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Saturday, April 18, 2015

10 STUNNING NEW WAYS TO VISUALIZE HOW THE EARTH WORKS


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10 Stunning New Ways To Visualize How The Earth Works
By Ivan Farkas,
Listverse, 18 April 2015.

Earth’s green-blue visage is awful nice, but we see it so often that we’re sick of it. Luckily, NASA and other space agencies are constantly dreaming up new ways to visualize the countless terrestrial processes we take for granted.

10. Earth’s Plasmasphere

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Photo credit: NASA

The plasmasphere is the inner portion of Earth’s magnetic field, and it’s fabulous. Recently, astronomers have found a constant flux of particles between the two electrically charged regions, forming a terrestrial version of the solar wind.

As solar UV radiation strikes the atmosphere, it kicks off a gigantic ionic rave. Tiny electrons are whipped up and ionize other particles, creating a magnetic stew high above Earth’s surface. The flow is somewhat modest in cosmic terms. It releases only about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of charged material into the outer magnetosphere per second. Daily, this adds up to 90 tons of plasma discharge, and this flowing electric material forms a large doughnut around our planet.

Voids created as charged wind escapes are constantly refilled by a sort of plasmic diffusion, and so the plasmasphere is continually recycled. In the early ’60s, astronomers found that this region thins out quickly as we approach a distance of three terrestrial radii - or about 20,000 kilometres (12,000 mi) out into space. The USSR spacecraft Luna 2 confirmed this supposition, and the area is now known as the plasmapause.

9. Rock Magnetism

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Even though NASA mostly concerns itself with the astronomical, in 2004, the space agency turned a magnetic eye toward Earth. And with some help from the United States Geological Survey, they created a map of magnetic trends across the planet. These lithosphere magnetism anomalies can reveal many things, including water reservoirs, earthquake risk, and even Earth’s geological evolution.

It might seem unlikely, but rocks are like tectonic scrapbooks, and their magnetic profiles hold a legacy of the past. Knowing this, researchers can reverse-engineer Earth’s tectonic history by treating the coloured areas like a global jigsaw puzzle. By tracking these major shifts through time, researchers can test their simulations against reality.

The spots of magnetism are colour-coded according to directional influence. Red and yellow blotches (positive values) exert an outward magnetic push. Blues and greens (negative values) indicate an inward magnetic pull. And while magnetic forces propagate in every direction, the map you see only displays a vertical component. However impressive it may look, the measurements are in nanoTeslas, and the magnetic interactions are laughably weak. The biggest splotch on the map is still 200 times weaker than your average fridge magnet.

8. Earth In False Colours

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Don’t worry - the Earth is totally fine. The bloody reds and post-apocalyptic browns actually show a proliferation of vegetation across the planet and not some kind of theoretical doomsday scenario.

The image was snapped by the phonetically awkward Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging probe, or MESSENGER. The probe has been orbiting Mercury for the past four years, but it started its journey with a practice lap around Earth and honed its instruments by capturing Earth in all its false glory.

The snapshot was taken by the Mercury Dual Imaging Sytem’s wide-angle, 11 wavelength-spanning super-camera. It’s almost a true-colour (blue, red, and green), yet it swaps in infrared for blue because our atmosphere scatters blue light. Infrared makes it through unencumbered and produces a much sharper image. Plant-life reflects near-infrared light, and since that wavelength is assigned to visible red in the image, we see this oddly coloured Earth.

The psychedelically false colours allow NASA to observe Earth across the radio magnetic spectrum, and there are numerous false-colour combinations. These artificial colour bands reveal significant terrestrial processes, including vegetation patterns, various aspects of the water cycle, temperatures, and even small-scale planetary disasters like floods and wildfires.

7. Earth Breathing

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Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s beaver-tailed Aqua satellite tells us almost everything we want to know about Earth’s water cycle. And by combining a glut of readings from 2003–2010, NASA has produced an animation of the breathing planet.

AIRS, or the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, is the ultimate unsung hero of meteorology and responsible for single-handedly improving forecasting accuracy more than any other tool in the past decade. AIRS’s partner in crime, MODIS (the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), defies conventional acronym logic and monitors vegetation and carbon dioxide while making its pole-to-pole transit across low-Earth orbit.

The cycle kicks off January 1, when Northern Hemisphere dwellers are still in the midst of a chilly Christmas hangover. As you can see on the map, the bare areas are bathed in used carbon dioxide. Through these recreations, we’re also privy to less obvious phenomena. For example, 10 percent of these gassy carbon dioxides are released from warming soils (and not just dying plants). We can also see a three-month lag between vegetative rebirth and increasing CO2 in the middle troposphere, part of the lowest atmospheric layer.

6. Lightning

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Photo credit: NASA

Lightning costs us billions of dollars per year in repairs to man-made structures. To guide us in avoiding these strikes, NASA created a set of lightning density maps that show strike frequency across the globe. The map uses data collected from 1995–2002 by space-borne instruments OTD (Optical Transient Detector) and LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor). You’ll want to avoid the dark red splotches, which represent electric hot spots, but the purple and grey areas are much safer and relatively free of deadly bolts.

