Amazing Find: An Actual Underwater Forest, 50,000 Years Old

Ancient cypress trees likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina

Fish swim among ancient cypress roots 60 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Looks like we jumped the gun on our list of the world’s coolest scuba dives.

Divers have recently discovered an underwater forest of old-growth cypress off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, 60 feet below the surface. The trees (now dead, obviously) are believed to be more than 50,000 years old and are so well preserved that, according to what one diver, Ben Raines, told the online publication LiveScience, “when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap.”

Ben Raines / Press-Register

Scientists believe the forest was hidden for millennia under ocean sediment until being uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The forest, which has since become an artificial reef, was discovered soon after the storm, but kept secret until recently.

From LiveScience:

Raines was talking with a friend who owned a dive shop about a year after Hurricane Katrina. The dive shop owner confided that a local fisherman had found a site teeming with fish and wildlife and suspected that something big was hidden below. The diver went down to explore and found a forest of trees, then told Raines about his stunning find. 

But because scuba divers often take artifacts from shipwrecks and other sites, the dive shop owner refused to disclose the location for many years, Raines said.

In 2012, the owner finally revealed the site's location after swearing Raines to secrecy. Raines then did his own dive and discovered a primeval Cypress swamp in pristine condition.

Needless to say, Mr. Raines broke his oath and told scientists who are now studying the trees’ growth rings for clues about climate change.

If you’re looking to see this underwater marvel for yourself, you’d better get on it: now that the wood is exposed, oxygen is attacking the wood and sea creatures are burrowing in it, meaning the forest is expected to disappear in a few years.

Via TreeHugger.

Photo (c) Ben Raines / Press-Register

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