Oceans of Wonder: 30 Unbelievable Underwater Discoveries

By Jack Ripley | May 1, 2024

Heracleion: The Submerged Port City

The sea holds a trove of treasures and secrets, but some are still awaiting discovery. While some underwater discoveries are expected, like the remnants of a sunken ship, others turn out to be mysterious yet wondrous surprises. From shipwrecks of the Great Lakes to aircraft recoveries of the world's oceans and underwater cities to long-hidden treasures, there's no telling what the oceans and seas of the world will reveal next. Check out some of the most fascinating yet eerie underwater discoveries in history.

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This massive statue rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of North Africa. The enormous structure is believed to have welcomed visitors to the City of Heracleion before it sank into the sea around 101 BCE. What caused the city to sink was likely a combination of natural occurrences: tsunami, earthquake, and/or erosion. Archaeologists surveying near the mouth of the Nile River happened upon Heracleion, a one-time bustling Egyptian port city.

This underwater city is home to the remains of gigantic architectural structures, remnants of temples, bronze statues, and other evocative relics. In this picture, you can see an enormous statue, carved out of red granite, likely representing a Ptolemaic king. Based on archaeologists’ estimations, the statue would have weighed more than 5 tons and stood over 16 feet tall. Other discoveries in the lost city of Heracleion include several ship anchors that lend credence to the assertion that it was once a busy port town.

Italy’s Christ of the Abyss

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This bronze statue was molded by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti. Created to be placed underwater, the famed statue resides in the Mediterranean Sea off San Fruttuoso. Christ of the Abyss was crafted to commemorate Dario Gonazatti, the first Italian to utilize scuba gear, near the site where he died underwater in 1947.

The statue depicts Jesus Christ with arms outstretched skyward in a show of peace and benediction. Though the salt water, passing ships, and sea growth have damaged the statue, it was removed for restoration in 2003 and promptly replaced in the sea. Two replicas, made from the same cast as Christ of the Abyss, were subsequently placed in Granada, along the coast of St. George, and the other in the National Marine Sanctuary on the coast of Key Largo, Florida. Each of the three statues can be explored when scuba diving or snorkeling.