Thanks to the aesthetically pleasing map, a couple of trends jump out at you. First, large swaths of ocean remain lightning-free. Large bodies of water remain relatively calm because the seas are more resistant to the Sun’s warming touch. Land heats up readily and warms the air above it. Air currents are whirled upward by convective forces, breeding larger thunderstorms to scorch the Earth. Secondly, it’s clear that areas along the equatorial diameter are far more lighting-prone, for largely the same reasons.

And if you would like something more interactive, you can view a global lightning map that tracks strikes in real time.

5. Earth Wind Map

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Photo credit: Cameron Beccario

The Global Forecast System (GFS) tracks winds as they race across the planet. This data is now easily digestible in the form of an incredibly hypnotic Earth Wind Map, courtesy of Web developer Cameron Beccario.

The best part? It’s fully interactive, and you can fiddle with features by clicking on “earth” in the lower left corner of the site. Wind speeds are measured across a colour scale, with blues and greens representing the gentlest of breezes. As you zoom in or out, a fuller range of colours is revealed, and hovering your cursor on the colour scale reveals precise figures. Reds and violets are downright angry, representing the most malevolent winds.

Updated every three hours with fresh GFS data, the Earth Wind Map keeps you current with a variety of parameters, including temperature and humidity. These readings can be overlaid on a variety of projections, though we suggest Stereographic for a trippy, possibly nausea-inducing experience. If you still aren’t satisfied, you can switch to ocean currents and effectively double the amount of content at your fingertips.

4. Rainfall


That we can watch a year’s worth of global rainfall in a few minutes is a testament to the awesomeness of orbital observation. NASA and JAXA (Japan’s national space agency) have teamed up to create the most comprehensive precipitation map to date, and the Global Precipitation Measurement mission successfully produced its first global map of rain and snowfall.

The constellation of satellites covers almost 90 percent of the Earth’s surface and updates every half hour. Snowfall is generally difficult to track, but the precipitation project represents an astronomical milestone for its ability to monitor these otherwise elusive flurries.

The breadth of observation really is revolutionary, offering unprecedented detail and range. Plus, watching how the storms travel across the globe provides insight into future events, allowing more accurate predictions in the future.

3. Ocean Currents

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Photo credit: NASA

Post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh was continually awed by the night sky, so it’s fitting that NASA’s compilation of ocean currents looks so similar to van Gogh’s own starry nightscapes. The map makes winds visible and unveils the vastly turbulent action that engulfs the seas.

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio condensed countless satellite-hours and over two years of observations into a 20-minute-long animation, the Perpetual Ocean. It covers a period from June 2005 to December 2007, and an even more truncated version of the video is available here. It’s a most excellent combination of science and art, and NASA hopes similar visualizations will make their work more accessible to the masses.

Thankfully, the map omits the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is exactly what it sounds like and the size of Texas. Most of the sludge floats slightly beneath the surface and is fortunately invisible from the air. It exists due to the churning gyres working as advertised, which is why pieces of aquatic trash coagulate into large, disgusting clots.

2. Radiation

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Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s CERES (Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System) is a platform for measuring Earth’s solar budget, a delicate balance between solar radiation absorbed and bounced back into space. CERES tracks shortwave radiation, or reflected sunlight, as well as long-wave radiation, or heat emitted by Earth. The bright image above depicts this flux over a one-month period.

CERES monitors Earth’s ever-changing albedo as well, or reflective power. A fully frost-covered world boasts an albedo of 0.84 (84 percent of light is reflected back), while a world replete with dark, leafy vegetation would only register a 0.13. Extrapolating from over 40 years of data, Earth’s current albedo is 0.30 - quite disheartening. And that value is set to plunge, as the polar caps shrink and the remaining ice becomes dirtied and loses its reflective prowess.

The featured map shows albedo trends from March 1, 2000, to December 31, 2011. Orange splotches show areas that have dimmed and absorb more heat. Blue areas denote an increasing albedo, which is good for us. These values vary wildly over the observed period, and NASA is unable to ascertain any significant trend from the spiking data.

1. Space Junk Map

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Photo credit: NASA

We humans are pretty bad with pollution, and in the past 50 years, we’ve turned Earth orbit into a cosmic junkyard. More than 500,000 pieces of space detritus are whipping around our planet as we speak, at downright scary speeds of up to 28,000 kilometres (17,500 mi) per hour. And you can see it all play out, live.

Of the 6,000 satellites we’ve sent into space, at least 3,600 are still in orbit, inching ever closer to death-by-atmosphere. Luckily, the thick shell of gasses around our planet ensures that most of these chunks are burned to nothingness as they crash back down to Earth.

NASA doggedly tracks everything 10 centimetres (4 in) or larger (softball-sized), and they’re currently watching more than 20,000 such objects. Remember, this is in addition to the aforementioned 500,000 marble-sized pieces. And we’re not even including the millions of bits that are much too small for surveillance. And at speeds of several miles per second, a fleck of paint is energetically indistinguishable from a 250-kilogram (550 lb) mass traveling at 100 kilometres (60 mi) per hour.

