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Posted AMA Account9 months ago

Science AMA Series: We’re Professor Kristine DeLong and documentary journalist Ben Raines, our discovery of a preserved underwater forest in the Gulf of Mexico that’s been submerged since an Ice Age 60,000 years ago when sea levels were 400 feet lower than they are today. Ask Us Anything!

Paleoclimatology AMA

PROFESSOR: Kristine DeLong, paleoclimatologist at Louisiana State University

DOCUMENTARY JOURNALIST: Ben Raines, environmental reporter

The Underwater Forest details the discovery and exploration of an ancient cypress forest found sixty feet underwater in the Gulf of Mexico, due south of Gulf Shores, Alabama. The forest dates to an ice age more than 60,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 400 feet lower than they are today. The forest appears to be a wholly unique relic of our planet’s past, the only known site where a coastal ice age forest this old has been preserved in place. It is considered a treasure trove of information, providing new insights into everything from climate in the region to annual rainfall, insect populations, and the types of plants that inhabited the Gulf Coast before humans arrived in the new world. Scientific analysis of the site is ongoing.

The documentary follows the work of the team investigating the site, both underwater and in the laboratory. The film was written and directed by’s Ben Raines, who also filmed the underwater sequences and organized the first scientific missions to the site.

The scientists believe the forest was buried beneath the Gulf sediments for eons, until giant waves driven by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 uncovered it. Raines and collected the first samples from the site, and participated in every scientific mission to the site, beginning in 2012. Dropping 10 fathoms down, below the green waves of the Gulf and back in time to this prehistoric world amounts to a sort of time traveler’s journey. Nothing like the forest, in terms of age or scale, has ever been found. The oxygen-free underwater environment has hermetically sealed the trees in a sort of natural time capsule.

Watch the documentary here:

About Kristine: I study past climate and am interested in the changes that occurred in the last 2,000 years as well as the past 125,000 years during the last ice age. I am a scuba diver and my research is mostly in the tropics and subtropics (I prefer warm water diving).

I just spent an amazing three days introducing Louisiana wetlands to 10 incredible minority undergraduates, many of whom have never seen an ocean or a wetland. We saw how Tropical Storm Cindy changed a barrier island, dodge thunderstorms in boat, kayaked in the salt grass marsh lands, had a shrimp boil with my colleagues from the United Houma native american tribe (Merci beaucoup Seafood Kingdom!), and toured the Atchafalaya baldcypress swamp with The Nature Conservancy - Louisiana.

I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and worked in the corporate world for 12 years before going back to school to get my Ph.D.

The Underwater Forest is a project I have been involved in for five years now and it has truly been a unique experience in many ways. I found Ben online and we started to talk about the forest and he took me out to see it. I contacted colleagues to tell them about the trees and we dated the first wood samples; we were very surprise to learn how old they were. This is truly a unique site due to its location and age. I now lead a team of six scientists, four graduate students, one undergraduate, and other colleagues in researching the underwater ancient forest. I am seeking new collaborations and I want to bring in other experts to the project so we can learn as much as we can from this unique time capsule of an ice age landscape. Our team has learned a lot about the site but we still have many more questions to answer.

About Ben: I first learned of the Underwater Forest from a dive shop owner in Alabama. He discovered the forest about a year after Hurricane Ivan, when a fisherman came into the dive shop and said, “I’ve found this spot that’s just loaded with fish but there’s barely anything in terms of structure that shows up on my depth finder. Why don’t you go out there and take a look.” The fisherman turned over the coordinates to his spot, and the dive shop owner made a trip and found the bottom littered with cypress stumps and logs scattered around.

Luckily, the dive shop guy decided to keep the location a secret. He did so because of his experience seeing small natural coral outcroppings destroyed by divers collecting live rock for the aquarium trade. Knowing I was an environmental journalist, he decided to tell me about the forest. After a couple years of bugging him, he agreed to take me to the site on the condition that I never reveal the coordinates to anyone. He agreed to let me write a story. Kristine called me the day the story came out, explained her expertise as a scuba diving paleoclimatologist, and asked if I could get her samples of the wood so she could have them carbon dated.

When those first samples turned out to be radio-carbon dead, meaning too old to be dated that way, she asked if she could come with us to the site and collect more samples. You see her first visit to the forest in the film. She assembled a team of scientists including dendrochronologists, geologists and paleontologists. Much of their research is revealed in the film and in several papers Kristine has published. Some of the most interesting finds are newly revealed, since filming was completed.

In particular, the pollen assemblage seen in the sediment cores that LSU collected. The story at this link provides a sort of layman’s primer on everything I’ve gleaned about the forest from my earliest visits to Kristine’s research. It also has a lot of pictures of the site and a link to the Underwater Forest film. A quick read might be useful to help formulate your questions.

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PhD | Chemistry | Synthetic OrganicModerator of r/science, speaking officiallyScore hidden·9 months ago·Stickied comment

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What are the conditions for a forest to be preserved like this? I'm assuming it has something to do with quick and sustained flooding, because normal sea level rise would take too long.

160 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

From what I could gather from the documentary. It's a cypress forest. Those are trees growing in the water and have adapted to that environment. Which means that even when dead, they don't disintegrate as fast as an oak tree e.g. would do.

What helped over the millenia was a lot of mud that was on the trees, preventing oxygen from getting through. AMA AccountOriginal Poster159 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes, baldcypress trees naturally are resistant to water damage and termites, that is one of the reasons they were heavily logged in the 1800s for building materials and today there are few large old trees. However, even cypress should decompose on 10,000 years time scales, unless they are preserved in low oxygen sediments that inhibit bacteria from decomposing the wood. The sediments around the wood are dark in color and full of organics (roots, small pieces of wood, seeds, and pollen) are all remarking well-preserved. This suggests low-oxygen environment in the sediments that can be found in back swamps areas where water mixing and flow is low or standing water occurs for long periods of time leaving the water anoxic. If you ever been in a back swamp, the sulfur smell is one that tells you there are low oxygen conditions.

If the cypress wood really is 50k years old, how come their doesn't appear to be any fossilization? I thought the fossilization process started around the 10k mark. Not enough pressure and or due to ocean currents the site maybe was uncovered and reburried numerous times?.

