth of the forest and also took samples to try to date the trees. The age given to the underwater forest, 52,000 years, will likely help scientists learn more about the climate during the Wisconsin Glacial period, when sea levels were much lower than they are today. The Wisconsin glaciation extended from approximately 85,000 to 11,000 years ago.
A researcher from Louisiana State University, Kristin DeLong, will dive the site this year to explore it more completely. Another team of scientists is applying for grants, but they will need these grants to be awarded expeditiously since a dendrochronologist (someone who determines the age of trees by their rings) says the forest will probably only remain for two years before being devoured by sea organisms.
This is yet another underwater discovery that proves we know less about our own deep seas than we might have imagined. Other recent finds include a first century B.C. stonecutter, submerged DNA in Greece, a possible crashed UFO between Finland and Sweden in the Baltic Sea, and pyramids of glass found in theBermuda Triangle.
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.
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