15 Of The Most Incredible Discoveries Made By Divers

Temple Of Doom (Cenote Esqueleto)
Looking a little like a skull, Mexico’s “Temple of Doom”, aka Cenote Esqueleto, is an apt name as one of the most hazardous and intricate dive sites in the world. This cenote is incredibly dark, disorientating and dangerous. Divers are asked to stick to sunlit areas to be safe, and take extreme care as many passageways are tight and narrow. It’s very easy to become lost in Cenote Esqueloto, and many divers have run out of air trying to find their way back and died. Not hazardous enough? There is also no access ladder at Cenote Esqueleto, meaning those keen to reach the intricate cave network that lies far beneath the surface have to take a giant leap of faith right at the beginning. However, the Temple of Doom rewards courageous divers with its fascinating deep and complex cave formations, boulders, and stalactites.
The Wreck Of The USS Saratoga
Submerged 50 metres beneath the calm ocean surface at beautiful Bikini Atoll, the wrecked USS Saratoga draws divers keen to explore its historic hull. This is a ship that can boast a fascinating back story a carrier that saw significant action during World War II, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine following the Pearl Harbour attack, before taking part in the legendary Battle of Iwo Jima. Ironically, the Saratoga was eventually sunk by the United States as part of the nuclear weapons tests called Operation Crossroads that took place here in the 1940s. It has sat peacefully at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean ever since. Because its final resting place isn’t too far from the surface, the Saratoga is accessible to recreational divers, who head here to see the wreck at close quarters. There are other dive sites in the area best accessed via the Marshall Islands but there’s no question that the Saratoga is the most popular of all.
The Ghost Fleet Of Chuuk Lagoon
Like to go wreck diving? Chuuk Lagoon is hard to beat. Located in the remote Central Pacific, underwater explorers flock here to see the world’s largest ghost fleet. Known to some as ‘the Japanese Pearl Harbour’, what awaits beneath the surface is awesome indeed. Difficult to put into words, Chuuk Lagoon must be seen to be believed. There was once an impenetrable Japanese naval base here, but as World War II approached its end, the stronghold was destroyed in a devastating attack known as Operation Hailstone. In total, the United States destroyed 16 warships, 32 merchant ships and 25o aircraft. Nowadays, wrecks litter the lagoon’s sand-covered floor filled with marvellous marine life, and beckoning divers with their long-lost treasures. Look out for the San Francisco Maru, a vast cargo ship that still has three tanks on deck. Haunting and exciting in equal measure, this is a dive site that is not to be missed.
The Underwater River
There are dive sites galore dotted along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula the porous limestone that lies beneath ground level prone to sinkholes that, over time, have flooded and filled with water. They’re called cenotes in these parts and there’s one underwater world in particular that demands to be explored. It’s known as Cenote Angelita Little Angel and the discoveries that have been made down here are remarkable indeed. In ancient times, the Maya people believed the sinkholes to be sacred places. Here, gifts could be given to the gods with gold, precious stones and even human remains amongst the sacrificial items offered. Finding an ancient artefact is always possible in Yucatan’s fascinating cenotes, but at Angelita, the best discovery of all has been a natural one. It’s an underwater river that flows deep beneath the sinkhole’s surface. The science is complicated and the concept surreal, but you don’t need to understand it to enjoy it. The underground river was discovered by amateur divers and there’s a good chance that further secrets are down here, just waiting to be found.
Christ Of The Abyss
Making a diving bucket list? Christ of the Abyss is sure to figure prominently. For anyone interested in underwater exploration, this is a must-see dive site. Located in the shimmering Mediterranean, between Camogli and Portofino on the Italian Riviera, this is a sacred spot for scuba divers. Found 56 feet beneath the sun-kissed surface, this is a peaceful place indeed. measuring eight feet from head to toe, Guido Galletti’s submerged bronze statue offers a benediction of peace, its head and hands raised towards the skies above. Placed at the spot where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use scuba equipment, died in 1947, Christ of the Abyss has stood here since 1954, beckoning those keen to pay their respects. Similar statues can be found in waters around the world, but the purists always head here to see the original and the best.