Fossilization takes place when something decomposes and minerals take up the space it was in. These trees haven't decomposed yet.

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Could this be from a massive glacial run-off flood or mudslide? AMA AccountOriginal Poster79 points·9 months ago

I think there are a variety of theories that could explain how the trees got buried. In the modern Mobile-Tensaw Delta, we saw annual flooding every spring, just like the Nile or the Amazon. The forests disappear under about 15 feet of water for months at a time, usually late January through March. When the waters recede, many things have been uncovered, or covered up.

Something similar could have happened due to glacial melt, as you mention, or even an ancient hurricane. It is not uncommon after storms here to discover that things on the seafloor in the Gulf, even things nine and ten feet tall, have been entirely covered up in a matter of 24 hours. Thanks, Ben

1 more reply AMA AccountOriginal Poster26 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

Kristine here - This is an interesting hypothesis and we are investigating several different scenarios that could have lead to the preservation of this site. We are waiting for more dates from other dating methods so we can determine with more accuracy which interval of the glacial age these trees lived.

1 more reply AMA AccountOriginal Poster32 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes, this is exactly what we are thinking as we develop our hypothesis for why these trees are preserved for such a long period of time. During the glacial interval, sea level fluctuates as the ice sheets grow larger and shrink until the last glacial maximum is reached about 18,000 years ago. A quick sea level could have produced a flood that buried the trees thus allowing for preservation. AMA AccountOriginal Poster58 points·9 months ago

The key to preserving anything like this in the marine environment is protecting it from oxygen. You see the same phenomenon in the peat bogs of Ireland, where they find bodies that have been preserved for 2,000 years due to the anoxic conditions. Essentially, when you remove oxygen from the equation, you prevent the organisms that cause things to decay from being able to survive.

In aquatic environments, once something is covered by about 8 inches of sediment, it is effectively sealed away from oxygen. In the forest, we are talking about nine feet of sediment covering much of the area. The spot where we found the trees exposed is actually a hole where waves have scoured out a trench. Good question. Thanks, Ben

Sea level rise preceded at 4-6 cm/yr during major glacial meltwater pulses at the end of the last ice age. If for whatever reason bottom waters were low in oxygen at the time, preservation is pretty good.

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How do you go about inspecting the area, I am sure you have to be as careful as possible but what types of methods are you all using to prevent harm to the sight? AMA AccountOriginal Poster84 points·9 months ago

We generally follow typical scuba diving rules used on coral reefs the world over. You try not to touch the bottom too much. That's useful in the forest, because of the mud present everywhere. You might recall the scene in the documentary when Kristine is trying to free a log from the mud and clouds billow up.

That being said, we have collected some wood for the scientists to analyze, and a small log, about as big around as your leg was pulled up last week to go on display in the Dauphin Island Sea Lab's public aquarium, known as the Estuarium.

The area where LSU collected the sediment cores is the only area that really shows signs of human activity. The vibracore machine left a sort of soupy clay on the bottom immediately around the spot the core was punched. Thanks, Ben

9 points·9 months ago(1 child) AMA AccountOriginal Poster12 points·9 months ago

Ben here - You could definitely dive there on air. If you knew where it was... During filming, I could get about 40 minutes of bottom time on an 80 cf tank. AMA AccountOriginal Poster88 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - One thing we do is not release to coordinates to anyone. We also avoid going to the site on the weekends and during fishing seasons when more fishermen are out there. Our mapping of the site and surrounding area uses noninvasive geophysical instruments that move in the water above the seafloor. We are working with federal agencies like BOEM and NOAA to preserve the site.

Wow that sounds like you all go through a lot of effort, thank you for taking the time to answer my question in such detail

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How has the new information found from this discovery changed what we know, or thought we knew, about our past? Does this negate or confirm any major assumptions we have made in this area? AMA AccountOriginal Poster60 points·9 months ago

While I'm not a card carrying scientist like Dr. DeLong, I have coauthored a few papers in paleontology journals, mostly dealing with marine fossils. From my perspective, the forest discovery confirms most of what we hear about changing sea levels and climate. I think the new detail the forest may shed light on is the speed with which sea level can change. Kristine speaks in the film about the time this forest was living as being a really rocking time for the Earth, with sea level changed tens of meters in a thousand years. That works out to about 8 feet every hundred years on average, which is faster than even the worst case scenarios we hear about today. So, there might be a warning in there for those of us living on the coast. Thanks, Ben AMA AccountOriginal Poster37 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - This is a unique site where we have little information about baldcypress swamps during glacial intervals for the US Gulf coast because they are now underwater. The knowledge we derive from the site will be new information. Other pollen studies are generally further north than our site and they suggest cold tolerant trees during the glacial intervals for the southeastern US. We are finding similar swamp ecosystems like today but with small differences in forest composition.

Thanks a lot for doing this. Saw the documentary. I liked it.

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Grad Student | Ocean Circulation and Climate Modelling63 points·9 months ago

Prof. DeLong: What are the most important scientific discoveries that have come out of your work on this underwater forest? AMA AccountOriginal Poster42 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Great question! This study is one that keeps giving us new discoveries we were not expecting. For example, my colleague at the USGS was able to quickly find cypress and grass seeds in the wood bearing sediments; we did not expect to find seeds that old. This research is still in progress and we are working on our papers for publication. The main item we need is good dates so we can know what the actual interval and sea level state for the time these trees were growing. We have samples out for Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating and we will dates these dates this summer.

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Will all of the oil activity in the Gulf, and the requisite hydrographic survey that comes with it, how is it that this gem has gone undetected for so long? How many acres are we talking about? AMA AccountOriginal Poster31 points·9 months ago

This area is about a half mile square. You mention the survey's in the Gulf. Interestingly, this area was exploited for gas wells decades ago, in the 1980s, when such technology was much more primitive. The wells off Alabama are in the Norfleet formation, which is about 20,000 feet below the seafloor. They are some of the deepest wells in the Gulf. The wells drilled long ago are effectively draining the resource, and no gas has been found at shallower depths. In short, most of the modern surveys have been conducted elsewhere, with more promising formations. Thanks, Ben AMA AccountOriginal Poster21 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

Kristine here - Ben is right, most of the early surveys used lower resolution instruments for their surveys that would miss log and stumps that are 1-5 feet in diameter. One of the projects we are doing for the BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) is developing new survey protocols so similar sites can be found in the future.

