In 2013, snorkelers swimming in the waters of the Greek island of Zakynthos announced they had discovered cobblestone roads, columns and other remnants of an ancient lost city just 16 feet below the surface. Believing it to have once been a Hellenic town that was wiped off the maps by a tidal wave, marine archeologists eventually began probing the depths to determine its origin, identity and history. Their report is finally in and the lost city is neither lost nor a city nor from ancient Greece. What is it?
In their study published in report in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology, researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Athens reveal that these underwater structures that look like ancient ruins were actually created by a “sub-surface fault which has not fully ruptured the surface of the sea bed.” In fact, the mysterious force emanating from this fault which triggered the chemical process that formed these ruin-like structures is none other than that notorious trouble-making gas – methane.
It’s almost like a plumbing situation below the seabed.
Professor Julian Andrews of the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Science dates the start of these formations back at least 5 million years to the Pliocene Epoch. Methane leaked from the initial rupture and over time reacted with microbes in the seawater to from a concrete-like mineral called dolomite.
The dolomite rose and solidified above the stronger vents to form what looks like columns. The dolomite eventually covered and shut off the smaller, weaker faults to form what look like cobblestones. The faults run in straight lines so the columns and cobblestones appear to form roads. Nature, you’re such a tease!
It’s no surprise to find methane vents in this area – Zakynthos is near a large underwater oil field in the Mediterranean Gulf of Patras. However, it’s unusual to find them in such shallow waters. This means there’s a partially-ruptured fault very close to the surface near Zakynthos. It must not be dangerous because Professor Andrews was more enamored with the fake ruins.
They’re quite beautiful things in their own right and people like to look at bizarre structures.
Coincidentally, that’s also what they say about the Kardashians.