Dive Your Way To These 7 Underwater Cities Frozen In Time

by |

In 330 BC, Plato mentioned a realm lost under water that has ceaselessly sparked our imagination ever since. In his dialogues, the philosopher talked about an advanced subcontinent destroyed around 9650 BC, its exact location a mystery. Over time, Atlantis became more than a myth, but a widespread idea that forward-thinking cultures are doomed to perish, swallowed by the earth and seas.

Thanks to the advances in technology, underwater relics and cities once thought to have been lost forever are emerging at an accelerated pace. Could one of them be the lost city of Atlantis? We might be on the verge of finding out.

But what sent these lost worlds to the bottom of the seas to begin with? Divine retribution might not be the answer, but rather the simple laws of physics. For one thing, the Earth is constantly changing and moving. Earthquakes have always posed a threat. Violent ones can tear the earth in half and tsunamis can sweep entire cities. Some 10,000 years ago, sea levels were 130 feet lower than they are today. Now we are able to find the fate of whatever and whoever got in the way of rising sea levels.

What better way to try to unveil these deep-sea secrets than by diving straight through them? Ancient cities and megalithic temples lost to the fury of nature await those with a curious bone in their body to scuba dive or snorkel to an amazing underwater world frozen in time.

Yonaguni Pyramid, The Japanese Atlantis

With the third clearest water in the world and over 70 dive sites to choose from, Yonaguni Island is one of the diving world's best kept secrets. The highlight? The Yonaguni Pyramid.

Some say they are the remains of a lost city, perhaps even the Continent of Mu, the fabled birthplace of mankind. Others say it is a geological phenomenon. There are a few who are convinced it is the work of aliens.

Researchers, however, have reached a singular conclusion: it is man-made. How can it not be? There are perpendicular terraces, clean geometric lines, hallways, archway entrances and decorative rock carvings, a staircase and a triangle-shaped pool with drainage channel, signs of scratches, markings and characters. The Yonaguni Pyramid stands 328 feet long, 164 meters wide and 82 feet tall, rising from a depth of around 100 feet. It was most likely hewn from a natural structure. Even so, it is estimated to be between 5,000 and 8,000 years old, which is astoundingly early for the technology used.

Cleopatra's Alexandria in Egypt

In the 8th century AD, a series of earthquakes hit the island of Antirhodos in the Eastern Harbor of Alexandria, sending Cleopatra's palace and city to the bottom of the bay, where it lay in murky waters for so long hardly anyone believed in its existence anymore. In 1998, by mere accident, a team of marine archaeologists stumbled upon the world's most famous underwater city. Quite ironically, it was patiently sitting in shallow water no more than 32 feet deep, only 10 minutes by boat from the harbor.

More than 140 artifacts have been recovered from the site, now on exhibit in the world's museums.

Sphinxes, statues, columns, temples and the foundation of Cleopatra's Palace make this a unique scuba diving site. Stroll around the queen's royal districts all the way to her sun boat and a statue of Mark Anthony, but be advised that the Mediterranean is quite different from tropical waters, the currents and poor visibility do take some getting used to.

Pavlopetri, a masterpiece of city planning

The azure, warm waters with excellent visibility off Greece's southern Laconia coast are home to an underwater city that could easily pass off as the lost city of Atlantis.

Pavlopetri is the world's oldest known submerged town. Estimated to date back to at least 2,800 BC, it predates Plato and his allegory of Atlantis, which is why it could have been the inspiration behind the philosopher's tale of a lost world. It is not quite sure why the city was consumed by water, although it is believed it was drowned by a series of earthquakes around 1,000 BC.

Nowadays, Pavlopetri remains mostly intact, much to the delight of divers and archaeologists who will find an intricate city, complete with buildings, courtyards, streets, tombs and graves, a masterpiece of city planning. The centerpiece is the megaron, a structure with a large rectangular hall suggesting that the city was also used by the cream of Mycenaean society.

Port Royal, “The Wickedest City In The World”

Caribbean pirate and treasure legends do have their grain of truth. In its heyday, Port Royal was a hotspot for pirates and robbers, who came here for the booze, prostitutes and heavy partying. It was a real-life sin city, home to a good number of extremely wealthy plantation owners. No wonder it was dubbed “the most wicked and sinful city in the world.”

On the morning of June 7, 1692, a devastating earthquake sent two thirds of the city of Port Royal to the sandy bottom of the Caribbean in a matter of minutes.