Side scan? I wonder if something like that would show up on a multibeam. (I've done contract work for BOEM and NOAA). I love the term submerged cultural resource

I'd love to run a sub bottom profiler around and see all the neat things.

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What's your biggest fear if this place becomes located by non scientific communities? AMA AccountOriginal Poster22 points·9 months ago

As I mention in the documentary, my biggest fear is someone essentially mining the site to pull the logs up to make furniture or guitars or what have you. I see this as a natural wonder, like the Grand Canyon. It should be protected so anybody willing to down a mask and swim down can see it. Thanks, Ben

Thanks I hope that's what happens. How long would it take for something like that to happen?

They showed the location in the article if I'm not mistaken. AMA AccountOriginal Poster16 points·9 months ago

Again, the maps in the article and in the film show only a generalized spot off the Alabama coast. There's no way you could find this place based on those maps. You'd spend a lifetime trying. Thanks, Ben

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I thought it had said "due south of Gulf Shores" but not any more specific than that. Am I wrong?

Sorry for me being so uninformed about this but you caught my interest.

I always wondered how do you find places like these. Is it a long time process or just a straight up luck or something in between? And if you "track down" places like these (or fossils etc) how do you filter useful data from hoax?

Thank you very much

I'm just another redditor, not OP. In this case, some fisherman told a dive shop owner that there was a spot where they were catching a bunch of fish. They told the shop owner that he should check it out, and he discovered the cypress trunks. He called a journalist, and fortunately they decided to keep the spot private. Apparently some entrepreneurial types had been in touch, wanting to dig out the wood and use it to make 60,000 year old furniture, guitars, etc.

entrepreneurial types

I read something about this in the last year, it's a bigger industry than I'd have guessed

21 points·9 months ago

Finding old growth logs at bottom of rivers when they used to float logs is big business. AMA AccountOriginal Poster28 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes, old growth baldcypress wood is very valuable. Cypress is resistant to water damage. My grandfather logged baldcypress in Florida in the Green Swamp near where Disney World is today. He would cut down the trees and float them out in the water. Most trees float but occasionally one would sink. Today, people look for these sinker logs in rivers and swamps today because the wood is valuable. I have a sinker cypress bench in my home with wood that is over 100 years old.

Anyone know what causes some to sink vs most floating? Why is sinkwood more valuable?

Mostly just the size and quality of the wood cannot be found today because it was all logged already. Soaking in water for 100 years may also change the wood in a way that gives it good acoustic qualities for making instruments.

The Great Lakes have a massive amount of them.

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They pinpoint the location in the article, though? AMA AccountOriginal Poster20 points·9 months ago

No, we carefully don't pinpoint the spot in the articles or in the documentary. The maps are rough approximations I made with no effort to pin the tail on the donkey, so to speak. And usually, when people ask me where it is, I say "It's ten to fifteen miles offshore." Finding something in the Gulf based on those directions is more difficult than the old needle in a haystack. Thanks, Ben AMA AccountOriginal Poster15 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - as Ben said, we do not give out the exact GPS coordinates, just the general area. If you have ever tried to find an exact spot to dive in the ocean it can be difficult. Most dive sites have mooring buoys so anchors do not destroy the bottom. The waters off the Alabama coast can have low visibility and strong currents so you can be right on top of the site with your GPS coordinates and still miss the trees. We try to go out when the water is clearer and currents are low. I also go with Ben and Chas since they have dived the site the most and they know it well; I would probably miss it on my own. The first time I went out to survey the site with side scan sonar and multibeam, it took us about 1.5 hours to find the hole even with Ben's exact GPS coordinates.

5 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

I believe they wanted to get it officially recognized and protected, so maybe they did?

I didn't read the article. I know that they had already begun the process of having the area listed as a marine sanctuary, and the journalist seemed confident about it in the video. OP will be here soon enough though!

1 more reply AMA AccountOriginal Poster15 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - This was just luck, like Chas and Ben say in the documentary, a fisherman noticed more fish at this location. The northern gulf coast is generally flat and sandy, not a lot of places for fish to hide and congregate. So, a lot of fish on a fish finder will get your attention. The site is not that big and it was just luck the captain noticed it on his boat. There have been surveys in the general area by oil companies and scientists, but no one noticed this hole with the trees being exposed. We think the site was exposed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, so it had been buried before that. We are hoping to find other sites that are still buried along the coast now that we know what to look for. I do get calls from people who say they found trees underwater and I talk with them and try to more information from them. Once I say I want to go dive their site and I need the coordinates, if they are less cooperative I tend to believe they are being less truthful.

Thank you very much for your reply. I am glad to hear that science is driven by a "dumb luck" factor as much as by sheer intelect. Guvese a shot to help science one day.

Thanks again for this.

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66 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

From the Documentary: Someone saw brightly spotted fish, which was unusual for that area, some divers checked it out and BOOM. Discovery.

A hurricane some time before that most likely stirred up the mud that was covering the area, revealing the forest. AMA AccountOriginal Poster18 points·9 months ago

So this discovery was straight up luck in some measure, but also a testament to the power of technology. On my boat, I have a small sonar machine or depth finder, that I use to locate the wrecks I want to dive on. Most every fisherman in fresh or saltwater has one these days. That's how the forest was discovered. A fisherman was running across the Gulf and his bottom machine lit up with fish. He circled back and fished the area, loading up with red snapper.