There are several interactive orbital junk maps online, including this one, which tracks pieces in real-time and offers dates of re-entry for bulkier objects.

Top image: Space debris objects in orbit. Credit: European Space Agency.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S BEST SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK LVI


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Week's Best Space Pictures: Pluto Comes in Colour And A Moon Shines
By Jane J. Lee,
National Geographic News, 17 April 2015.

A spacecraft sends the first ever colour picture of Pluto and a Saturnian moon basks in reflected light in this week's best space pictures.

1. Ripped Apart

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A white dwarf star that brushed too close to an exoplanet on the edge of the Milky Way likely demolished it, researchers say. Although such stars are about the size of Earth, their gravitational pull is about 10,000 times that of the sun.

2. Reflection

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Reflected sunlight from Saturn illuminates Mimas (top right), one of the planet’s moons. Saturnshine, as this type of reflection is known, is usually quite dim. Researchers enhanced its brightness 2.5 times relative to Saturn's rings in this image.

3. Long Haul

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A SpaceX rocket launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral on April 14 in a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket carried two tons of food and equipment for scientific experiments.

4. Power Source

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An image of the International Space Station's solar arrays showcases the size of these 262,400 solar cells; each array - there are four - is longer than a Boeing 777's wingspan and can provide enough power for more than 40 homes.

5. In Living Colour

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Though it merely looks like two beige blobs, this landmark image is the first colour photograph of Pluto (right) and its largest moon Charon (left) ever taken by a spacecraft. NASA's New Horizons was 71 million miles away when it took this picture.

6. Trail of Destruction

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A satellite image of northern Illinois captured the path of a powerful tornado that ploughed through the area last week. The cataclysmic damage - piles of wood, torn up building insulation, and beat up cars - registers as orange-brown smears.

Photo gallery by Mallory Benedict.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 SURPRISING CYBER SECURITY FACTS THAT MAY AFFECT YOUR ONLINE SAFETY


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10 Surprising Cyber Security Facts that May Affect Your Online Safety
By Andra Zaharia,
Heimdal Security, 25 March 2015.

The cyber security industry is growing as you’re reading this. More specialists join the ranks, more viruses are being launched every day than ever before and increasingly numerous resources are being deployed to counter cyber attacks. That’s why we thought it would be helpful to sum up 10 cyber security facts that define the current information security landscape.

One of these essential facts is the estimated annual cost for cyber crime committed globally which has added up to 100 billion dollars! And don’t think that all that money comes from hackers targeting corporations, banks or wealthy celebrities. Individual users like you and me are also targets. As long as you’re connected to the Internet, you can become a victim of cyber attacks.

So that’s why we wanted to walk you through some of the most shocking cyber security facts that you maybe wish you’d known until the present moment. These will give you a much more accurate idea of how dangerous it is to go online without proper protection.

Cyber Security Facts Infographic


[Source: Heimdal Security.]

Friday, April 17, 2015

10 AMATEURS WHO SHOWED UP REAL SCIENTISTS


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10 Amateurs Who Showed Up Real Scientists
By Christian Bond,
Listverse, 17 April 2015.

Usually, scientific breakthroughs require years of hard work and dedication to your field. But sometimes, all it takes is a little perseverance and a complete lack of regard for personal safety - and plain old dumb luck.

10. David Hahn Builds Nuclear Reactor In His Backyard


In 1994, boy scout David Hahn (who had received a scouting merit badge for atomic energy three years earlier) tried to build a nuclear reactor in his mother’s potting shed. Hahn believed the project would help him become an Eagle Scout, and his achievements included building a neutron gun, duping officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission into providing him with the information he needed to build a nuclear reactor, and obtaining radioactive elements like radium and thorium.

In 1998, Hahn was the subject of an article by journalist Ken Silverstein entitled “The Radioactive Boy Scout.” As Silverstein wrote, “He told me how he used coffee filters and pickle jars to handle deadly substances such as radium and nitric acid, and he sheepishly divulged the various cover stories and aliases he employed to obtain the radioactive materials.”

After the EPA found out about Hahn’s reactor, they shut down the project before it finished. By then, Hahn’s experiment was so dangerously irradiated that the town’s entire population of 40,000 was at risk. Undeterred, Hahn would later be arrested in 2007 for stealing 16 smoke detectors that he planned to harvest for more radioactive experiments.

9. Drug Runners Built A Supersub

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Photo credit: DEA

For decades, Colombian drug runners tried to evade US authorities in home-made submarines. Assembled in secret shipyards, these “subs” were wooden cigarette boats, unable to manoeuvre like real subs. However, in the early 2000s, intelligence agencies began hearing rumours of fully functioning supersubs being constructed in the jungles of South America. The submarines were so evasive that US law enforcement began to liken them to the Loch Ness monster. One agent said, “Never seen one before, never seized one before. But we knew it was out there.”

