A new primeval underwater forest was discovered by scuba divers just a few miles off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists believe that this hidden treasure, now known as The Bald Cypress forest, was buried under ocean sediments and protected by its oxygen-free environment for over 50,000 years. The non profit organization, Weeks Bay Foundation, is the team of scuba divers that first discovered this underwater forest, which they feel was more than likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.
Ben Raines, one of the scuba divers to discover the Cypress forest, did not find this in perfect condition. The forest had become an artificial reef, attracting fish and other ocean life that made its home in the roots of misplaced stumps. Despite the excitement of the new underwater discovery, there will only be a few years to truly explore the forest before wood-borrowing marine animals eat away the Gulf of Mexico’s ancient forest.
“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,” Grant Harley said. “It can really make the sample undatable, unusable.” The new underwater forest could let scientists uncover secrets about the climate off of the Gulf of Mexico 52,000 years ago by studying the tree’s growth rings.
This newly discovered primeval underwater forest is not only an amazing accomplishment to the marine sciences, but it is also a potential key to allow us into the past of our Gulf’s climatic history. Scuba divers are franticly working on gaining grants to continue searching The Bald Cyprus. Scientists are estimating that there will only be two years left to pull out as much information as possible from these once hidden trees. It will be a race against the clock for these scuba divers.