The trees still smell like fresh cypress sap when cut.
The Gulf of Mexico-shimmering, crystalline, spectacular and home to an ancient primeval cypress forest. Scuba divers have made an incredible discovery 60 feet down in the water- a 50,000 year old forest filled with a “fairy world” of cypress logs and tree stumps “as big as trucks.” Local fishermen and divers noticed huge schools of fish congregating in a certain area, and patterns of their swimming that seemed unusual. They decided to follow them and uncovered an ancient forest so well-preserved, the trees still smell like fresh cypress sap when cut.
The forest has stood in an environment totally devoid of oxygen for over 12,000 years, allowing it to be preserved in a pristine state. Divers think it may have been unearthed by Hurricane Katrina, which stirred up the ocean floor so much that the trees were uncovered. This opened them up to vast amounts of marine life which now threaten to destroy the find completely.
The journal Live Science reports that a researcher named Grant Harley has concerns over beating the fish to the prized discovery:
The longer this wood sits on the bottom of the ocean, the more marine organisms burrow into the wood, which can create hurdles when we are trying to get radiocarbon dates,” Harley said. “It can really make the sample undatable, unusable.”
But before the marine life completely devours the incredible find, Harley’s team has plans to extract as much information as possible from the samples they collected. They also hope they can collect more in the near future. The researchers say the samples can reveal important information and data about “thousands of years of climate history for the region,” reports Live Science. Harley’s team is in the process of applying for research funding before time runs out and the fish gobble up the site entirely. It will only be a couple of years before it is gone.
For now, though, “It’s completely enchanted,” said Harley in a video posted on the Live Science website. “It’s an ancient river channel, and you can see the edge of the river…it’s a thriving ecosystem.” The site had been spoken about for years among local folks, but Harley was having trouble finding anyone to show him the spot. Calling the find “a closely guarded secret,” Harley says “I understand why no one wants to tell anyone where it is. It’s just magic…it’s a magic, magic place; you feel like you’re swimming with dinosaurs…and understanding that this spot, 60 feet under water, was once dry land, it’s just an amazing, thing…a totally enchanted forest on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.”
The video shows swarms of aquatic life including fish, crabs and thousands of sea anemones who now call the forest their home. Harley and his team are amazed and somewhat anxious at the same time because while the sea life is beautiful it is also destroying the ancient site. They are hoping the additional dives can happen as soon as possible. For now, though, this 50,000 year old cypress forest in the Gulf of Mexico will continue to enchant scientists and hopefully reveal important information for the future.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Source: Live Science