In 2010, the Ecuadorean Navy was able to capture one of these subs. Jay Bergman, the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s top official in South America, declared the submarine “a quantum leap in technology.” The 22-meter (74 ft) sub could hold up to 9 tons of cocaine (a street value of US$250 million) and was equipped with 249 batteries that allowed the sub to travel at near invisibility for up to 18 hours before recharging.

8. NASA-Quality Pictures For Less Than US$800

Skip to 2:30 to see some of the photos

In 2008, Robert Harrison, a 28-year-old IT Director and father of three, was able to capture NASA-quality pictures of space using only a Canon digital camera, a helium weather balloon, and a GPS. The balloon, which Harrison named Icarus I, captured images of the Earth from more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) above the surface of the planet.

The total cost of the project was only £500 (US$747). The quality of the pictures was so good that NASA contacted Mr. Harrison to learn how we was able to accomplish this feat on an IT director’s salary. “People think this is something that costs millions,” he said, “but it doesn’t. You just need a bit of technical know-how. I know nothing about electronics, and what I do know, I learned from the Internet.”

7. A Rock Star Develops A Missile Defense System

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Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (above) is well known to music fans as a guitarist for the Doobie Brothers and a founding member of Steely Dan, but the self-described hippie guitarist now enjoys a second career as one of the top counterterrorism expert in the US.

While touring, Baxter began researching music technology, eventually turning his attention to weapons systems. He became a self-taught expert on the subject and even wrote a paper on missile defense. “I sat down at my Tandy 200,” he said, “and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system - why it would make sense to convert it to do theatre missile defense because it would be on a mobile platform and give the United States a new role in NATO in the 21st century. I have no idea. I just did it.”

After 9/11, Baxter was contacted to provide consultation on US counterterrorism efforts because of his original thinking. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said, “Skunk didn’t grow up in the system. He hasn’t been beaten down by the system. So his very freedom of thought and his gut-level understanding of technology contributes greatly, and people know that.” Today, the former rock star chairs the Congressional Advisory Board on Missile Defense and serves as a consultant to companies like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics. [Video]

6. A Tanzanian Schoolboy Proves Hot Water Can Freeze Faster Than Cold


The Mpemba effect (named after its grade school founder, Erasto B. Mpemba) states that under specific circumstances, hot water freezes faster than cold water. While making ice cream with his classmates, Mpemba noticed that warm milk would freeze sooner than chilled milk. This seems counterintuitive, but Mpemba was not alone in his findings. Scientists including Aristotle, Sir Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes made this claim as well, but none of them were ever able to prove it.

Mpemba, along with physicist Denis Osbourne, performed his own experiments and was able to achieve results that verified his hypothesis. Over the past decades, Mpemba’s results have been noted by many scientists, but no one was able to reproduce Mpemba’s results until 2010, when James Brownridge from the State University of New York at Binghamton published a study detailing reproducible results. To reproduce the Mpemba effect, Brownridge used different samples of water (one sample was distilled water, while the other was tap water).

Today, the scientific community remains divided over the Mpemba effect because of the very specific circumstances needed to reproduce the phenomenon.

5. A Priest Holds The World Record For Most Supernova Discoveries

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Australian priest Robert Evans likes to stare at the skies in his spare time, and he’s really good at it. Evans has committed to memory more than 1,000 galaxies, so that he can check each field quickly just by eye. Since 1981, Evans has discovered over 40 supernovae, a world record. In his 2003 book A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson wrote that Evans’s ability to discover supernovae was like the ability to spot a single added grain on a table of salt 2 miles long.

Evans has made most of his discoveries not on an observatory-sized telescope but in his backyard. “Of the 40 visual discoveries,” he said, “10 were found with my 10-inch reflector, 18, I think, with my 16-inch, three with the 40-inch telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, and the rest with the 12-inch that I now use here at home.”

4. A 10-Year-Old Girl Discovers A New Explosive Molecule


While in science class, 10-year-old Clara Lazen accidentally discovered a new explosive. Clara was playing with wooden balls and sticks used to create models of molecules when she forged a molecule using a combination of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon.

When she showed the design to the teacher, Kenneth Boehr, he thought Clara could be onto something. Boehr took photographs of the molecule and sent the pictures to his friend Robert Zoellner, a chemistry professor from Humboldt State University. After doing some digging, Zoellner agreed that Clara had discovered a brand new molecule, tetranitratoxycarbon.

Tetranitratoxycarbon, which uses the same combination of atoms as nitroglycerin, stores large amounts of energy. If synthesized, it could create a powerful explosion.

As a result of her discovery, Clara, Boehr, and Zoellner are all listed as co-authors on a research paper about the molecule. Zoellner believes tetranitratoxycarbon could hold great importance as scientists continue to look for new ways to harvest energy.

3. 12-Year-Old Develops His Own Theory Of Relativity


In 2011, 12-year-old genius Jacob Barnett believed he’d found holes in Einstein’s theory of relativity. Jacob, who had an IQ of 170, explained his expanded theory of relativity to his mother Kristine Barnett. Barnett, who admits to flunking high school math, asked her son to speak slowly while she filmed his explanation.