But this particular spot was different than most in that there was very little relief on the bottom, just lots of fish. Typically, an artificial reef or natural bottom coral outcropping stands up several feet off the bottom, and registers as such on the depth finder. This place didn't do that, so the fisherman gave the coordinates to a guy that owns a dive shop and asked him to tell him what was down there. Turned out to be an ancient forest. Thanks, Ben

That sounds amazing... damn I would love to watch imaginary Imax documentary of this I've just created in my head

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Are you studying them as an ecological community and comparing the relative frequencies to current forests? That would be really cool. Any DNA? AMA AccountOriginal Poster31 points·9 months ago

Just what you are talking about it happening, but so recently it is not in the documentary. The sediment cores from LSU have been analyzed to look at the numbers of each species present. That turned out to be fascinating. In essence, this is not like a modern Gulf Coast cypress forest. It is like a cypress forest you'd find off the Carolinas, or Virginia. This was a forest built for a colder climate. Instead of being dominated by cypress and tupelo, this forest is dominated by cypress, then alder and oak. These trees are present on the Gulf Coast, but not in the numbers they turn up in for the pollen count. Thanks, Ben

That's super interesting when you think about the climate and sea level changes that were happening at that time as well. You have a forest on the gulf coast showing characteristics of a cooler climate while at the same time sea level is rising at 8ft/100 years. Seems like it was a quite tumultuous time on Earth.

1 more reply AMA AccountOriginal Poster14 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes! we are definitely doing this! I have a colleague at the USGS who is looking at the seeds and DNA is one of the things she would like to look at.

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Would this appear, visually, as a literal forest down there? With standing tree trunks preserved as they were, or rather, is this a bunch of fallen organic decay that only microscopically resembles a forest? AMA AccountOriginal Poster27 points·9 months ago

Take a look at the film. You'll see it is instantly recognizable as a forest, but there are no standing trunks. Instead, there are thousands of stumps still rooted in the mud they were growing in thousands of years ago, but most are less than a foot tall. Most likely, they decayed down to a mud line at some point in the past, and everything below the mud was preserved. There are lots of logs strewn about on the bottom, just like in a living forest, and you can see the knees around the cypress stumps. Thanks, Ben

Thanks for the reply- will gather the family around to watch tonight!

PhD | Economics38 points·9 months ago

Do we know of any human cultures that lived in this forest? AMA AccountOriginal Poster25 points·9 months ago

No, but wouldn't it be fun to find some! Given that this forest is 60,000 years old, signs of human habitation would rewrite everything we know about human settlement in North America. Thanks, Ben

the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago and the earliest human remains in south america were about 10,000 years ago. Probably didn't have time to make it over there before it was underwater.

earliest human remains in south america were about 10,000 years ago.

Humans in California 130,000 Years Ago? Get the Facts A new study has dropped a bombshell on archaeology, claiming signs of human activity in the Americas far earlier than thought. AMA AccountOriginal Poster19 points·9 months ago

Yes! I loved that story. I will say, when I first dove on the forest with the man who discovered it, we got to the surface and he said, "Now I'll have to show you the ancient fire ring. It's got rocks in a circle and burnt logs and everything." It took me a beat too long to figure out he was kidding. Thanks, Ben-

I would have taken it seriously enough to get really excited, then had to back peddle and realize "no way anyone on Earth wouldn't start with that location." Followed by a fair bit of disappointment at a loss for what could have been.

Like telling you're kids you're buying them a new Xbox, they get super stoked, expecting an Xbox One, only to unwrap an Xbox 360. Talk about bummer even though it's still a nice console.

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didn't they just find bones possibly broken by tools, but no other definitive proof? i heard a story on NPR, but they said the jury was still out on it.

PharmD19 points·9 months ago

Why couldn't that site have been home to a non-human primate? We already know that Neanderthals (and also Denisovans?) made tools and even boats. If it is such anathema to the current understand of human history that we were in North America 120,000 years ago, what is the reason for jumping to that conclusion instead of some other species?

13 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

I find it so easy to think we had people over here a long time ago. With the oceans being so much lower, how hard would it be for these people to have walked over or taken little boats down the coasts. Probably not a lot, but some I'm sure . Plus, when people say we don't have evidence, well, I always think there is probably a lot of evidence, most now covered by water and I'm sure some that we just haven't been lucky enough to have dug in the right place. AMA AccountOriginal Poster18 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - this is a really interesting topic and one of the reasons why we are doing research at this site. Science relies on evidence and until that evidence is found, it is unknown. Yes, it is possible humans or primates were living in the underwater forest site when it was alive but we have not found evidence for that, yet. We have archaeologists from LSU and BOEM working with us on the project. If we find anything that looks like artifacts, bones, etc. we will proceed to investigate the site as an archaeological site. If we do find human artifacts or bones, it would be very exciting news.

PharmD12 points·9 months ago

Yeah personally I have trouble believing that humans didn't spread pretty far, pretty quickly. But so long ago, there were other hominids around so I also don't see why evidence of primitive communities couldn't have been one of them. AMA AccountOriginal Poster18 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

Kristine here- This is one of the problems with finding hominids in the Americas, many of the sites were either destroyed by the ice sheets that covered most of N. America or they are underwater. People and animals like to live near the ocean because there is food there that is relatively easy to catch. The glacial age coastal sites are now underwater. Marine Archaeologists are interested in finding locations where there is good preservation that could contain evidence of early humans in the Americas. It is not easy work, but we are trying to give them guidance on where to go look.

here's our current understanding of things. long read, but interesting. even if there were here 130,000 years ago there were a few mass extinctions in the the americas around that time, but again it's kinda unlikely. early hunter gatherers only moved around for food

You see the world as it is not as it was. You would only move if there was a real need.

how hard would it be for these people to have walked over or taken little boats down the coasts.

Pretty huge journey. There are no 7-11's to get some chips and soda when you are walking 10,000 miles+.

Comment deleted9 months ago(2 children) AMA AccountOriginal Poster12 points·9 months ago

Right. This is the trick. If people did live in this forest, the whole area has been underwater for eons. And buried under a ten foot lens of sand. Quite difficult to imagine randomly stumbling onto signs of habitation. But possible! Thanks, Ben

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Are you seriously going to tell me that Atlantis didn't have a string of Stop-n-Go's around the globe just for this purpose?;)

Neanderthals are humans.

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Have you been able to find any new species? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Ben here - No new species, but some species that were unexpected at the location. For instance, cardinal fish. But mostly, all the dinner guests you expect to see at the table on a Gulf reef are there. AMA AccountOriginal Poster10 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - a found a cone shell that typically is found in the Yucatan region. I can't remember the species name off hand, I have it written down at home. Cone shells are pretty rare in the Gulf anyway.

28 points·9 months ago

Disclaimer: I'm about to start work, so I don't have time to watch the documentary right now (sorry if my question in answered in the documentary).

