In many places in the world, generally along the ocean shore, cities have been discovered that were once thriving ports but are now under 30 to 100 feet of seawater.
This is not due to glacial melting but is the result of earthquakes, volcanic action, bad engineering or even government policy. Many of these cities are located on around the Mediterranean which makes sense as that’s where the oldest cities were.
In the 1930s a British pilot was flying over a stretch of ocean when he spied what was clearly a ruined city off the coast of Egypt 1.6 miles from shore. He had discovered the long lost city of Heracleion which predated Alexandria (20 miles to the west) by 900 years and was the gateway to the Nile from about 1,200 BC to 200 BC. Because it has been safe from looters over the centuries a great many historic artifacts have been recovered, from marble statues to entire ships, wooden carts and even reed baskets with fruit and grain. These perishable items were buried in mud and preserved due to lack of oxygen. Today the city is a popular SCUBA diving destination.
Port Royal in Jamaica is the oldest European settlement in the New World and had been the center of the New World’s Spanish Empire since it was founded in 1494 by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the Indies. Eventually the British grabbed it but they but lost control when it became a pirate haven in the late 1600s. Piracy was big business and Port Royal became a thriving commercial hub of about 6,000 people (many with an eye missing and a parrot on the shoulder I’ll bet). In the 17th century it was a real boom town, sort of the Las Vegas of the Caribbean but with even more drinking (if such a thing is possible). It featured three story brick buildings and a sprawling network of wharves and warehouses. But then at about noon June 7th, 1692 an earthquake stuck with such force that the sandy soil sprung apart which admitted seawater and much of the town was swallowed by quicksand. Only about half the town sunk but it took about 2,000 to 3,000 residents with it. Many of the survivors stayed in the area but in the tropical sun the putrefaction of the people and animals caused most of the survivors to die of diseases. Many claimed it was God’s judgment for this wicked place and that seems like a good possibility. At that point the capital of Jamaica was moved to Kingston.
By 1907 the city had been rebuilt (but with fewer pirates) when another earthquake hit and once again half the city slipped into the sea and the rest collapsed though with only about 2,000 people in residence and there were many fewer deaths. I guess God was not as angry this time. It has been rebuilt once again and is a popular tourist attraction where the main industry is no longer piracy but rather a tour of the still visible ruins of the disasters. As with many submerged cities there are a great many preserved artifacts buried in the sand and the place has a brisk trade in rusty swords and eye patches.
Of course not all towns and cities were inundated by natural disasters. Some have been specifically flooded to created lakes for hydroelectric damns. One of note is Shi Cheng or Lion City so called due to the lion carvings above the city gates. Established in the 7th century it was long a major hub of trade and industry in eastern China just south of Shanghai. Shi Cheng was flooded along with hundreds of towns and villages in 1959 in the era when China was first entering the age of electrification.
Even though this happened just 70 years ago some Chinese like to see it as the Atlantis of China. And so myths are made.
This brings us to the grandest sunken city of all, Atlantis. Since Plato talked about this place as being beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) Atlantis fanciers have generally looked for evidence in the Atlantic. Plato describes it as sinking in a day and a night when this wondrous very advanced civilization suddenly slammed shut. The sea floor has been scoped quite thoroughly and so far there is no evidence has been found.
Another theory is that Atlantis was much closer to today’s Greece. Consider that the sea level of the Mediterranean during the last ice age was 400 feet lower 10,000 years ago this theory holds that the island didn’t really sink but rather the sea rose. Add to this the speculation that the story of the Great Flood was a collapse of the natural dam holding back the Black Sea at Istanbul and you have a compelling story. I like this speculation for its colorful narrative heft.
This has given rise to Atlantean societies today and some folks are making a living ‘channeling’ long dead gurus from this fabled land. Estimates of when Atlantis existed range from over a million years ago to a more reasonable 3,500 years. Some say that the Mayans in Central America were the Atlanteans. Others say it’s the Irish or the Minoans of Santorini. But reality, or what I call, default reality, works like this: at most only one of the many claims of where Atlantis was and what went on there could be true. They all can’t be true. Reality. What a buzz-kill!
Most historians say that Plato was being metaphoric but Earth’s population estimate just crossed into eight billion-land and with that many people there are plenty of folks with differing beliefs. Years ago I met a normal-seeming couple at my restaurant who told me that the Moon was hollow and that advanced beings lived there and they came to earth to give us modern technology and take people of Earth to the Moon to educate them. They gave me a book about it called, Somebody Else Is On The Moon. I read it but after expressing some skepticism I never saw them again. Of course I haven’t checked the inside of the Moon for these missing customers.
There is also a cult who propounds the idea that between ten to fifty thousand years ago Antarctica was the home of an advanced society. This video gives a very nice analysis of the buildings that have been detected under the Antarctic ice.
Me, I hope that one day we do discover Atlantis and I can go visit. Heck, I’ve been everywhere else so I say, ‘Go Atlantis’; but I do hope it isn’t the Mayans as they have way too many bugs in the jungle. I vote for Ireland.