After the video was published on YouTube, Jacob’s theory drew the attention of some notable scientists. Scott Tremaine, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Study, wrote, “The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics... Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.” Soon after the video went viral, Jacob was being recruited for a paid research position at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

2. Truck Drivers Build An Atomic Bomb


Reverse engineering is the process by which scientists take a look at existing technology and then build a version of their own without any of the original plans. Militaries do this all of the time, but when a truck driver with no college education begins to build an atomic bomb, it raises a few eyebrows.

Over the course of 10 years, former truck driver John Coster-Mullen analyzed pictures and interviewed over 150 scientists and engineers who were involved with the Manhattan Project. The scientists were more than happy to indulge the guy trying to develop his own nuclear problem. The result was a bomb that received “rave reviews” from the National Defense Council. Ironically, the National Defense council are the exact people paid to stop this sort of thing from happening.

When asked about his achievement, Coster-Mullen replied, “The secret of the atomic bomb is how easy they are to make.”

1. 85-Year-Old Man Builds Cathedrals From Trash


Justo Gallego Martinez, a Spanish monk, has built an entire cathedral out of salvaged materials, including bricks found in local factories. While the design is loosely based on St. Peter’s Cathedral, it also incorporates design elements from European castles, churches, and even the White House.

Justo has no formal designs or engineering plans. In fact, he has no engineering or architectural knowledge at all.

After retiring from farming, Justo became a Benedictine monk, but tuberculosis forced him to leave the monastery. During this period of illness, Justo prayed to the Lady of the Pillar (the name given to the Virgin Mary after her appearance in Zaragoza, Spain). He promised himself that if he survived the disease, he would build a church dedicated to her. After he recovered from his illness, Justo didn’t let his lack of experience stop him from fulfilling his promise.

Top image: The Mpemba effect, via YouTube.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

10 HAUNTING LOST UNDERWATER CITIES, SETTLEMENTS AND LANDMASSES OF THE WORLD


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10 Haunting Lost Underwater Cities, Settlements & Landmasses of the World (Part Two)
By Debra Kelly,
Urban Ghosts Media, 15 April 2015.

Earlier this year Urban Ghosts featured a selection of the ancient world’s most incredible underwater cities lost to time. Back by popular demand, we’re heading into the deep in search of 10 more sunken cities, ancient and modern, from lost civilizations at the bottom of the ocean to other forgotten wonders consumed by the waves. Since the first telling of the flood myth, something has inexplicably captured mankind’s collective imagination about long-forgotten settlements and landmasses destroyed by earthquakes and consumed by tsunamis, rendering those who lived there little more than footnotes of history. We’ve explored some of the most ancient examples, and now we’ll delve into 10 more spanning the ages.

10. Pavlopetri, Greece

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Image: Discovery via YouTube

Pavlopetri, Greece, has long been lost beneath the waters of the Mediterranean, and it’s only fairly recently that divers have been unlocking its secrets - secrets that may have at least partially inspired the legend of Atlantis. The city has been estimated to have been about 5,000 years old, and it would have been in its heyday before even the rise of Greece as a major world superpower.

Dating from 2800 to 1200 BC, it’s pretty mind-blowing to think that when the heroes of classical Greece were fighting the Persian Wars, when Xerxes was building his pontoon bridge over the Hellespont, and when Leonidas was leading his men into battle, Pavlopetri was already ancient, ancient history.

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Image: Discovery via YouTube

The site was only discovered about 40 years ago, and it’s only in 2009, with the development of imaging technology, that archaeologists and oceanographers have been able to survey the site. They’ve found something incredible too - not only a 5,000 year old city, but one that was laid out with main streets and roads, courtyards and alleyways, burial chambers, tombs and temples. Among the buildings is also one called a megaron, which was essentially a meeting place or gathering hall, and it implies that there was a very well-established system of government or elite cast in place in the society.

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Image: Discovery via YouTube

It’s not known for sure what happened to the city; theories include a series of earthquakes as a result of some major catastrophe that may have made the city sink below the water, or that it was the sea level that rose to meet the city. Either way, it’s incredible for another reason - it’s the first (and so far, only) city that we’ve found that existed in what’s essentially a modern form, that sank beneath the ocean before Plato was writing his stories about Atlantis. It’s incredibly likely that he knew about the sunken Pavlopetri, and that it was at least one of the inspirations for the time-honoured tale.

9. Port Royal, Jamaica

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Image: natgeotv.com via YouTube

Imagine a town where pirates drank the night away, where every fourth building was a brothel or a bar, where the wine and the money flowed in equal proportions. Called “the wickedest city on earth,” it’s where buccaneers and pirates went to spend their booty, recruit crews, and where they butted heads with the British Royal Navy. It was as wealthy a party city as the world had ever seen, and its end came in a matter of minutes.

