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Undersea Cave Yields One of Oldest Skeletons in Americas

Ritually placed in once dry cavern, Mexico skeleton offers clues to first Americans. The Young Man of Chan Hol lies in a Mexican undersea cave before the bones' removal last month.

Apparently laid to rest more than 10,000 years ago in a fiery ritual, one of the oldest skeletons in the Americas has been retrieved from an undersea cave along Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. No fewer than 10,000 years ago, Chan Hol filled with seawater as Ice Age ice caps melted, the researchers say.

Dating to a time when the now lush region was a near desert, the "Young Man of Chan Hol" may help uncover how the first Americans arrived—and who they were.

In 2006, after entering the cave's opening, about 30 feet (10 meters) underwater, German cave divers swam more than 1,800 feet (550 meters) through dark tunnels spiked with rock formations. There they accidentally uncovered the Ice Age human's remains and notified archaeologists based in the surrounding state, Quintana Roo.

In late August scuba-diving researchers finally raised the bones for lab study.

No human, they conclude, could have ended up so far back in the cave system after that point—which is why they believe the young man is at least 10,000 years old. The exact age of the bones should be determined by ongoing carbon-dating tests, which should be completed in three to four months, Gonzalez said.

The newly raised skeleton is the fourth to be found in underwater caves around the town of Tulum (map). One of the other skeletons—named the Woman of Naharon, or Eve of Naharon—is thought to be even more ancient, around 12,000 years old.

At about 60 percent complete, the Young Man of Chan Hol skeleton is remarkably whole for a 10,000-year-old specimen, the researchers say. Especially revealing are his teeth—lack of wear tipped off the team to the individual's relatively young age at death.

For now, the bones have been sealed in a special chamber for the next six months to a year to dry out and to allow time for their minerals to harden, making the remains less fragile. Afterward, the bones will be scanned to create 3-D computer models that can be compared with the bones of other ancient Native American remains, project leader Gonzalez said.

The skeletons found in the Quintana Roo caves could force scientists to rethink their ideas about the initial population of the Americas, Gonzalez said.

For example, the skulls of both the Young Man of Chan Hol and the Woman of Naharon have anatomical features that suggest their owners were descended from people of South Asia and Indonesia—not from northern Asia, like North America's other known early migrants.

The discovery supports the idea that multiple groups of migrants may have entered North America via the Bering Strait—using the now submerged land bridge that once connected what are now Siberia and Alaska—at different times in history, Gonzalez said.


Wreck of 'protected' Royal Navy sub plundered by thieves who dived down 90ft to reach it

The wreck of an historic Royal Navy submarine has been plundered by thieves who dived 90ft to the sea bed to remove part of it.

HMS Holland, which sank in bad weather off the Sussex coast while being towed to a scrapyard in 1912, is protected by law because of its historical importance.

Now police are investigating after divers from the Nautical Archaeology Society discovered during a routine check that its torpedo tube hatch is missing.

Thieves are thought to have floated the 66lb piece of ironwork to the surface in 90ft of water by attaching buoyancy balloons.

Experts say it was an audacious raid which may have been carried out at the request of a collector with an interest in naval history. Both Sussex Police and English Heritage, which is responsible for the wreck's care, have appealed for the return of the artefact and hope that someone in the diving community may provide them with a lead.

The Holland 5, as the wreck is known, lay undiscovered until the mid-Nineties. It is the only surviving example of five Holland class vessels commissioned by the Admiralty to test the fighting capability of submarines, which were at the time a relatively new type of technology. They were top secret and only a few senior officers and crew knew of their existence.

The submarines were built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness between 1901 and 1903. The 64ft-long vessels were fitted with one of the first periscope designs, had a top speed of 9.2mph and a crew of eight.

But they were unreliable – an attempt in 1903 to sail round the Isle of Wight on the surface ended in four of them breaking down before they had covered much more than four miles.

Britain was one of the last major maritime powers to form a submarine fleet because senior Admiralty staff considered it to be unacceptably devious to attack the enemy from beneath the waves.

Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, Controller of the Royal Navy, said in 1901 that submarine warfare was 'underhand, unfair and damned un-English'.

$22.7 Million to Help Restore Wildlife Injured by Mysterious Oil Spills - Projects will Address Lingering Impacts from Ship that Sank 57 Years Ago

The projects will help species impacted by oil that leaked from the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach. The freighter sank in 1953 about 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, but was not identified as the source of the oil until 2002 after decades of leaking oil, especially during winter storms, causing massive injury to wildlife.

The final component of a damage claim to address the spills, which killed more than 50,000 California seabirds since 1990, brings the total restoration funding to $22.7 million for injuries to bird species, as well as to sea otters. Last April $16.9 million was approved for seven restoration projects with $3.2 million awarded for 5 projects in 2009.

To provide the greatest benefit to the injured species, each restoration project will occur at the species breeding grounds. Ten of the projects will be located in northern California. The other four will benefit long-distance migratory seabirds in Alaska, British Columbia, Baja California, and New Zealand.

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