Do you or your team predict that any more of these forests exist? If so, where would they be? I guess bays and gulfs have leas turbulent environments so that makes more sense, but more anoxic environments are probably better too. I'm not sure where those criteria meet/if there are there any other criteria. AMA AccountOriginal Poster25 points·9 months ago

Great question. Yes, absolutely more of these forests exist. In fact, you can see the remnants of another ancient cypress forest on Fort Morgan peninsula, north of the Underwater Forest. There, cypress stumps have turned up right at the edge of the surf. Those trees were dated and are about 2,000 years old. Pipeline work in Mobile Bay in ten feet of water found trees that were about 4,000 years old. Because cypress are intolerant of salt, this succession of trees moving from far offshore, to Mobile Bay, to the modern shoreline, gives us another window into rising sea level and how it pushed the cypress inland, and ever north as the seas came up. Thanks, Ben

5 points·9 months ago

Thank you for the answer! That is really interesting. I wonder if these exist elsewhere,and not just in the gulf of Mexico. Keep up the cool work! AMA AccountOriginal Poster10 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes! that is one of our goals is to characterize why this site is so well-preserved and identify other possible sites. This is part of our ongoing work.

3 points·9 months ago

Good luck! Thanks for the response!

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That's pretty neat!

Having worked with archaeologists before, they always told me the 'cool' work like this isn't paid, and you often need to pay a fee to be a part of it. Was this the case for this expedition? AMA AccountOriginal Poster13 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - I am paid by LSU so I get my salary to do research. Some of the students working on the project are volunteers and others are paid. This site does not "belong" to anyone so there is no fee. There are rules to working offshore and we coordinate our research efforts with those agencies. The ocean is different from land, there are fewer restrictions. We received funding to different sources to conduct this research so in a sense I was paid to do the work. AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Ben here - This was definitely cool work. I'd call it a labor of love for all involved. Kristine and I cobbled together what funding we could from various grants in the beginning, mainly just to come up with gas money to get out there. Shooting and working in the offshore environment is never cheap. Getting to the forest from the nearest port is a 40 mile round trip by water. Our first grants came from unusual sources. The CCA, or Coastal Conservation Association, a lobbying group that represents recreational fishermen, gave us our first donation for gas money, along with the Alabama Reef and Restoration Foundation. Once she had some results, Kristine got some scientific grants. For the filming, you are seeing the results of about 30 days of shooting at the site, spread over a couple of years. Of course, often, I'd get out there and it would be so murky that filming was essentially impossible.

35 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

So have you found the insects in this forest or are they just speculated? What exactly would preserve them if they were found?

Also, if a tree falls at the bottom of the ocean and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

Kristine here- I ask my students to look for insects as they process the sediments, they have not found any yet but there are lots of small items we have not identified yet. If insects are there, they would be preserved by the low oxygen conditions in the sediment. There are roots, pieces of wood, and other woody debris in the cores we collected.

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I saw a video of this on the BBC website yesterday (I am guessing same one as I doubt underwater forests are discovered every day.

My questions are, what kind of aquatic life now calls this area home and what does the ecosystem look like? i.e. different species, interesting traits animals have AMA AccountOriginal Poster20 points·9 months ago

The BBC video includes footage I provided to the BBC. Watch the full documentary and you get a treatise on the creatures that live there. Plus you get to see them with your own eyes. Arrow crabs are particularly common in the forest, which is fun as their bodies are naturally the color of cypress trunks. There are lots of fish that like to hide in nooks and crannies, like blennies and cardinal fish. You also see the typical Gulf reef community: red snapper, small groupers such as soapfish, rock seabass, hi-hats, and tomtates, or ruby-red lips. Lots of octopus. I've seen a few moray eels. Sea turtles love the forest. I have encountered many rooting around in the soft mud. Good population of sharks, particularly sandbar sharks, a small and inquisitive (read aggressive) species. The stumps themselves are home to lots of boring worms, anemones in five varieties, and lots of sponges and tunicates. Thanks, Ben

This isn't an answer about what aquatic life is home there, but while contemplating your questions, I just realized (even after living there for awhile), the shape of Alabama looks like an Easter island head if it were a fish. AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

I love it! And it does. Ben AMA AccountOriginal Poster2 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- The aquatic life is quite diverse at the site since there are places for fishes to find and for sessile organisms to attach. The organisms there are found through out the Gulf of Mexico so that is no special ecosystem there. My favorite is the hawksbill turtle that hangs out there and a rare cone shell I found.

Any damage from that BP oil disaster? AMA AccountOriginal Poster12 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- Not at this site that we saw. We are a good distance away from it, 102 miles. But we were not looking for oil spill damage either. The sediment cores we collected do not have anything that looks like oil in them.

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Regarding the quick "death" of the forest referred to at roughly 22-minutes into the documentary, have you discovered any possibility of salt water intrusion such as what happened following Hurricane Katrina in the areas surrounding Venice, LA? I know that huge areas of cypress were destroyed due to the intrusion of sea water in an area which was, until then, fresh water swamp. AMA AccountOriginal Poster7 points·9 months ago

Ben here - We saw the same thing in Alabama after Ivan and Katrina. The storm surge pushed over the barrier islands and saltwater became ponded in the cypress swamps on the islands. Petit Bois Island off Mississippi once had a thriving forest. Now, it looks like a bunch of match sticks standing in the sand.

2 more replies AMA AccountOriginal Poster7 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes, this is a project one of our students is working on, how salt water intrusion impacts bald cypress trees on the coast. He is working in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on his project. His first paper should be out soon.

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Has the type of forest growing now changed any since these were buried?

Aside: I have a large (7 foot diameter) slice of an old Yellow Cedar (AKA Cypress) from the Caren Range that a logger friend got for me. Gave up counting rings at 700

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Find anything creeeepy? AMA AccountOriginal Poster11 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Depends on what you call creepy but no. The sea anemones and jellyfish can sting you, I got my hands stung when diving the site and I was wearing gloves. Hurt for a little bit but I survived; fire coral is worse.

Link to YouTube video of this documentary posted by Raines:

Thanks for making my life easier. Have a cookie!

How are sites like these preserved and protected?

