BY MEG NEAL, PLACES EDITOR27 PLACES
There is an entire submerged world hidden just below sea level, largely out of sight to terrestrial beings today. The Earth’s shores are lined with sunken cities, flooded crypts, drowned forests, and submerged structures that have been lost underwater over the millennia, overtaken by nature or human development.
Rising sea levels and flooding caused by earthquakes, landslides, changing tides, melting glaciers, or manmade dams have wiped entire villages off the map. And sometimes, when the water recedes, these submerged cities and landscapes reemerge from the depths, an eerie glimpse at the invisible sunken world.
Located in the middle of a 16th-century manmade reservoir, the “Water Palace” only appears to be one story high, but there are four more levels hidden beneath the water.
Lago di Vagli
This Tuscan lake hides a 13th-century town that was flooded with the building of a dam, lost beneath the waters. But not forever. The village has reemerged four times, whenever the waters are drained for maintenance.
This idyllic mountain lake formed after an earthquake caused a major landslide, creating a natural dam that filled the valley with rainwater. Dead bleached spruce trees now jut ghost-like out of the water.
RYE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Sunken Forests of Rye
In two places along New Hampshire's coast, if the tide is right, you can see the stumps of a forest that drowned when the Ice Age glaciers retreated.
A medieval castle that withstood years of battle is now sliding off the hills into the Danube, thanks to rising river levels from a hydroelectric dam that submerged the outer walls along the lower bank.
The Flooded Crypt of San Zaccaria
As can be expected from a centuries-old building in Venice, this beautiful church’s crypt is partially filled with a permanent level of standing water from the surrounding canals.
The Sunken City of Baia
The ancient ruins of Baia were drowned by the rising water level caused by the same volcanic vents that once drew the Roman elite to the bay city.
EAST SUSSEX, UNITED KINGDOM
Seven Sisters Cliffs
These stark white cliffs were spat up by the ocean in prehistoric times, and are now slowly being retaken by it. As the sea pounds the base of the cliffs each day, erosion is causing them to fall chunk-by-chunk back into the water.
A volcano eruption caused this cemetery, and the capital city surrounding it, to sink below sea level. Only a giant cross rising up out of the water marks where this place of rest once was.
Remains of the Royal Suspension Chain Pier
Half-drowned wooden stumps and stone blocks, the remains of a Victorian amusement pier that was washed away by a storm, are slowly revealed at low tide.
Forest of Borth
Bits of a 4,500-year-old forest are slowly being revealed from beneath the sands of a Welsh beach, after a massive storm removed tons of sand from the shore. The buried forest has rekindled the longstanding myth of a sunken Welsh civilization.
KALEÜÇAĞIZ KÖYÜ, TURKEY
Kekova Island Sunken Ruins
Hidden just under the waters around this Turkish island are the ruins of a once-great ancient city, hit by a series of violent earthquakes that sank it beneath the waves in the 2nd century.
PORT ROYAL, JAMAICA
Sunken Pirate City at Port Royal
Nature took her revenge on the “wickedest city in the world" when a devastating earthquake hit Jamaica in 1692.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
In 1929, a landslide on the California coast caused a neighborhood of exclusive homes to tumble into the ocean.
Basilica Cisterns of Istanbul
A subterranean marvel was discovered hidden under the streets of Istanbul: the long-forgotten palatial cisterns of the Byzantine Empire. Fish swam under the vaulted ceilings of this ancient artificial lake, nicknamed the “Sunken Palace.”
The Drowned Church of Potosi
A Gothic church once submerged by the damming of a river is now hauntingly visible as the water recedes, revealed what had been concealed for more than two decades.
Flooded Crypt of San Francesco
An architectural masterpiece recognized as one of the most lovely old world churches, this basilica unfortunately sits on soft marshland in a city believed to be slowly sinking. The basement crypt has been flooded by the surrounding waters and is now a shallow, underground goldfish pond.
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
A Florida plumber drained a lake to plant this garden in the fertile soil that lay 15 feet down at its bottom, creating a luxuriant botanical garden below sea level.
BEZIDU NOU, ROMANIA
Flooded Village of Bezidu Nou
This Romanian village may have been drowned, but it is far from forgotten The spire of the town’s iconic church pierces the surface of the reservoir.
Campanile di Curon
This small alpine town was demolished and flooded shortly after WWII by an artificial lake that freezes over each winter, making it possible to walk up to the bell tower that juts out from the buried village.
Thistle Ghost Town
A massive landslide, the costliest in U.S. history, dammed two creeks, flooding and destroying most of this once-flourishing Western ranching town.
Drowned Village of Vilarinho da Furna
During particularly dry spells in Portugal’s Minho region, the barren walls of a 2,000-year-old town flooded by a manmade dam emerge from beneath the water.
VILANOVA DE SAU, SPAIN
Sant Romà de Sau
The Catalonian government created a dam and reservoir that completely submerged a village that had been inhabited for a millennium. But the pointed spire of the town church can still be seen above the water, and during periods of drought, the entire church emerges on dry land.
The Drowned Convent and Village of Berich
As lake waters recede, a German village flooded right off the map reemerges after more than a hundred years.
TAMBON NONG LU, THAILAND
Wat Saam Prasob, the Sunken Temple
After the construction of a dam flooded this Thai village, the only structure that remains today is the temple, which is almost entirely submerged during the rainy season.
Old Petrolandia Church
The haunting peak of an old church is all that remains of a drowned Brazilian city, emerging from the reservoir of the state’s largest hydroelectric dam.
VYSOKÝ ÚJEZD, CZECHIA
A huge limestone quarry got larger and larger, forming a massive gash in the Earth. The hole flooded with water after the mining stopped, creating a still blue lake at the bottom of the gorge.