Barbary Coast Dive Club Newsletter

News and Events


Next Dive Stillwater Cove, Sonoma June 11 and 12




Indian divers have found more evidence of an ancient port city, apparently revealed by December's tsunami. Stone structures that are "clearly man-made" were seen on the seabed off the south coast, archaeologists say.

They could be part of the mythical city of Mahabalipuram, which legend says was so beautiful that the gods sent a flood that engulfed six of its seven temples. Other relics were revealed when the powerful waves washed away sand as they smashed into the Tamil Nadu coast. The Archaeological Survey of India launched the diving expedition after residents reported seeing a temple and other structures as the sea pulled back just before the tsunami hit.

The new finds were made close to the 7th Century beachfront Mahabalipuram temple, which some say is the structure that survived the wrath of the gods. "They're perfect rectangular blocks, arranged in a clear pattern."

Other discoveries made at Mahabalipuram earlier this month include a granite lion of a similar age to the temple that experts believe had been buried for centuries before the tsunami shifted the sand. Archaeologists have been working at the site for the last three years, since another diving expedition discovered what appeared to be a submerged city, including at least one temple.

The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to two thousand years, it contains nearly forty monuments of different types including an "open air bas relief" which is the largest in the world, for centuries it has been a centre of pilgrimage, it figures in the early annals of the British search for the picturesque in India in the 18th century, today it attracts shoals of foreigners in search of relaxation and sea bathing, and most strange of all, it has an atomic power plant for neighbour.


Blackbeard's Head

Mention Blackbeard's head, and it conjures images of the pirate's decapitation after his final battle off Ocracoke. But state divers found something at the Queen Anne's Revenge shipwreck site last week that gives a whole new meaning to the term. "It's a pissdale; it's essentially a urinal" said Richard Lawrence, head of the N.C. Underwater Archaeology branch. And they were apparently pretty common on 18th century vessels - at least in the officers' quarters, said David Moore, nautical archaeologist and maritime historian for the N.C. Maritime Museum.

"Basically it's just a tapered lead tube that leads from the 'seat of ease,' as they called it out into the water," Moore said. (I've looked around the web for a picture of one but haven't found any- Dan)

It is similar to one Moore saw while working on the wreckage of the Henrietta Marie, a slave ship that went down off Key West, Fla., in 1700. He has seen reports of pissdales found on other shipwrecks from the period.

Divers found the artifact in the area of the wreckage believed to have been the stern of the vessel. It's the same area of the wreckage from which divers have brought up scientific instruments.

"This could well have been in the captain's cabin because that's where we found it," Lawrence said.


Sunken blimp draws marine researchers

MONTEREY — Imagine a 785-foot-long flying aircraft carrier that allows airplanes to take off, and has hooks to pull them back aboard when they return.

Sound futuristic?

Back in the 1930s one such contraption, a "rigid airship" called the USS Macon, hit strong winds and sank into the ocean off Point Sur in Monterey County. Researchers with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other research groups went to sea this month to scope out the remains of the Macon as part of a year-long research project. Seventy years ago, 83 crew members on the Macon were returning from a mission when their dirigible ran into a storm off the Central Coast.Wind hit the ship hard enough to sever upper fins that were already damaged, according to Moffett Field Museum. The ship began to fall, and the crew jumped into life rafts. All but two escaped with their lives. The Macon has rested on the seafloor ever since.For researchers, the submerged wreck is not just debris trashing the ocean — it’s a potential archeological resource. The sanctuary for years has focused on habitat and biological issues. Now it’s turning its attention to cultural resources, the same way the National Parks Service might view a historic cabin on park land.

There are at least 445 shipwrecks in sanctuary waters, and researchers had to make a choice. A plane-toting blimp stood out.The Macon saga represents a unique part of American aviation history, as well as the Central Coast’s past, said . "She was a flying aircraft carrier," Tim Thomas of the Maritime Museum of Monterey said, "Literally, it was the size of the Titanic." It could carry five Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk planes. Four of those crashed with the Macon. DeVogelaere said researchers hope their effort will bring that part of history to life for new generations.

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updated 5/15/05