Once upon a time, there was a really advanced city, some would say even too advanced for its time. The legend says that one day, the ocean swallowed the city and it was never seen again. This is a legend most of you heard about: the legend of Atlantis. We still can’t be sure whether Atlantis existed or not but what we can be sure of is that there are several once-great cities that today lie underwater. In this article, we’ll share some of the most mind-blowing underwater cities of our time that you probably didn’t hear about, or how I like to call them, our modern-day versions of Atlantis.
Yonaguni Pyramid, Japan
The Pyramids of Yonaguni are certainly one of the most amazing sights in the world and one of the most mind-blowing underwater cities. First of all, it’s confusing how did the Egyptian mythological symbol of such size end up just next to the Japanese coast. Scientists are still debating whether the pyramids are man-made or it was a natural occurrence, with both sides not providing enough evidence. However, both sides agree on one fact; the pyramids are older than 12,000 years.
The unusual formations were discovered in 1986 by Kihachiro Aratake, a director of the Yonaguni-Cho Tourism Association while trying to find a good spot from where he could observe the sharks. He reported his findings and shortly after, a group of scientists from the University of the Ryūkyūs visited the formations. They confirmed that the “pyramids” are at least 10,000 years old and this discovery soon shocked archaeologists from around the world and turned the Yonaguni Monument into an instant tourist attraction.
Shi Cheng (Lion City), China
Shi Cheng, also known as The Lion City is one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. The city was founded during the rule of the Han dynasty around 2,000 years ago and was once the economic hub of the eastern province Zhejiang. However, the amazing architecture and intriguing statues didn’t save the city from flooding in the 1950s when the government decided to build a new hydroelectric power station.
Today, all of the amazing sculptures and buildings are around 130 feet underwater. What’s left of the Shi Cheng is a flooded city with a size roughly equal to 63 football fields. Recently, a dive company from Beijing has been exploring the ruins of the city and is planning to build a bridge across the lake that’s expected to increase tourism in the area and the popularity of China’s forgotten sunken city.
Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, India
This mythical city of Dwarka was supposedly the ancient home of Lord Krishna and was once considered to be a myth. However, the ruins discovered in the mid-2000s prove that this city wasn’t only an Indian fairytale. The ruins of the ancient city are located 130 feet beneath the ocean surface, confirming that Dwarka is one of the seven oldest cities of India.
Marine scientists who explored the remains claim that the site discovered 36 m (120 ft) underwater near the Gulf of Cambay could be over 9,000 years old. If this is true, the ancient city of Dwarka predates the oldest known remains in the Indian subcontinent by more than 5,000 years. This would also mean that Dwarka was a thriving city before the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations were even born.
Port Royal, Jamaica
Once upon a time, Port Royal was one of the largest cities in the Caribbean and one of the most frequented places in Jamaica. The city was famous as the ‘Pirate hub of Jamaica’ and as the ‘Most sinful city of the world’. As a port city, it was infamous for its gaudy displays of wealth, hedonism, and loose morals, and as such was one of the most popular overseas homeports for the Dutch and English-sponsored privateers to spend their treasure in the Middle Ages.
Seeing all this, one could argue that the script of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was at least partially inspired by Port Royal. In 1692, after the big earthquakes that hit Jamaica, Port Royal was swallowed by the ocean. Most of the inhabitants died. Some people still claim that this was God’s punishment for the most sinful city in the world which today lies forty feet underwater.
Villa Epecuen, Argentina
Since the 1920s, Villa Epecuen started developing as a small spa town in central Argentina. Its relative proximity to Buenos Aires and the supposedly healing water of Epecuen Lake quickly made it one of the most popular small towns in the area but it all ended in 1985.
On 6 November 1985, one of the most famous spa towns in Argentina completely vanished when this same lake with supposedly healing properties completely flooded the town after the continuous heavy rains in the previous months. 5,000 people lost everything they had in the blink of an eye. In 2009, the lake began to recede and in 2011 the town got back one of its inhabitants. Pablo Novak is currently the only resident of Villa Epecuen.