On June 7, 1692, an earthquake struck the city. More than two thirds of it sank beneath the sea in minutes; today, the torrid history of Port Royal is partially crumbling away on the shore, and standing beneath a few feet of Caribbean waters. More than 2,000 people lost their lives in the chaos, and according to local clergy, God’s wrath had finally struck down the den of sin. In the aftermath of the earthquake, which consisted of three incredibly violent shocks, about 3,000 more people died from injuries and illness.

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Image: via Wikipedia, public domain

Originally Spanish-owned land, the first outpost there was built in the early 1500s. The cay, a calm bit of sea, was used for outfitting and repairing Spanish ships. When it was seized by the British in 1655, the first regular - and heavily fortified - settlement was quickly built. Within two years, it was the home of Fort Charles (originally called Fort Cromwell), and over the next two decades, six more forts sprang up in the area.

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Image: natgeotv.com via YouTube

In 1662, there were 740 people living in Port Royal - by 1692, it’s estimated there were as many as 10,000 (although 7,000 is cited as a more likely number). Its strategic, sheltered location, along with its nearby deep waters, made it the perfect place for trading companies to set up shop. The residents of the city were often as wealthy as the pirates, trading silver, gold, and jewels, along with sugar, and accounts from the time describe it as having more running cash than London.

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Image: natgeotv.com via YouTube

Many people left after the earthquake, but Port Royal struggled on for a bit longer. A fire tore through what remained of the town in 1703, and a series of devastating hurricanes between 1712 and 1744 did the rest of the damage. Now, the once-thriving metropolis is still a small fishing village, with only a relative handful of the submerged parts of the town having been fully excavated.

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Image: Project Gutenberg, public domain

The buildings that have been officially explored have yielded an invaluable glimpse into Port Royal’s life - there’s tankards and kegs, bottles of liquor, animal bones and a cobbler’s workstation. Cooking pots still lay where they fell after the earthquake, alongside pipes, stakes of pewter plates, and still more - and even more - bottles.

8. Prentiss, Mississippi

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Image: National Park Service, public domain

Named for a famous orator, Prentiss, Mississippi had a very, very short life - at least, that’s what we think, from the sparse amount of information that’s available on it. Sat on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Civil War-era town was once the home of hundreds of people.

It was the seat of the county courthouse, and it was the site of the first jail built in the county as well. The first court house wasn’t necessarily what we tend to think of a court house as being - it was a wood frame building, had two rooms, and sat in the judge’s yard. Another court house was built after that, and at its height, there were between 700 and 800 citizens in Prentiss. The town had only been around for a handful of years when it was burned to the ground during the Civil War. After conflict moved through, there were only a few buildings left standing untouched - and those were swallowed by the river.

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Prentiss isn’t a typical sunken city; there’s no remains to be explored, but it’s also occasionally determined not to remain buried. In 1954, the path of the river changed enough that it took with it a massive section of the riverbank, and exposed part of the brick courthouse that had been constructed when the town was still in its infancy. Hunters first came across the building, nothing more than a corner and a chimney visible.

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Image: Christine Karim, cc-sa-3.0

It made local residents look twice into the history of their town, and they discovered local records with a little bit more information. In 1863, Northern and Confederate troops first engaged north of the town; the fighting moved south, and when the Union troops reached the blossoming little town, they shelled it from their riverboats. Afterwards, the river moved and the silt moved in.

There was a brief period of interest in the town while it was exposed in the 1950s. Kids sold soft drinks to amateur archaeologists who sifted through the mud, uncovering champagne bottles and whiskey barrels. Nothing much ever came of it, though, and Prentiss was given to the mighty Mississippi.

7. Yonaguni, Japan

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Image: Jpatokal, cc-sa-3.0

The little island of Yonaguni sits off the southwestern edge of Japan; it’s stunningly beautiful, and the home to a huge population of hammerhead sharks. There’s so many sharks that it’s become a destination point for divers and shark enthusiasts alike, and that’s when they became famous for something else - a mysterious, underwater pyramid.

When the original divers spread the word that they had found something man-made at the bottom of the ocean, two completely opposing viewpoints started to develop around the site. According to some, the strange stone formations are the ruins of an ancient city, enveloped by the waters after an earthquake. Others think that they’re just some pretty neat but all-natural rock formations.

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Image: via YouTube

Boston University professor and site diver Robert Schoch says they’re absolutely, textbook, all-natural. The area around Japan is known for its fault lines and its earthquake activity, and many point to its high level of activity as to how such straight lines and seemingly man-made formation occur underwater. Others aren’t so sure, though, and say that it’s pretty unlikely that nature acted on that kind of scale.

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Image: Masahiro Kaji, cc-sa-4.0

Photographs of the underwater site definitely show what seem to be man-made ledges and pyramids, and even though Japan’s government doesn’t recognize the site as anything ancient, archaeological or worthy of a protected status, some are convinced that it’s actually the ancient city of Mu. Those supporters of the ancient city theory say they’ve identified markings on rocks that could have only been left by the use of stone tools, and some say that there are submerged rocks that were clearly carved into the shapes of animals.

