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Sunken cities, sub-aqueous forests, petrified figures of the watery underworlds – the legends were true! Plunge into the blue depths with the world’s ten most staggering underwater wonders.
Standing still with eyes closed, the subaquatic museum’s stone inhabitants wait patiently in their eternal limbo. In the clear waters there’s an eerie quiet, just the sound of clicking pebbles. The older statues’ faces have eroded, their mournful expressions now recalling the ashen corpses at Pompeii, as corals steadily colonize bodies and mask their faces. More than 450 figurative sculptures have been installed in the underwater museum since sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor co-founded it back in 2009 off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Before the creation of the park, the island’s marine life had been dwindling, the coastal region having been ravaged by severe storms. The sculptures have provided the structure necessary for corals to return to the area.
This is China’s own Atlantis. The grand city of Shi Cheng, also known as Lion City after the Five Lion Mountain that rises up behind it, was once a cradle of wealth and power in the eastern province of Zhejiang. In 1959, the decision to build a new hydroelectric power station was made at the expense of the city. A man-made lake was constructed, and the ornate metropolis slowly filled with water. Submerged in the blue waters of QianDao Lake, the city remained forgotten until recently, when divers in the area rediscovered it. Elaborate sculptures and engravings decorate the buildings, which remains remarkably intact.
Named after its emerald waters, Green Lake is found in Styria, Austria. Nestled in the Hochschwab mountains and forests, this alpine lake is only three-feet deep in the winter. Come spring however, the melting snow from the Karst Mountains floods the lake, submerging its flora and fauna for the summer months. Green meadows and a park with benches, paths and little bridges are transformed into a surreal underwater landscape; you have to look twice to believe your eyes.
Submerged in the Mediterranean Sea just off the Italian Riviera near the glamorous seaside town of Portofino, a giant Christ reaches out with open arms skyward, offering a benediction of peace. The eight-foot tall statue that is separated from the surface by 55 feet of sea, was created by Guido Galletti in 1954. It is said to be located near the spot where inventor Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to try out scuba diving equipment, died on a sub-aqua dive in 1947.
The city of Baiae was the Monte Carlo of Ancient Rome, a place of parties and hedonistic pleasure. Favoured by antiquity’s famous, with emperors such as Nero, Cicero and Caesar all vacationing at the famed seaside resort. Following the sacking of the city by the Saracens in the Eighth century, the city fell to ruin and rising water levels eventually swallowed it up. Today the ancient ruins of Baiae can be visited in one of the world’s few public underwater archeological parks just off the Bay of Naples.
The 5,000 year-old Pavlopetri in southern Laconia, Greece, is the oldest submerged city in the world, dating back to the Bronze Age. It was discovered in 1967 by oceanographer Nic Flemming, and in 2009 investigations begun into the history and development of this now submerged ancient town. The archeological site is awash with a wealth of artifacts, and recently the BBC created a digital recreation of how the city might have once looked.
Lake Kaindy in the Tian Shan mountain range formed in 1911 after an earthquake caused a tremendous landslide to block off part of the gorge and act like dam. With nowhere to drain, rainwater collected and gradually submerged the spruce tree forest that grows in the ravine. With just their tops peeping out, the spruce trunks grow below in the icy waters.
Sunken in the waters off Alexandria in Egypt lie the remains of Cleopatra’s Palace. Queen Cleopatra, the last female pharaoh, was made legendary through her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. She supposedly committed suicide by letting a snake bite her breast. Her palace at Alexandria and the rest of the city were engulfed by the sea after a series of cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis in the Fourth and Eighth centuries. A French archeologist, Franck Goddio, and his team discovered the site in the 1990s. Among the huge limestone blocks from fallen buildings, divers have found coins, tiny amulets, jewelry, rings, glassware, hairpins as well as two perfectly preserved sphinxes, the spiritual guardians of Cleopatra’s temple.
Craning her neck to gaze upward, a girl kneels on the sand bed. Aptly named Ocean Atlas, she calmly bears the weight of the sea on her shoulders. At 18-feet, she’s the largest underwater sculpture in the world, dwarfing the snorkelers and divers who come to New Providence in the Bahamas to visit her. Designed by underwater sculpture artist Jason de Caires Taylor, her texture is roughened to encourage coral to take up home on this gentle giant.
Once known as ‘the wickedest city on earth,’ Jamaica’s sleepy fishing of Port Royal had a notorious reputation as a pirate’s paradise. This West Indies port had its heyday in the 17th century. But disaster struck in 1692, when an earthquake destroyed the town, plunging it for good to the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker. Now, the bars and brothels where all manner of debauchery were committed have become archeological treasures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through the eerie waters, you might still glimpse the ghosts of treasure hunters and buccaneers swigging rum round a tavern table; the ladies in their fine crinoline dresses swanning arm in arm with British naval officers, enjoying a last night before setting sail for the New World.