Why Underwater Cities Stir Our Imagination

 

There are a number of underwater cities in the world. Scientists cast doubt that some of these submarine structures were indeed cities. Yet, from the Gulf of Khambhat in India to Lake Titicaca that Bolivia and Peru share, cities survive beneath the surface of water, albeit overrun now by marine life as opposed to men. And there is the mythical, eternally unfound, Atlantis.

These include Pavlopetri, in Greece, that may have sunk around 1000 BC following four millennia above surface and under the sun that shone on the cradle of Western civilization. And then there is Shi Cheng, which the government of China flooded in dam works in 1959. It was to celebrate, perhaps, the tenth anniversary of the Communist revolution. That may have been a blessing in disguise, in view of the destruction unleashed by Mao’s Cultural Revolution a decade later. Shi Cheng is right there, intact and fascinating, and if you are licensed to dive, a Shanghai operator may take you for an underwater tour. It rivals in beauty the submarine portion of Alexandria, even if it cannot steal the Egyptian city of the romantic splendor that comes with the palace where Cleopatra cavorted with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony.

And then there is, of course, Port Royal, which went down in 1692 following an earthquake. Known as the Sodom of its day for the libertine ways of its residents, the calamity was seen as a divine sign.

Yet to our secular eyes, the magic of underwater cities is the mystery of walls and streets that are safe from men, now preserved in that most fluid element of all, unwalked and ghostly, in their new realm.

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