Ecology And Environment

Bald Cypress Trees Uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Bald Cypress Trees Uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005"
Image by: 

A remarkable find has been made underneath the waters off the Alabama coast. Divers have discovered an ancient forest that had been very well preserved beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Live Science, the forest, which is comprised of Bald Cypress trees, has been under the Gulf for over 50,000 years. When the wood is cut, it even has a fresh Cypress sap scent, said the report.

It is believed the forest was preserved in an oxygen-free environment for tens of thousands of years, but this natural seal was broken in 2005 when the very strong Hurricane Katrina swept through the U.S. southeast. The location of the forest is reported to be about 12 miles off Alabama's coast.

"A fisherman stumbled across something on his depth finder - a strange ledge - so he started fishing it and caught a lot of fish there," said Ben Raines, executive director of the nonprofit organization, Weeks Bay Foundation. "He asked a friend who is a diver if he would go to the location and see what was down there."

The diver friend did go exploring and was amazed at what he found. Initially the unnamed diver would not disclose the whereabouts of the forest to anyone for a few years out of fear the site would be pilfered. Raines said he was persistent, however, and eventually the diver relented and took him to the site in 2012.

Raines was one of the first divers to go beneath the waters and see the cypress trees up close. What he found about 60 feet deep (18 meters) in the water was a forest that spanned about two miles that was full of marine life. The forest was described as being in "pristine" condition.

He said, according to the Houston Chronicle, what he found was a "a magical, enchanted, otherworldly place with trees all around that should never be on the bottom of the ocean."

Raines took some samples and brought these to experts to examine. Carbon dating done showed the trees were about 52,000 years old. This dating means the forest was in existence during a period known as the "Wisconsin Glacial period".

Although, while the find in itself is remarkable, now that it has been made public, there may be some conflict. Experts, including Raines, fear that the timber industry might go seeking new replenishment to use for commercial purposes.

"I don't want guitar companies going after the wood or someone making coffee tables out of these trees," Raines said. "Ultimately, I'd like it to be protected so people can go out and visit for recreation, but not to harvest the wood."

Although, according to the Live Science report, the forest only has a couple of years to be explored. Some experts believe marine animals will eventually destroy the forest now that it has been brought to the "surface" by Katrina.

"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," said Grant Harley, a dendrochronologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, reported Live Science. "It can really make the sample undatable, unusable."

Bald Cypress trees are normally found in the United States, and are very common in the southeast. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, this tree is highly adaptable and is best known to live in wet conditions.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow