Feature
Jack Van Toorn

The discovery of underwater ruins remains a hot topic amongst armchair backpackers and sofa SCUBA divers, or at least those who put pen to paper. Although possible, exploring submerged structures is not always safe and the risks involved should never be taken lightly. That being said, in the right conditions with a competent instructor, meeting the new tenants of a man-made structure below the surface can be a fascinating experience. Not to mention the effects additional structures and materials can have on the marine ecosystem.

From Cursed Cities sent to the depths to submerged monuments swarming with sea life; welcome to our top ten sunken civilizations to add to that bottomless SCUBA Bucket List

Alexandria – Egypt


Photo courtesy: http://en.protothema.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/31.jpg

One of the most fascinating underwater discoveries since the bath bomb, the city of Alexandra The Great along with what is believed to be the palace of Cleopatra lie off the shoes of Alexandria.
The entire lost island of Antirhodus, well preserved shipwrecks, towering granite columns remain sub surface. We almost missed out, as some of the attractions have been recovered from the depths, the statue of a priest to the goddess Isis and another a Sphinx with the face of King Ptolemy XII. Thankful the Egyptian authorities ordered them to be returned to their original positions to create a SCUBA museum.

Jamaica – Port Royal


Photo courtesy: http://www.scubadivejamaica.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/scuba-dive-montego-bay-plane-wreck1.jpg

Yarrr, here be pirates.. or at least ‘blub blub blub here used to be pirates!’
Port Royal, once known as the ‘’Wickedest City in the World’’ because of its abundance of pirates, smugglers, looters and prostitutes, is now famous for another reason. On the 7th of June 1632, the 13 acre site was suddenly submerged by 40 feet of water following a high magnitude earthquake, and has remained so ever since. Reports that the ghost of Johnny Depp can still be sighted, patrolling the ancient coral encrusted gallows have been rejected as a lie made up by me, just now.

India – Mahabalipuram


Photo courtesy: http://en.protothema.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/21.jpg

For hundreds of years, the temple that stood at the shores of Mahabalipuram was chased by the ‘myth’ that it were but one of seven temples, six of which has been claimed by the ocean in the 7th century. With the advancement of underwater breathing apparatus technology came the discovery of ancient ruins, somewhat matching the remaining land-based temple. At depths of five to seven meters, built into the naturally occurring geological rock formations, were sections of stone walls, masonry platforms and an ornate carving of a lion’s head.
The temples are thought to have been erected by the people of the Pallava dynasty, known for this style of rock cut temples in the area, but the reason for the submergence is still unclear.

Yonaguni-Jima – Japan


Photo courtesy: http://en.protothema.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/41.jpg

A megalith of a monument was accidentally discovered by a mischievous diver, who has strayed beyond the permitted limits from the shore of Okinawa and came across ornate hallways and structures carved out of solid rock. The ruins of Yonaguni have been estimated to be up to 8000 years old, and have been mapped out to be over 100 meters wide. The fitted stone block archways hold a strong resemblance to those of the Ancient Incans, but the creators of this monument remains a mystery.

Lion City – China


Photo courtesy: http://i.imgur.com/tbmkkdj.jpg

Between 85 and 130 feet below the surface of Quiandao Lake, the ‘Lion City’ was intentionally submerged intentionally to create a dam. The city is huge and magnificent, packed with archaeological masterpieces bordered by ornate sculptures.
Discovered in 2001, the city boasts 265 or more arches connecting the almost perfect preservation of what ‘Shi Cheng’ looked like pre-flooding. Already a popular destination for SCUBA divers, trips for Shanghai to explore the ruins, if you can call them that, are commonplace.

Pavlopetri – Greece


Photo courtesy: http://en.protothema.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/11.jpg

Around 1000 BCE Greece saw a series of earthquakes, this is beginning to seem a common theme for sunken cities. Pavlopetri is no exception, plunged into the big blue, becoming the world’s oldest known underwater archaeological town! As ruins go it held together well, preserving a full network of streets, tombs and monuments. 15 mostly in-tact and recognisable structures have been identified, which is not commonplace for a sub-surface stone structure as little as 10 feet deep at some point.

Caeserea Maritima – Israel


Photo courtesy: http://media.fromthegrapevine.com/assets/images/2014/8/Shipwreck%20Haifa.jpg.824x0_q85.jpg

Abandoned before it was condemned to the depth, the port and city of Caesera Maritima was built on a seismic zone by King Herald himself. Around 1,400 years after the sea swallowed the ruins, the Israeli National Park Trust reopened the area as an underwater museum which has become semi famous for its multitude of ‘point of interest’, and it’s suitability for all levels snorkelers and SCUBA divers.

Helike – Greece


Photo courtesy: http://blog.world-mysteries.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/shore-temple.jpg

Submerged by a Tsunami caused by a, you guessed it, earthquake. The lost city of Halike has become an archaeological obsession and an ecological wonderland. This civilization was often written of in ancient scrolls by historical scholars, and feverishly searched for until its discovery by Alex Papadopoulos. The crumbles walls and collapsed rooftops show some of the history of the fall of Helike, telling tales of natural disaster and seismic splits before the ocean finally finished it. Divers finding relics, pottery and coinage is not unknown, but there are strict regulations in place to prevent ‘finders’ keepers’.

Kwan Phayao – Thailand


Photo courtesy: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/0e/a5/64/0ea564d49a8a34918412c0048d3bb4cf.jpg

Similar to the ‘Lion City’ of China, Kwan Phayao was submerged to build a dam in an attempt to irrigate nearby rice fields. Home to around 22 species of fish, the town boasts 500 year old temple ruins, subsurface statues and several unrecognisable structures. The stonework is badly damaged but there have been plans to resurrect the city, fervently contested by ecologists hoping to see the advancement of plant and animal life turn Kwan Phayao into a popular SCUBA diving area.

Baiae and Portus Julius – Italy


Photo courtesy: http://www.thegoldenscope.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/portus-julius-6-res.jpg

The coastal holiday home of roman emperors Baiae, bridging to one of the largest naval bases in the Roman Empire, Portus Julius lies a short distance off the bay of Naples. Divers can explore the submerged villas, temples, spas and bath houses easily as the area lies mere meters from the surface. Gaining popularity in the SCUBA diving community, there are many artefacts to examine but strict penalties towards pillaging.

Cover Image: Credit

Delete comment?

This will permanently delete the comment. Are you sure?

Sign up now and join in!
Sign up now and join in!
Sign up now and join in!