Is the location protected in some way to preserve this for future generations? I am sure there are people that would plunder such a site for profit. AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- Yes, we are keeping the exact location a secret until we can get it protected. We are working with federal agencies to protect the site. And yes, people have contacted me and Ben about harvesting the wood and we have declined.

3 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

It's a shame some people only see the short term gain , without thinking about what this could yield in our understanding of how our planet was in the past, as well as saving the beauty for future generations. Good on you!


The documentary mentions that they have filed to get the area a protected status. They have been secretive about the location of the site because they have been contacted by organizations interested in retrieving the wood for furniture and other things.

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To what degree, if any, have your efforts been hindered by the history of oil and chemical spills in the northern gulf? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Ben here - No hinderance from spills of any kind. In fact, Alabama escaped most of the ravages of the BP spill. Not so for our neighbors in Louisiana, but luck and barrier islands made of sand captured most of the oil before it got into our marshes. AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- if anything we have had help from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), who is the agency that leases and regulates the oil industry. Oil companies do not want to hit a large tree stump with their drills, they would rather avoid them so knowing where they are is important to them. We are using maps and surveys either done by oil companies or funded by oil companies in our research. The geophysical technologies we use to survey the site was developed in part for oil exploration. Marine geologists tend to work with oil companies, they need us to find the oil!

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Would anyone you have worked with consider themselves cartographers or at least ocean floor mappers? What sort of qualifications are typical for these occupations? What would be a more accurate job title for people who map the oceans? Is there anything close in nature to these that requires no more than a master's degree? AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- Great Question! We have Ph.D. student who just graduated who is creating a map of the site in 3-D. In the ocean, geophysicists or marine geologists are the people who map the seafloor. Most have at least a master's degree since the methods are highly technical and expensive. I have colleagues at the USGS who map the ocean and they have master's degrees, generally oceanography with a concentration in geology or geophysics. They use side scan sonar, multibeam, swath bathymetry, and chirp subbottom profilers.

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They are called hydrographers. The Division of Marine Science at USM has a hydrography graduate program for both MSc and PhD (I did my MSc there but in geological oceanography). It's worth checking out because the program is at the Stennis Space Center and collaborations with the Naval Oceanographic Office are common. Plus, they are Cat-A certified.

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What do you expect to discover? What do you hope to discover? And what would be a dream discovery (that's realistic) for you? AMA AccountOriginal Poster7 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Dream discovery front - One of the reasons I bought Marty Becker out there is because he's found a number of mammal bones and teeth at underwater sites off New Jersey. I'd love to come up with the tooth of an extinct mammal, or the tusk of a mammoth. AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - I would love to find a really old tree, like +2000 years. It would also be cool to find some human artifacts, it would be evidence of humans in N. America during the ice age but our chances are small of finding this even if humans were present.

Will you or the world be exposed to long preserved pathogens that could potentially kill or harm us? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Hmm. I'm hoping for some sort of genetic enhancement mutation that does great things for humanity. Like being able to live and breathe underwater (to paraphrase Jimi Hendrix). AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - I do not think so. The sediments have no oxygen so there is little living in the sediments with the wood, that is why the wood has not decomposed. I have not gotten sick and I have handled the wood.

In the documentary, it was said that radio carbon dating couldn't be used on the trees themselves. Why was this? Are there any other radioactive isotopes that could be used instead, or does the organic nature of the subject matter mean only carbon is available?

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This is a fantastic documentary.

This forest is the only one of its kind found.

Do you think more exist in the Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere? AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Ben here- Glad you liked the film. Yes, I think we are about to discover many similar sites. For one, LSU has learned to recognize the signature of the trees, even when buried under several feet of sediment. Two, I think divers who come across such sites will understand it is something unique and important and spread the word about them.

Thank you so much for doing this ama!! The documentary was very cool btw.

What are the biggest questions in your heads about the forest? What would you just KILL to know more about? Thanks again for doing this! AMA AccountOriginal Poster9 points·9 months ago

Ben here - I'd love to know who and what lived in it. Were there people here? If there were, this would have been a wonderful place to be at the time. Imagine this forest in a colder world, with snow in the winter and summer temperatures 15 degrees cooler. No palmettos, but lots of alder and other plants we don't find on the Gulf coast. This area has always been a refugia for both plants and animals during the ice ages. How neat it would be to see what creatures might have lived here. Unknown to most, Alabama actually ranks number one in the nation for aquatic diversity. Number one in fish species, mussels, crayfish, snails, salamanders. The contest is even close. There's a small river near my house. We sampled it via electroshock and came up with 26 species of fish in a mile of river. That's more species than live in the entire Colorado River basin, which drains 11 states. We have 84 crayfish species. California has 9. Louisiana just 32. Naturally, I wonder what might have inhabited these forests, which were situated in the drainage of the most diverse river system in the nation, the Mobile Basin. Have we lost species that lived only here?

Since this forest is ~60,000 years old, isn't it possible multiple hurricanes have uncovered this forest before? Is there a way to scientifically test for previous exposures and silt/sand re-coverings? AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Given the incredible condition of the wood, we do not believe it has been covered and uncovered successive times. We think it has been preserved intact until today. AMA AccountOriginal Poster7 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Yes this is something we discuss and consider. There is about 9 feet of sand that covered the trees before the Hurricane Ivan. We have a student who is developing a model to test how big and strong a hurricane has to be removed this much sand from 60 feet of water depth.

400 feet of sea-level rise seems like a lot.

Is it possible the ground sank, or did that much water really get added to the Earth's oceans from glacial melt/climate change?

Additionally, expert opinions range from 1 meter of sea-level rise by 2100 to 9 meters, iirc.

Obviously there is some serious disagreement on the potential effects. Do you have an opinion on which end of the spectrum you expect to occur?

The answer is both actually. As large amounts of meltwater run into the ocean, the basin of the ocean is weighed down and deforms downward.

You just blew my mind...

