December 8, 2001 VNN7025 Comment on this storyThis story URL: http://www.vnn.org/americas/AM0112/AM08-7025.html
Explorers View 'Lost City' Ruins Under Caribbean
CUBA, Dec 8 (VNN) Author: Andrew Cawthorne
HAVANA (Reuters) - Explorers using a miniature submarine to probe the sea floor off the coast of Cuba said on Thursday they had confirmed the discovery of stone structures deep below the ocean surface that may have been built by an unknown human civilization thousands of years ago.
Researchers with a Canadian exploration company said they filmed over the summer ruins of a possible submerged ''lost city'' off the Guanahacabibes Peninsula on the Caribbean island's western tip. The researchers cautioned that they did not fully understand the nature of their find and planned to return in January for further analysis, the expedition leader said on Thursday.
The explorers said they believed the mysterious structures, discovered at the astounding depth of around 2,100 feet and laid out like an urban area, could have been built at least 6,000 years ago. That would be about 1,500 years earlier than the great Giza pyramids of Egypt.
''It's a really wonderful structure which looks like it could have been a large urban center,'' said Soviet-born Canadian ocean engineer Paulina Zelitsky, from British Columbia-based Advanced Digital Communications (ADC). ''However, it would be totally irresponsible to say what it was before we have evidence,'' Zelitsky told Reuters.
Zelitsky said the structures may have been built by unknown people when the current sea-floor actually was above the surface. She said volcanic activity may explain how the site ended up at great depths below the Caribbean Sea.
In July 2000, ADC researchers using sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment identified a large underwater plateau with clear images of symmetrically organized stone structures that looked like an urban development partly covered by sand. From above, the shapes resembled pyramids, roads and buildings, they said.
''ULISES'' ASSISTS UNDERWATER ODYSSEY
This past July, ADC researchers, along with the firm's Cuban partner and experts from the Cuban Academy of Sciences, returned to the site in their ship ''Ulises.'' They said they sent a miniature, unmanned submarine called a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) down to film parts of the 7.7-square-mile area.
Those images confirmed the presence of huge, smooth, cut granite-like blocks in perpendicular and circular formations, some in pyramid shapes, the researchers said. Most of the blocks, measuring between about 6.5 and 16 feet in length, were exposed, some stacked one on another, the researchers said. Others were covered in sediment and the fine, white sand that characterizes the area, the researchers said.
The intriguing discovery provided evidence that Cuba at one time was joined to mainland Latin America via a strip of land from the Yucatan Peninsula, the researchers said.
''There are many new hypotheses about land movement and colonialization, and what we are seeing here should provide very interesting new information,'' Zelitsky said.
ADC's deep-water equipment includes a satellite-integrated ocean bottom positioning system, high-precision side-scan double-frequency sonar, and the ROV. The company currently is commissioning what it calls the world's first custom-designed ocean excavator for marine archeology to begin work both at the Guanahacabibes site and at ship wrecks.
ADC is the deepest operator among four foreign firms working in joint venture with President Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s government to explore Cuban waters containing hundreds of treasure-laden ships from the colonial era. The Canadian company already has discovered several historic sunken Spanish ships.
In an earlier high-profile find, ADC was testing equipment in late 2000 off Havana Bay when it spotted the century-old wreck of the American battleship USS Maine. The ship had not been located since it blew up mysteriously in 1898, killing 260 American sailors and igniting the Spanish-American War.
The rush of interest in Cuba's seas in recent years is due in part to the Castro government's recognition that it does not have the money or technology to carry out systematic exploration by itself, although it does have excellent divers.
American companies are prohibited from operating in Cuba by the long-running U.S. embargo on the Communist-run island.
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