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Image: via YouTube

They also have the site’s surrounding history in their favour as well. Plate tectonics mean that an earthquake or tidal wave like the one that would have been needed to submerge the city absolutely isn’t unheard of, and other archaeological evidence - such as the discovery of charcoal - seem to indicate that there were at least settlements in the area dating back to 1,600 years ago.

While there’s nothing confirmed on either side yet, what’s absolutely not up for debate is that the area is an absolutely beautiful dive spot – no matter how it was created.

6. The Lost City of Havana, Cuba

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Image: The Cosmos News via YouTube

A landscape similar to the mysterious, underwater formations off the coast of Yonaguni has also been found off the coast of Havana, Cuba. Sonar equipment seems to have uncovered what might be the remains of an ancient sunken city, showing images of cut stone blocks and pyramids.

Because of the depth, the only real evidence we have is side-scan sonar images that, we’ll be honest, leave a lot up for interpretation. It’s apparent that there’s something down there, but just what - and who made it - is up for debate. Geologists are hesitant to call anything beneath the waters man-made for sure, at least without considerable further exploration. But, there is some pretty intriguing support from a somewhat unlikely place - oral tradition.

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Image: The Cosmos News via YouTube

According to Maya and native Yucatecos folklore, their ancestors once lived on an island that sank beneath the water. Regardless of what’s really beneath the waters off Cuba, it’s also a fascinating look at one of the most enduring myths of civilizations across the globe - the flood myth. Civilizations across the globe each seem to have their version of the story, which usually involves some kind of divine retribution and incredible floods, swallowing entire civilizations whole and forcing a reboot of society.

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Image: The Cosmos News via YouTube

While the sonar images of the site seem to indicate straight lines and roads that you’d typically only expect to be from something man-made (at least, on this scale), investigating claims is a bit of a problem. The sea floor is between 600 and 750 meters (2,000 and 2,500 feet) deep, making a quick scuba trip impossible, and it’s so deep that funding expeditions is no small matter. After a few failed attempts to get trips to explore the site off the ground, it seems to have fallen somewhat off the face of the earth.

5. Doggerland, North Sea

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Image: J. Hill et al, Ocean Modelling via BBC

Doggerland is the name given to a huge land mass in the North Sea. Today, it looks like it’s pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, but at one time, it’s thought that it was home to Mesolithic tribes - about the time that a landslide separated it from the Norwegian coast.

The landmass was once a land bridge, connecting England and mainland Europe. As recently as 20,000 years ago, it was possible to walk across the North Sea. And while it was above the waves, it would have been a paradise on earth for hunters and fishermen. In addition to the bounty of the North Sea, the land bridge also had a huge freshwater basin that was fed on either side - from the Thames on the west and the Rhine on the east.

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Relics pulled up from Doggerland indicate that it was once teeming with life, both animal and human. It’s been called the north’s Garden of Eden, but with the rising sea levels, life on Doggerland slowly become much, much less like paradise. As flooding increased, so did competition on those that were left - and the final blow likely came in the form of a massive landslide that displaced a huge amount of sediment, and probably flooded much of what was left.

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Image: Museum de Toulouse via BBC

Most of what we have as evidence of the Doggerland civilization is in the form of stone and bone tools. Perhaps strangely, much of the information that scientists have gotten has come from partnerships with oil companies drilling in the North Sea, dredging up everything from hunting knives to the fossilized bones of mammoths.

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Image: GrrlScientist, cc-sa-4.0

Building up a complete picture of the society is fascinating work, and it’s being done with the smallest of details. While we have some indication of just where the Mesolithic grave sites were, researchers are also relying on the smallest of details - like pollen and microflora - to reconstruct just what Doggerland looked like by what plants were growing in the different regions of the sunken island. Slowly, a picture of river and hills, of beaches and of swamps is beginning to take shape.

4. Dunwich, England

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Image: University of Southampton via Science Daily

Dunwich has had an incredible history. It was home to a Roman fort, it was the port city that countless Christians used as they set off for the Crusades. It was a religious centre, home of a leper hospital, and at one point, it was the 10th largest city in England. Now, it’s a tiny fishing village that only about 120 people call home, and the rest of the city’s history has slipped beneath the waves.

The only historic building that remains on land is a 13th century friary, kept safe from its position of high ground. The rest has been swallowed by the North Sea, and finding out just what’s out there has proved surprisingly difficult.

The water is muddy and visibility is poor, to the point where the only way to accurately map the sea floor is by using sonar. The University of Southampton was one of the major partners in exploring the lost medieval city, and they uncovered some amazing things.

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Image: University of Southampton via Science Daily

In its heyday, it was comparable in size to London. Dunwich had something London didn’t though - a serious problem with erosion. As early as 1286, Dunwich was subjected to powerful storms and portions of the town were swept out to sea even then. Dunwich struggled onward, though, remaining a major port city even throughout the weather, the constant damage and the even more constant danger. It wasn’t until the 15th century that its importance as a port city finally passed, and today, the city lays at the bottom of the sea floor, covered in anywhere from three to ten meters of muddy, silty, North Sea water.