The Pyramids Of Yonaguni
Located off Ryukyu Island in Japan, Yonaguni’s mysterious pyramids have baffled scholars ever since being discovered in 1986. The area has long been a popular dive site due to the graceful hammerhead sharks that glide through the waters here. But in the decades that have passed since the massive stepped monoliths first came to light, divers have had another reason to take the plunge and head down to the captivating depths. Some think that the pyramids are natural, with the strong underwater currents having shaped the soft sandstone over thousands of years. Yet there’s a growing belief that this is, in fact, a ‘Japanese Atlantis’, an ancient lost city, sunk by a powerful earthquake two millennia ago, and preserved forever beneath the lapping waves. Regardless of their origins, Yonaguni’s popular pyramids demand to be explored. Ranking amongst diving’s greatest discoveries, this is an experience that is not to be missed.
Sand Drawings In Japan
Like underwater crop circles, these mysterious ‘sand drawings’ confounded scientists for a short time. Discovered during a routine dive off Amami Oshima in southern Japan, wild theories abounded. Measuring six feet in diameter and found 80 feet beneath the ocean surface, no-one could explain their origins. Further dives soon revealed the reason, however. This has nothing to do with aliens but the explanation is no less fascinating. The rippling geometric patterns are, in fact, created by small pufferfish, who toil to fashion intricate designs on the soft ocean floor. The reason? Scientists have discovered that these delicate ‘drawings’ help the pufferfish to attract a mate, as well as providing a safe place for eggs to be laid. It’s a beautiful sight and an incredible discovery. Preparing to dive in Japan? Be sure to look out for the pufferfish and their amazing underwater artworks.
The Sunken Yacht In The Antarctic
Ghost ships have long beckoned divers keen to explore their sunken hulls. Most date back to days long gone, but the stricken Mar Sem Fin was a wreck more modern. This Brazilian research vessel slipped beneath the surface in 2012 having become trapped in the frigid waters of Maxwell Bay, not far from King George Island, some 750 miles from South America’s southernmost tip. The 76-foot yacht has since been recovered. But, for a time, this was a dive site like nowhere else on Earth. The Mar Sem Fin got into trouble having been battered by 60mph winds and, with the crew having been rescued, the ship’s fate was inevitable. Having sunk to a depth of just 30 feet, the wrecked yacht could be seen from the surface, the Antarctic conditions giving the impression that it was glowing beneath the water. For a period attractive to divers, this was a wreck that demanded to be discovered.
The Submarine City Of Lion
The Lion City aka Shi Cheng was once a major metropolis, an economic and political powerhouse in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, its ancient buildings attractive and its influence great. That all came to an abrupt end in 1957, when the powers-that-be here decided that a vast hydroelectric power plant was needed. Its inhabitants evacuated from their homes, Shi Cheng was submerged at the bottom of an enormous man-made lake. Out of sight and out of mind, it was soon forgotten. Divers rediscovered ‘China’s Atlantis’ almost five decades later making this a popular spot indeed for those with a penchant for underwater adventures. Lying 130 feet beneath the surface of picturesque Lake Qiandao, the city’s haunting streets and buildings remain intact, drawing those keen to explore Shi Cheng’s long-forgotten corners. Had it not been for curious divers, this historic urban centre might have been lost forever. Take our advice and take a look for yourself.
Blue Whale
With so many of the planet’s underwater places having yet to be explored, there’s still a great deal for divers to discover. Little beneath the oceans’ surfaces can ever hope to rival this, however. Like to swim alongside the largest animal on Earth? It’s time to take a trip to Sri Lanka. The so-called Pearl of the Indian Ocean is a diver’s paradise, but there is nothing to be found in the captivating depths here to beat the breathtaking Blue Whale. Measuring up to 30 metres from head to tail and weighing as much as 170 tonnes this is an immense beast indeed. Yet calm in nature and often shy, it is possible to get up close and personal with these gentle giants during a dive, albeit with expert instruction and guidance. Picturesque Weligama is the place to go for anyone keen to experience an underwater encounter like no other. There’s a great deal to discover in the Earth’s oceans, but there’s little that can ever hope to rival this.
