You can’t see the Great Wall of China from the International Space Station and you can’t see it from the ground in the town of Panjiakou because it, as well as Panjiakou, is underwater. Make that ‘was’ underwater. The submerged section has suddenly appeared high and dry. Is the Ming Dynasty on the rise again too?
The portion of the Great Wall running through Panjiakou in the remote northern province of Hebei was built over 500 years ago as part of the Ming Dynasty’s defense of the Panjiakou Pass against Mongolian invaders from the northern and northeastern frontiers. The Panjiakou portion of the wall stood guard until 1978 when it disappeared under 50 meters (164 feet of water).
The cause of the disappearance was no mystery. The government of China decided to sacrifice the wall and the town of Panjiakou to provide drinking water to the cities of Tianjin and Tangshan south of it. Panjiakou Pass was dammed, Panjiakou Reservoir was filled and Panjiakou and its part of the wall disappeared under 644,510 million gallons of water. Despite all of that water and the silt, dead fish and pollutants it contained, the wall remained intact, according to the handful of divers who visited it annually.
You don’t need scuba gear to see it now. What is causing the Great Wall to rise up from the waters of the Panjiakou Reservoir? The same things that sank it in the first place … humans. Farmers, factories and housing developers are increasing their demands on the reservoir’s water supply, which has been depleted by a recent long drought (climate change?). The end result is a drop in the 50 meter depth to the point where the wall’s towers and stretches of the wall itself can be seen.
The good news is that the Great Wall is still in great shape. Visitors are flocking to the area to see it again. The bad news is … it may not be high and dry for long. An end to the drought is expected to fill the reservoir again, sending one of the greatest structure ever built back to the cold watery depths.
Is the Great Wall sending a message to the people of China that they may try to alter nature but nature always seems to rise up eventually?