Nowadays, the underwater city encompasses 13 acres at a maximum depth of 40 feet, 15 miles from Jamaica's capital of Kingston. And it continues to sink. A paradise of tropical fish flourished within the hedonistic city. An outer-reef drop-off 80 feet deep now lies just beyond the city walls. But it is the personal belongings of the people who went down with the city that are the main attraction. Divers need permits to dive to the underwater city, which can be obtained from local scuba diving operators.

Lion City, The Atlantis Of The East

Qiandao Lake in China, known as the Thousand Island Lake, is sprinkled with precisely 1,078 large islands. It is not a natural wonder, but the result of deliberate flooding in the late 1950s, when a dam was built on the valley. The exotic islands have become a popular tourist attraction in their own right, but it is what lies on the bottom of the lake that captures the attention of divers.

Also called the “Atlantis of the East,” Lion City was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty, some 1,800 years ago. Encompassing a surface of 62 football fields, it now lies submerged 85 to 130 feet below the calm surface of the lake.

Five gates and five towers guard the city. Six streets lead to white temples covered in intricate wood carvings and relief sculptures, a total of 265 memorial arches, houses and paved roads. All structures are still in good condition, stable to dive through.

Be advised that this is a lake dive, very different from oceans and seas. Visibility is poor, five feet at best, and can drop to a mere few inches at the bottom. Needless to say dive lights are essential.

Dwarka, the Golden City

In the dawn of time, Lord Krishna built a beautiful and rich city, with 70,000 palaces made of gold, silver and gemstones. Ancient documents refer to Dwarka as the Golden City, built on the banks of the Gomati River, later deserted and lost to the sea. It was believed to be no more than a fable until 2000, when some mysterious ruins were found submerged in the Gulf of Cambay, India, off the coast of modern-day Dwarka. It could become the world's oldest submerged town and change history as we know it.

According to carbon dating, the site is at least 9,000 years old. Indian civilization is believed to be four or five thousand years old. Now this certainly changes things.

Between 70 and 130 feet underwater lie walls, two granite lions, human bones, columns and streets, as well as the remains of a sea port. The eight-square-mile site boasts pyramids resembling those built by the Incas and huge stone structures like those found on Easter Island. It appears the city was swallowed by the sea some 3,500 years ago. How or why the city sank remains a mystery, although some scientists believe that 2,000 years ago the Arabian Sea might have been up to 328 feet lower than today.

Baia Underwater Archaeology Park, Italy

The US has its Las Vegas and ancient Rome had its Baia, a hedonist city in the Bay of Naples where the cream of Roman society would come to splurge and be pampered. Nowadays, we can dive back in time to a place of decadence that could easily eclipse Pompeii itself, all thanks to the Underwater Archaeology Park of Baia.

Divided in eight main scuba diving spots open to the public, the highlights are Ninfeo di Claudio and Villa a Protiro. The first is a monument dating from the first half of the first century AD, is surrounded by seven statues depicting mythological figures and gods. There are paved plazas, stunning ornaments, vases, shattered pottery, fancy marble floors and mosaics you can spend hours exploring.

Villa Protiro is a large house with a series of rooms boasting intriguing patterns in black and white mosaics, excellently preserved. Named so after the portico over the door, it was once part of an extravagant thermal baths complex, sections of which are still visible today: paved roads, walkways, three temples and a statue of Hermes.

The city fell prey to the same volcanic activity that once lured people to these lands. By the 15th century water levels were already high due to volcanic vents, and were slowly swallowing the former Roman resort city of Baia. It now lies in relatively shallow water, at an average depth of 20 feet, suitable for both snorkeling and scuba dive "investigations."

There's a good reason why flood myths exist throughout the globe. We now know that advanced coastal cultures were flooded toward the end of the last Ice Age, at least 9,000 years ago, which pretty much debunks the old theory that only nomads living in small settlements inhabited the earth back then. The above discoveries, now open for the public to dive through, put a whole new meaning on our existence and might rewrite history as we know it. Even though some perished more recently than others, they still offer valuable clues to a world that existed long ago. For now, they raise more questions than answers. But that's fine! After all, it's the mystery that draws us nearer.


Posted in

Stephan Aarstol is an American internet entrepreneur and author of the book The Five Hour Workday, which is based on Tower Paddle Boards' invention of the 5-hour workday in 2015 that would eventually spread the idea to over 10 million people worldwide. Since founding Tower in 2010, it has gone on to become one of America's fastest growing companies and Mark Cuban's best investment in the history of Shark Tank. Tower has diversified into a direct to consumer electric bike company called Tower Electric Bikes, a beachfront event venue called Tower Beach Club, and NoMiddleman.com, where consumers can shop all the world's finest direct to consumer brands from one easy place.