And the areas that were weighed done by glaciers rise up. Check out "isostatic rebound". AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Another phenomenon I only partially understand has to do with Louisiana sinking under the weight of the weight of the Mississippi Delta. I'm told that as it sinks, Alabama's coast bulges up, sort of like when you squeeze a water balloon. AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Great questions and this is something we discuss and investigate. The last ice age had huge 2-mile thick ice sheets over most of N. America, N. Europe, and part of N. Asia; this is how thick the Antarctic ice sheets are today. When you remove this much water from the ocean and lock it up on land for 10,000s of years, global sea level will drop. If Greenland were to completely melt, global sea levels will rise by about 24 feet. In Antarctica were to completely melt, global sea levels will rise by about 200 feet. These estimates are based on the amount of ice and do not include localized isostatic adjustment of the crust due to ice sheets weighing down the crust. There are places in Canada and N. Europe that are still rebounding from the ice sheets that started to melt 18,000 years ago. Ben is right about the Gulf coast, the Mississippi River is adding mass to the shelf and causing it to be depressed. Some geophysicists think the Alabama shelf is rising due to this flexing, others disagree and say the Alabama shelf is stable. We are considering both scenarios in our research.

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Grad Student | Ocean Circulation and Climate Modelling2 points·9 months ago

There's about 200' of sea level rise on Antarctica and if you raise the ocean's temperature by a few degrees (I can do the exact calculation if you're curious), you could easily get the extra 200' from thermal expansion. That's not to mention crustal deformation that might add or subtract some sea level.

I understand that the wood is decaying now that it has been uncovered, so you have to act fast. If that's the case, is the site large enough to make commercial exploitation possible? Now, before anyone comes after me with pitchforks, I'm thinking I'd rather have those trees recovered than lost forever when they decay. See

Pitchforks ready.

1 more reply AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Ben here - This depends on your perspective. I'd prefer to keep one of the largest reef-habitats you'll find in the northern Gulf intact. I'd also vote to keep the wood on the seafloor where people can appreciate it as a natural wonder. Yes, this is an ephemeral thing. It won't last forever. But once you dive on it, you'll never forget it.

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What type of climatological data can you gather from the forrest?How will you do so? AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- YES! we are definitely doing this. I study past climate so this is my interest in the forest. We have a floating chronology that is 489 years long from 10 long lived trees. What is interesting is they show the same stress in the last 50 years of their life and they all appear to die at the same time. I am diving the site this summer and we are using my new underwater drill to core the large stumps. I also have a colleague measuring the carbon and oxygen isotopes in the wood we collected to look at how carbon and hydrological cycles were different during the ice age. Another colleague is looking at the pollen assemblages to see the forest composition changed with time.

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The video explains the trees don't vary their growth, so they don't see changes in climate.

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From the species distribution and ecology of the preserved forest, can you map anthropogenic changes in similar forests in similar regions?

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What plant or animal specimens besides the cypress have been found? AMA AccountOriginal Poster2 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- We found lots of pollen, seeds, a palm tree, and an Atlantic White cedar tree, as well as microfossils of plankton, shells in the marine section of the cores above the trees. We found some small fish bones in the tree sediments as well.

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What's the weirdest, most unexpected conclusion that the data from the forest supports? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - The radiocarbon dates we got were a surprise, I expected the forest to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old based on sea level rise since the last glacial maximum. These trees survived exposure on land during the height of the glacial interval, about 30,000 years, they would have normally been eroded away. AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Ben here - for me, the strangest discovery has come from the pollen record. It shows that this forest was dominated by cypress, alder and oaks. This is different from modern cypress forests on the Gulf coast, which are dominated by cypress and tupelo. The data show that the forest is more like a coastal forest in North Carolina or Virginia. I think that's fascinating. A colder forest for a colder world.

This may seem like a stupid question, but what do you mean by preserved? Are the trees still there/alive? Or is it some sort of fossilized (petrified?) forest? AMA AccountOriginal Poster9 points·9 months ago

Ben here - The trees were protected from decay by being buried in mud, which essentially hermetically sealed them in. While they are not alive, and were dead when they were buried, they are completely intact. When you cut one with a saw, it is as difficult as cutting a modern tree down in your yard. Then, you smell the distinct odor of fresh cut cypress, just like cutting into a pine tree. If you cut a piece and set it on a table, you can watch the sap ooze out. That's what I mean by preserved. They are perfectly preserved as if they died yesterday. They still have bark on them even. AMA AccountOriginal Poster2 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - I will add on to Ben's response. The trees are not petrified, which is the replacement of the wood with other minerals. Given more time, like a half million years, the wood would probably be petrified. There is a nice petrified forest in North Mississippi that has extinct Sequoia trees (

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How large is the exposed area of first and how large do you think the still buried forest is?

Any signs of extinct fungi? AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- We have not looked for fungi yet, are you an expert and know your fungi? If so email me!

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Prof. Kristine: Hi, I'm a high school student who's very interested in your discovery and this sort of geological work. You said that you did mechanical engineering in college, so how did you progress to paleontology and ultimately this work? I'm planning to do mech eng as well so I'll be able to do an engineering/technical job in the field of environment/physical geography. Do you have any advice for me to reach this dream? Thank you, your work really excites and inspires me! AMA AccountOriginal Poster4 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- Thanks for asking! I studied mechanical engineering because I was good at math and that was where the jobs were at the time. My true love is the oceans and that is why I went back and got my degrees in geological oceanography. Most universities do not have a bachelors program in oceanography but there are a few with marine biology programs. I think engineering is a good preparation for oceanography, especially if you what to do the more technical subjects like geophysics and chemical oceanography. If you want to do physical oceanography (ocean currents, climate, tides, sea level rise) then atmospheric science or physics is a good degree at the bachelor level. For biological oceanography, environmental science is a good bachelor's program to take. Additionally, I suggest you learn computer programming, which is becoming very important in science and research, and GIS is another important skill. If you want to do field work, learn to scuba dive! The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have good programs to teach high schoolers scuba diving. Keep up your grades and do research while you at university working on your bachelor's degree. Talk to your professors, we love to talk with students and we can help you find internships, research projects, and give advice for graduate school.

3 points·9 months ago

Why isn't your post a complete sentence? It killed me.

