A primitive underwater forest has been discovered by scuba divers off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bald Cypress Forest was buried under ocean sediments over 50,000 years ago and stayed protected by an environment free of oxygen until 2005.
When Hurricane Katrina came to shore, it likely uncovered the ancient forest, according to Ben Raines, one of the first divers to explore the underwater forest and the executive director of the nonprofit Weeks Bay Foundation, which researches estuaries.
Raines says that the trees contained in the forest are so well preserved that ,when cut, they smell like fresh Cypress sap.
The stumps cover an area of about 0.5 miles, several miles off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, and they are located about 60 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
The relatively new discovery only has a few years to be explored due to marine life destroying the underwater forest.
Raines first found out about the forest while talking to a friend that owned a dive shop about a year after hurricane Katrina hit the area.
The shop owner told him that a fisherman had spotted an area full of fish and wildlife and suspected something was underwater. The diver went down and discovered the forest.
Because of stolen artifacts from shipwrecks and other sites, the shop owner refused to share the location for years until 2012 after swearing Raines to secrecy.
Afterwards, Raines did his own dive and saw the perfectly preserved forest. It had become an artificial reef with massive trees some of which had fallen over before being covered by ocean sediment.
“Swimming around amidst these stumps and logs, you just feel like you’re in this fairy world,” Raines told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet.
The discovery is significant for scientists who can study what type of climate was present in the Gulf of Mexico during that time.
The researchers are currently applying for grants to explore the underwater forest more thoroughly before it disappears forever.
[Image via Shutterstock]