Near the coast of Alexandria lies the ancient palace of Cleopatra, part of the sunken city of Heracleion. According to most scientists, the city ruins have been cast into the sea after an earthquake 1600 hundred years ago and remained there until being discovered in the early 2000s. A lot of ancient artifacts were found in the flooded city, including Cleopatra’s grave and the temple of Isis. Unfortunately, the ruins are still not open to visitors, but we hope that’ll change soon. There’s a lot to see down there.
This list couldn’t be complete without one of the oldest underwater cities- Israel’s Atlit-Yam; an ancient Neolithic village that shows there were signs of organized life on this territory 8,300 years ago! Some of the most remarkable sights of Atlit-Yam are the 10-acre stone circle that looks a lot like an underwater version of the Stonehenge and the megalithic monument at which 65 human skeletons were discovered. Interestingly, two of them showed signs of tuberculosis, making them the two oldest cases of this widespread disease.
Situated at the Gulf of Naples near the comune today known as Bacoli, the city of Baiae was the Las Vegas of ancient Rome. It was a luxurious, hedonistic hub for centuries, especially towards the end of the Roman Republic. According to numerous historical sources, the city was famous for its hot springs and its bohemian status, attracting noble people from around the kingdom but it was also one of the most corrupted scandal-ridden cities in the Empire.
The largest part of the city submerged in the sea around the 8th century because of volcanic activity that raised the land and the part of the city that survived never got back its former glory. The city was sacked during the barbarian invasions, Muslim raiders, and in the 1500s was completely abandoned because of a malaria epidemic. Today, most of the ancient city remains 20 feet below the surface and is a part of the submerged archaeological park.
CuronVenosta (Graun im Vinschgau), Italy
The city of Curon Venosta is located beneath Resia Lake near the border of Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. Curon Venosta was flooded after WW2 when the building of a dam went wrong. The only thing left on the surface is the bell tower of what was once the biggest church in the town.
What’s even more interesting, people claim that they still occasionally hear the bell ring from the tower, despite the fact that the bell was removed 30 years ago. But this is not the only interesting thing about Curon Venosta. If you’re looking for a unique experience, visit in the winter when the lake freezes and you can literally walk to the tower, knowing that there’s an entire city below your feet.
Halfway between the southern Laconia coast and Elafonisos Island, you can discover the majestic remains of Pavlopetri. After initial estimates showed that the city dates back to the early Mycenean era, further investigation showed that the city actually was around during the early Bronze Age middle Minoan Age which makes it between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.
In 2009, Pavlopetri became the first submerged town to be digitally surveyed in three dimensions by using sonar mapping techniques. Today, Pavlopetri is a popular tourist attraction and a part of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
Vilarinho da Furna, Portugal
Vilarinho da Furna was one of the oldest villages in Portugal before being sacrificed and flooded for the construction of a hydroelectric dam. The village that was inhabited since the Roman Empire era was flooded in 1972 and indemnity fees were paid to the residents of the village. Interestingly, the fees paid to the villagers were around 5 escudos per square meter which is roughly the price of 5 sardines.
Technically, the land leftovers still belong to the descendants of the owners of the houses but unfortunately for them, their property is useless as it’s underwater throughout most of the year.
Bonus #1: Mauritia
This one isn’t really a city, but rather a whole continent. Some scientists in the past claimed that there used to be a piece of land connecting the Indian subcontinent to Mauritius and Madagascar. And there has been some proof about this claim recently. This huge piece of land was swallowed by the sea during massive movements of land across the Earth’s surface.
However, according to scientists, this wouldn’t have been the best place to live. Mauritia was covered in volcanoes and earthquakes were quite common across the continent.
Bonus #2: Ocean Spiral, Japan
So far, we covered a lot of underwater cities whose glory days are far behind them. But how about an underwater city of the future? As futuristic as it may sound, Shimizu Corporation (Japanese construction firm) has been working on creating a modern-day Atlantis that can seriously revolutionize our contemporary living ways. The ambitious project is named Ocean Spiral and they’re working to making the city completely self-sufficient by harnessing the resources of the ocean.
It’s mind-blowing how most of these underwater cities used to be so important in the past and today most people don’t even know about them. The game of history is surely a fascinating one…
Which one of these unfortunate underwater cities was your favorite? Which one would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments.
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