Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Woods under waves

The secret is out about a bald cypress forest that was buried beneath ocean sediments for so long that it exceeds the limits of carbon dating. Last year, executive director of the Weeks Bay Foundation Ben Raines finally had the opportunity to dive down to the site he had heard about years earlier. Not far off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, and only about 60' (18 m) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico lies an area of at least 0.5 sq. mi. (1.3 sq. km) covered with cypress stumps. The primeval forest was likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Raines marveled at its beauty and took pieces to Kristine DeLong of Louisiana State University for analysis. Some of the outer edges of the samples are pockmarked by marine worms, but the internal cell structure remains intact, as does some of the bark and sap. Describes DeLong,It is a little darker in color than a piece of modern cypress, but if I didn’t tell you that it was over 50,000 years old, you wouldn’t know it. I showed it to some of the other professors and they couldn’t believe the wood was that well preserved. It’s amazing it has held up. When I cut into them, they smelled just like you were cutting into a cypress tree.”

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