This is incredible. Has there been much indication yet of Native American settlements in the area? This would have been decent territory for hunting/fishing after the glacial push right? I can only imagine that someone may have settled there semi permanently AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Ben here - To your point, this area was well populated with native tribes by the time DeSoto arrived here. In fact, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is today home to hundreds of shell middens where Mississippian tribes lived. The middle of the Delta is home to Mound Island, which was the center of the culture on the Gulf Coast, and was home to the sacred fire for all the tribes. It stands to reason this area would have been just as welcoming to the earliest peoples on the continent. Perhaps evidence of earlier settlements than we know of lies in the forest.

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2 points·9 months ago·edited 9 months ago

I'm curious why, when you retrieved the large trunk from the site, rather than cutting it up, you didn't tow it behind the boat to shore or find some other way to maintain the integrity of the piece. AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Good question. We were facing a deteriorating situation in terms of weather. Storms were moving in on us from the Southwest and we wanted to run from them, not have to slowly tow a heavy and unwieldy object.

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Did you find any human ruins at that depth since they would have lived close to the (back then) shoreline? AMA AccountOriginal Poster2 points·9 months ago

Kristine here- No evidence of humans has been found.

If all the ice in the world melted how much would the sea level increase from current levels?

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So what I'm hearing is that sea levels rising is a natural occurrence on a water planet such as earth.

How do you respond to the idea that a global flood may have rapidly settled and burried these trees? Similar to the petrified redwoods of Specimen Ridge are these Cyprus trees native to a distant location, or do they belong in the area? P.S. Thanks for your research and commitment to scientific discovery! AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - These trees are located in the position they were in when they were alive, the roots are still in the sediments, and they look like a forest that had been clear cut, only the stumps remain. The flood that buried them could have been local or global, we do not know yet. A local flood could be from a hurricane or tsunami. Or it could have been a global flood from the ice sheets melting quickly.

There was almost certainly a global "flood" at one point while humans were around , probably at the end or beginning of an ice age. At both of those point sea levels rise due to the melting or forming of sea ice and there is more parcipitation. So you tend to have high sea levels on the shoulders of ice ages.

Have you found any interesting new/extinct insect species preserved? Also are there any unique/interesting moss species?

What is the most surprising part of this discovery?What things did you discover that seem unchanged compare dto today?Did you find any evidence of animals - say, a wood pecker den, etc. in a log, or are they all stumps?

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Do you plan on somehow keeping people away from it to protect it? If so, how? With the fishing Rodeo coming up this weekend, I'm curious if it might get fished more, and how it may negatively effect the forest. AMA AccountOriginal Poster2 points·9 months ago

Ben here - Fishing over the site won't hurt a thing. It's a thriving reef community full of both predators and prey. Our best hope for protecting it is as a national marine sanctuary. Even then, we are not looking to ban fishing or diving. We just want to outlaw removing the stumps from the water.

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400' of water globally is maasive. Where would tbis volume of water.come.from? Is it more likely that the land sank due to plate movement? Or is it sea rise due to end of ice age era?

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I understand that the forest was unburied by Ivan in 2004, but is there any explanation as to how the forest was first buried? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

Ben here - That's a two dollar question there. How indeed. Speculation is all we are left with. But, studying the world around us, a couple of possibilities spring to mind. First, perhaps a natural event like a hurricane. Hurricanes routinely bury things along the coast in five or ten feet of sand. But given the mud at the site, my best guess suggests deposition by rivers during a prolonged flood. This area, surrounding Mobile Bay, is the rainiest spot in our nation. We get about 72 inches of rain a year, which is about two feet more than Seattle. Perhaps it was a rainy spot then, draining the same river system it drains today, which drains parts of Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and most of Alabama. Our modern swamps change shape continually due to the annual flooding. I can easily imagine the forest being buried in mud in just a few years.

How harvestable is this forest, and how concerned are you that some knucklehead will find it and harvest it? I know that cypress is expensive lumber, and there are major efforts underway to harvest waterlogged lumber in the Atchafalaya Basin. 60 feet doesn't seem undoable to a committed Cajun... AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Ben Here- Precisely. I'm extremely concerned about a committed Cajun, or an Alabama lumberjack with a boat. This place is easily harvestable for someone with a boat equipped with a winch. And imagine the price a 60,000 year old coffee table would command.

Sadly, under the current administration, protections will not be happening soon. So hide it well, friends. Hide it well :/

What if there's some super bug you wake up and it kills us all?

How can an entire forest be preserved underwater without the humidity damaging it? Any explanation or theory about how is it possible? Also, what's the most interesting insect species you've found there? AMA AccountOriginal Poster6 points·9 months ago

Ben here - your first couple of questions have been answered in the thread. Your last one about insects is more fun. We haven't found any bugs yet, but we have found signs of them. In fact, in the documentary, you see a dendrochronologist pointing out a beetle gallery in a cypress log. We have found many similar carvings made by bugs in the trees. We also found a trunk with a lightning scar, and a number showing burnt bark from ancient forest fires.

The first of your question was answered in the documentary. If I remember correctly, the type of wood the preserved trees have are very resilient to water. Think of Louisiana bayou trees.

Moreover, they were well buried under the mud.

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It was first covered in anaerobic mud, which preserved the stumps. The mud was removed by hurricane Ivan in 2004. So presumably the stumps will decay now. AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine Here- Yes, as the wood is exposed to the marine environment, it is decaying - we will eventually lose this forest as it is exposed. We do have wood in the sediment cores we collected that have not been exposed and are still under 9 feet of sand and the preservation is excellent. As long a hurricane does not expose those areas, the wood should be preserved. AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine here - Normally wood decomposes in the marine environment quickly, baldcypress is more resistant but it will eventually decompose. This site was a backwater swamp where the water and sediments have little to no oxygen in them. Generally, No oxygen, no decomposition. This wood was encased in the no oxygen sediments thus preserved.

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How were the forests preserved?

As an owner of PSVR headset I am wondering do you have any plans of releasing a sightseeing movie that would make use of VR technology? Such a swim would be great a great experience for people that can't access the area personally.

Also what is the "biggest" thing you hope to uncover from the forest? AMA AccountOriginal Poster5 points·9 months ago

I'll look into that. It sounds like it might be fun. AMA AccountOriginal Poster3 points·9 months ago

Kristine Here- Yes, this would be great to have. We are getting a Magic Planet this summer for teaching at LSU and is using 360 videos etc.

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