An underwater forest of Cypress trees has been discovered off the coast of Alabama, and scientists believe it might have been uncovered by Hurricane Katrina.
The Bald Cypress forest has been hiding beneath ocean sediments for more than 50,000 years, and those who have dived down to investigate say the trees are huge. So big, in fact, that they could contain loads of information about the area's history. Grant Harley, a dendrochronologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, has analyzed samples from the trees along with colleages and says he's amazed at what they found.
"These stumps are so big, they're upwards of two meters in diameter -- the size of trucks," Harley told OurAmazingPlanet. "They probably contain thousands of growth rings."
The site was actually discovered years ago, by a fisherman who found the area to be so full of fish and wildlife that he wondered if there was something deep underwater that was allowing them to thrive. After a dive, he found he was right. But he kept his find a secret, not wanting to draw attention to the area from divers who might be tempted to take things from the site. He did tell a scuba-store owning friend, however, and that friend let the cat out of the bag to Ben Raines, who was one of the first people to explore the forest. Raines says it's almost a magical place, full of life teeming in the artificial reef.
"Swimming around amidst these stumps and logs, you just feel like you're in this fairy world," Raines said.
Now, Grant Harley and his colleagues are trying to obtain a grant which would allow them to study the trees further before they run out of time. In another couple of years, he says, organisms will most likely damage the wood and lessen their chances to learn much from the rings.