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In Cuban Depths, Atlantis or Anomaly?

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 720 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... IN CUBAN DEPTHS, ATLANTIS OR ANOMALY? By Kevin
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 17, 2002
      NHNE News List
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      By Kevin Sullivan
      Washington Post
      Thursday, October 10, 2002; Page A25


      HAVANA -- The images appear slowly on the video screen, like ghosts from the
      ocean floor. The videotape, made by an unmanned submarine, shows massive
      stones in oddly symmetrical square and pyramid shapes in the deep-sea

      Sonar images taken from a research ship 2,000 feet above are even more
      puzzling. They show that the smooth, white stones are laid out in a
      geometric pattern. The images look like fragments of a city, in a place
      where nothing man-made should exist, spanning nearly eight square miles of a
      deep-ocean plain off Cuba's western tip.

      "What we have here is a mystery," said Paul Weinzweig, of Advanced Digital
      Communications (ADC), a Canadian company that is mapping the ocean bottom of
      Cuba's territorial waters under contract with the government of President
      Fidel Castro.

      "Nature couldn't have built anything so symmetrical," Weinzweig said,
      running his finger over sonar printouts aboard his ship, tied up at a wharf
      in Havana harbor. "This isn't natural, but we don't know what it is."

      The company's main mission is to hunt for shipwrecks filled with gold and
      jewels, and to locate potentially lucrative oil and natural gas reserves in
      deep water that Cuba does not have the means to explore.

      Treasure hunting has become a growth industry in recent years as technology
      has improved, allowing more precise exploration and easier recovery from
      deeper ocean sites. Advanced Digital operates from the Ulises, a 260-foot
      trawler that was converted to a research vessel for Castro's government by
      the late French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

      Since they began exploration three years ago with sophisticated side-scan
      sonar and computerized global-positioning equipment, Weinzweig said they
      have mapped several large oil and gas deposits and about 20 shipwrecks
      sitting beneath ancient shipping lanes where hundreds of old wrecks are
      believed to be resting. The most historically important so far has been the
      USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana harbor in 1898, an event that
      ignited the Spanish-American War.

      In 1912, the ship was raised from the harbor floor by the U.S. Army Corps of
      Engineers and towed out into deeper water four miles from the Cuban shore,
      where it was scuttled. Strong currents carried the Maine away from the site,
      and its precise location remained unknown until Ulises's sonar spotted it
      two years ago.

      Then, by sheer serendipity, on a summer day in 2000, as the Ulises was
      towing its sonar back and forth across the ocean like someone mowing a lawn,
      the unexpected rock formations appeared on the sonar readouts. That startled
      Weinzweig and his partner and wife, Paulina Zelitsky, a Russian-born
      engineer who has designed submarine bases for the Soviet military.

      "We have looked at enormous amounts of ocean bottom, and we have never seen
      anything like this," Weinzweig said.

      The discovery immediately sparked speculation about Atlantis, the fabled
      lost city first described by Plato in 360 B.C.. Weinzweig and Zelitsky were
      careful not to use the A word and said that much more study was needed
      before such a conclusion could be reached.

      But that has not stopped a boomlet of speculation, most of it on the
      Internet. Atlantis-hunters have long argued their competing theories that
      the lost city was off Cuba, off the Greek island of Crete, off Gibraltar or
      elsewhere. Several Web sites have touted the ADC images as a possible first

      Among those who suspect the site may be Atlantis is George Erikson, a
      California anthropologist who co-authored a book in which he predicted that
      the lost city would be found offshore in the tropical Americas.

      "I have always disagreed with all the archaeologists who dismiss myth," said
      Erikson, who said he had been shunned by many scientists since publishing
      his book about Atlantis. He said the story has too many historical roots to
      be dismissed as sheer fantasy and that if the Cuban site proves to be
      Atlantis, he hopes "to be the first to say, 'I told you so.' "

      Manuel Iturralde, one of Cuba's leading geologists, said it was too soon to
      know what the images prove. He has examined the evidence and concluded that,
      "It's strange, it's weird; we've never seen something like this before, and
      we don't have an explanation for it."

      Iturralde said volcanic rocks recovered at the site strongly suggest that
      the undersea plain was once above water, despite its extreme depth. He said
      the existence of those rocks was difficult to explain, especially because
      there are no volcanoes in Cuba.

      He also said that if the symmetrical stones are determined to be the ruins
      of buildings, it could have taken 50,000 years or more for tectonic shifting
      to carry them so deep into the ocean. The ancient Great Pyramid of Giza in
      Egypt is only about 5,000 years old, which means the Cuba site "wouldn't fit
      with what we know about human architectural evolution," he said.

      "It's an amazing question that we would like to solve," he said.

      But Iturralde stressed that the evidence is inconclusive. He said that no
      first-hand exploration in a mini-submarine had been conducted, which would
      provide a much more comprehensive assessment. He said a remote-operated
      video camera provides only a limited perspective, like someone looking at a
      close-up image of an elephant's toe and trying to describe the whole animal.

      The National Geographic Society has expressed interest and is considering an
      expedition in manned submarines next summer, according to Sylvia Earl, a
      famed American oceanographer and explorer-in-residence at the society.

      "It's intriguing," Earl said in an interview from her Oakland, Calif., home.
      "It is so compelling that I think we need to go check it out."

      Earl said a planned expedition this past summer was canceled because of
      funding problems. But she said National Geographic hopes to explore the site
      next summer as part of its Sustainable Seas research program.

      Earl has visited Cuba and described the preliminary evidence as "fantastic"
      and "extraordinary." But she stressed that as a "skeptical scientist," she
      would assume that the unusual stones were formed naturally until scientific
      evidence proved otherwise.

      "There is so much speculation about ancient civilizations," she said. "I'm
      in tune with the reality and the science, not the myths or stories or

      As they search for answers, Weinzweig and Zelitsky have suddenly become
      involved in a new mystery -- the discovery of a potential blockbuster
      shipwreck. They said that on Aug. 15, their remotely operated vehicle came
      across what appears to be a 500-year-old Spanish galleon that they had been
      searching for.

      They declined to name the ship, fearful of other treasure hunters, but they
      said it carried a priceless cargo of emeralds, diamonds and ancient
      artifacts. By contract, they said they can keep 40 percent of the value of
      whatever they recover. They said the value of findings at the newly
      discovered wreck could far exceed the nearly $4 million that their private
      backers have so far invested in their operations.

      Weinzweig said a closer examination is needed to prove the ship's identity.
      He said that in treasure hunting, as in the search for Atlantis, there is no
      substitute for science.

      "One thing is legend," he said, sitting on Ulises's bridge. "Another is the
      hard evidence you find on the ocean floor."







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