Wreck Of The Titanic
Having slipped beneath the ink-black surface one night in 1912, Titanic lay undisturbed on the frigid ocean floor for almost three-quarters of a century. Rediscovered during a secret operation in 1985, divers have longed to explore the renowned wreck ever since. Getting there is the problem, with Titanic’s holed hull lying more than two miles down in an unpredictable part of the Atlantic that is almost impossible to access. Yet plans are afoot to resume exploration, using special submersibles to transport those with the means to a dive site like no other. It was an oceanographer called Robert Ballard who located the wreck in the 1980s, but the costs and logistics involved have made return visits problematic. With Titanic disintegrating, those keen to follow in Ballard’s footsteps know that time is running out. Like to take a trip? It will cost a fortune, but with Titanic’s bow, deck and bridge to explore as well as a vast debris field strewn with historic artefacts from that fateful voyage those who can afford it might consider it a price worth paying.
Cleopatra’s Sunken Palace
In 1996, French divers exploring the shimmering waters around Alexandria made a startling discovery. It was the long lost island of Antirhodos. Once home to Cleopatra, this was a land that had slipped beneath the ocean surface some 1600 years earlier and had not been seen since. Packed with ancient Egyptian treasures, this was a remarkable find indeed. Boasting countless columns, statues and artworks not to mention the great foundations of Cleopatra’s lost palace itself divers have made few more important discoveries. The island sank without trace in the Fourth Century a great earthquake on Rhodes in 365 prompting a chain of devastating tremors and a powerful tsunami that struck the Egyptian coastline hard. Once a place of immense wealth and splendour, Antirhodos vanished palace and all beneath the great waves, lost forever, or so it seemed. Since being rediscovered in the 1990s, some 20,000 priceless relics and artefacts have been recovered. Planning a trip? Trust us on this one: there’s still a great deal to be discovered in Cleopatra’s spectacular Submarine Palace.
Moon Fish
The first diver to have ever encountered a Moon Fish must have been given quite a fright. Measuring up to three metres from head to tail and sometimes over four metres from fin to fin this is an immense creature indeed. Large it might be, but the Moon Fish is no threat to divers. Recovered from the initial shock? Swimming alongside this gentle giant is a rare treat indeed. The Moon Fish has several names including, somewhat confusingly, the Ocean Sunfish but its moniker matters little to those keen to get up close and personal. Found in temperate and tropical waters around Southern California, Indonesia and New Zealand, the so-called Swimming Head (another nickname, this one that points to the Moon Fish’s unusual shape) is calm and shy. Happiest swimming close to the ocean surface, the massive Moon Fish can weigh up to 1,000kg making it the heaviest bony fish on Earth. Impossible to miss, this is one to discover on your next dive trip.
The Cathedral, An Australian Submarine Cave
Divers have long known about The Cathedral an immense cave network on the picturesque Tasman Peninsula but so vast is this awe-inspiring underwater world, exciting new discoveries are being made all the time. The latest find has been dubbed ‘The Chamber of Secrets’, this a cavernous expanse that has yet to be explored fully. The Piccaninnie Ponds cave system is so huge that no-one knows what else might be hidden down here. It’s perhaps no surprise then that intrepid divers are drawn to Southern Australia to swim in its crystal-clear waters. The Cathedral was formed over thousands of years, with freshwater filtering through the soft limestone, before rising to the surface under pressure, eroding great chunks of stone in the process. The result is spectacular with intricate passages aplenty, and the chance of yet another amazing discovery waiting around each and every corner.
