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Underwater forest discovered in Alabama

Posted By VERONICA LINARES, UPI.com   |   July 9, 2013 at 7:48 AM   |   Comments

July 9 (UPI) -- Scuba divers in Alabama have found an underwater forest off the coast of the state. 

The Bald Cypress forest has reportedly been buried under ocean sediments in an oxygen-free environment for over 50,000 years, Live Science noted. But it might have been uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to Ben Raines, a diver and executive director of the nonprofit Weeks Bay Foundation, who was one of the first to explore the forest.

According to Raines, the forest contains a Cypress tree span of about 0.5 square miles and they are so well preserved that they still smell like cypress when cut. 

Raines discovered the forest after a dive shop owner revealed the location of the tree site years after learning about it from fishermen. The store owner claimed he was skeptical about disclosing the location because oftentimes scuba divers take artifacts from the sites they visit.

Because Raines only has a few years to explore the forest before it is destroyed by wildlife he has reached out to several scientists to learn more about the underwater forest.

Along with Grant Harley, a dendrochronologist at the University of Southern Mississippi and geographer Kristine DeLong of Louisiana State University, Raines created a sonar map of the forest. The trio also analyzed a few samples from the trees.

They found that in the trees' growing rings were contained thousands of years worth of secrets about the climate history of the region.

"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."

Raines's team is currently applying for grants to explore the site more thoroughly. He estimates they only have two years before marine organisms destroy the forest. 

"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," Harley said. "It can really make the sample undatable, unusable."

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