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Image: Wikipedia, public domain; All Saints Church, fell into the sea in 1904.

On-going explorations have allowed archaeologists to confirm the location of some of the buildings that we know from historical record once existed in Dunwich. There’s a number of churches and cathedrals, there’s port structures, houses, and defensive earthworks. It’s not spread over a small area, either, and it’s estimated that the town was about the same size as the City of London.

3. Willow Grove, Tennessee

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Image: Eddy Haynes via YouTube

Willow Grove now sits at the bottom of Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee, an eerie collection of remains amid the murky depths.

The town that got its name from the willow trees that surrounded it was once a thriving community, with a grist mill, general stores, churches, and service stations - it even had the largest school in that part of Tennessee. The picturesque town was once the image of life in the rural south until it was changed, like so many other things, by the war years.

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Image: Eddy Haynes via YouTube

In 1942, the town’s population dropped drastically as men went off to fight - and die - overseas. And on the home front, the landscape was changing, too. The land that the town sat on was incredibly valuable to the US government, but not as a town - as the site for a dam. Properties were bought and demolished, families were gathered and moved. By July of 1942, the community gathered for one last time at a town picnic, where speakers remembered the prosperity they had once seen, and the waters came not long after.

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Image: Eddy Haynes via YouTube

Dale Hollow Lake flooded the area where the town had once sat, and even today, the water is so clear that you can stand on the shore and see where the old buildings once stood, where children once went to play basketball, where farmers once kept their livestock, where the faithful used to go to worship.

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Image: Eddy Haynes via YouTube

One of the buildings whose remains can still be seen is the old school house, and there’s an tragic story associated with them. According to the story, Eddie Irons was 18 years old when his family bought him a horse. His first attempt at riding the stubborn, wilful animal ended with the horse bolting under some walnut trees; Eddie hit a branch and was killed instantly, his neck broken. His grief-stricken father cut down the tree to make his casket, burying him on a knoll.

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Image: Eddy Haynes via YouTube

Later, builders who were digging the foundation of the school accidentally dug up the casket, and reburied him. He was dug up twice more, seeming to be unwilling to stay where he had been put. The third time, the casket was sealed in concrete and placed somewhere in the foundation of the school. While most of the school fell to dynamite used when the Army Corps of Engineers was clearing the town, his body was never found.

2. Tyno Helig, Wales

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Another sunken city that’s part myth and part up for debate, Tyno Helig has been called the Welsh version of Atlantis.

According to the legend, the lord of Tyno Helig had a daughter who fell in love with a commoner. As he didn’t have the appropriate status to marry her, he took it upon himself to waylay a nobleman and kill him, stabbing him in the back and stealing his golden collar. Claiming that he had won the collar - and nobility - in a fair fight, he married the lord’s daughter.

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During the ceremony, a ghost appeared and vowed to take revenge on the couple, but it was several generations before the family fell. During a celebration surrounding the birth of a great-great-grandchild, a maid discovered that the basement of the castle was flooding. The household fled, just before waves consumed the fortress.

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It’s said that the remains of the castle can still be seen in Conwy Bay, and plenty of people have gone looking for it. A 2011 study on flood levels of the bay and changes in the sea level found that it was highly likely that at least part of the legend was based in reality. The area has always been subject to extreme changes in sea level and tempestuous storms. Other studies have also confirmed the presence of trees in areas that are now completely submerged, making the story at least physically possible.

1. Canudos, Brazil

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Image: Sebastian Edson Macedo via UC Berkeley

The Brazilian town of Canudos was founded as a god-fearing place, standing against the godless.

Led by a preacher calling himself Antonio the Counsellor, the settlement was the target of considerable suspicion from the government, and when word got out about plans to overthrow that government (true or not), they had to be put in their place. The preacher’s lessons were appealing to groups that the government absolutely didn’t want assembling, from poor farmers to slaves - people who were dangerous when they were organized.

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Image: Wikipedia, public domain

Canudos’ resistance was impressive and succeeded in repelling the attacking army time after time, throughout a good portion of 1897. The government had more in the way of reinforcements than Canudos did, though, and eventually most who remained in the town surrendered - but not before a siege that lasted almost a year. The town itself didn’t surrender, though. Men fought to the bitter end. And in that end, which came on October 5, according to contemporaneous accounts, there were only two adults, one child, and one elderly man left. They were killed.

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Image: Flavio de Barros, public domain

The man who had started it all had already died by the time the town fell; he was exhumed and beheaded before being buried again. The death toll by the end was thousands of people on both sides of the siege.

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Image: Rsabbatini, public domain

Decades later, due to severe droughts which are common throughout the region, it was decided to build a dam. Among the areas flooded in the 1970s was the remains of Canudos; now, the town that was once the site of a bloody revolution still stands, at the bottom of a man-made lake. Many of the original buildings are gone, but as the droughts come and the lake dries, what’s left of Canudos emerges. The stone churches still stand, and university researchers believe that hundreds of fallen soldiers are buried not far beneath the lake bed.

[Source: Urban Ghosts Media. Edited.]