Sculpture Park
There’s nowhere on Earth quite like the haunting Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. Located off Grenada’s popular western shores, divers take to the warm Caribbean Sea to catch a glimpse of the strange underwater world that the British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor created here in 2006. There’s a circle of life-sized human figures, all holding hands, that can unsettle the unprepared, whilst other attractions include ‘The Lost Correspondent’ a man sitting at a desk, working on his typewriter and ‘Man on a Bike’ (no explanation necessary). This is all on the ocean floor, remember, but if it all seems a little silly, Taylor’s work is serving a useful purpose. Enhancing the native reef and encouraging marine life, the ocean is claiming this artificial environment as its own, a little at a time, and more and more creatures are making their homes amongst the sculptures. It makes for a fascinating dive and no matter how often you visit, there’s always something different to discover down here. 
The Axolotl, The Mexican Waterdog
Once a staple of the Aztec diet, these days the unusual Axolotl is fast approaching extinction. This is a strange-looking creature; aka the Mexican Waterdog or Walking Fish, this is an amphibian with a difference. Unlike similar species, the Axolotl does not undergo metamorphosis instead remaining gilled and aquatic and not taking to the land during adulthood. Like to see one at close quarters? Time is starting to run out. Numbers are dwindling due to urbanisation, pollution and the prevalence of invasive species, but Axolotl can still be found in Central Mexico’s freshwaters for those determined enough. Lake Xochimilco is perhaps the best spot for those keen to catch a glimpse, whilst smaller bodies of water outside Mexico City’s overcrowded environs also offer opportunities. They’re not easy to find in the dark and murky waters, but for those divers who do succeed, the effort is well worthwhile.
The Lost City of Heracleion
Divers spent decades searching for Heracleion a vast ancient city, rumoured to lie beneath the shimmering ocean surface, not far from Egypt’s picturesque coastline. Lost for thousands of years, some thought it little more than a myth, a legend hinted at in rare scrolls and texts. But in 1999, French archaeologists found Heracleion’s ruins some six kilometres from the Alexandria shoreline. It was a remarkable discovery that has seen countless treasures recovered from the deep. Some 64 ships, 700 anchors, innumerable gold coins and giant statues some still intact are amongst the items retrieved from a city believed to date back to the 12th Century BC. Even more impressive is the massive temple discovered down here an awe-inspiring place that demands to be explored. Divers have made some incredible discoveries over the years, but few can rival this.
A Hole In The Earth
Divers have long known about the huge marine sinkhole aka the Great Blue Hole that lies close to Lighthouse Reef, an atoll 70km from Belize’s sun-kissed shores. It wasn’t until recent times, however, that the secrets that lie at the hole’s mysterious bottom were discovered. Heading deep down, more than 120 metres beneath the shimmering ocean surface, curious divers found a dark place indeed. Higher up, life abounds with sharks, turtles and colourful corals amongst the spectacular sights to be seen. Down below, however, it is a different matter. Upon reaching 90 metres, divers discovered a thick layer of toxic hydrogen sulfide described as a vast ‘floating blanket’ that spanned the hole in its entirety. Beneath this, all life vanished, with no oxygen and nothing to see other than long-dead crabs and a so-called ‘conch graveyard’. The most interesting find? The divers discovered small stalactites suggesting that this was once a huge dry cave, most likely formed during the last Ice Age, some 14,000 years ago.
36 Million Dollars Worth Of Silver
In 1941, the SS Gairsoppa a British-built merchant ship that had seen service during World War II departed India bound for Ireland. It never reached Galway, its intended destination, having been sunk by a torpedo, fired from a lurking German U-Boat. The Gairsoppa slipped to the deep ocean floor, its 85 crew members killed and its precious cargo lost. That cargo? Some 48 tonnes of silver bullion, with an estimated value of more than $30 million (at today’s prices). The wreck sitting in 15,000 feet of water, it was thought that the treasure was lost forever. In 2011, however, deep-sea divers discovered the Gairsoppa’s remains and a delicate operation began to recover the treasure from the ocean floor. It took a little time and much careful planning, but the silver was found and brought back to the surface. Considered ‘the deepest, largest precious metal discovery in history’, it is thought there might still be more riches down there just waiting to be found. For curious divers, it’s an intriguing proposition.