Top 10 Greatest Underwater Discoveries Ever

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Top 10 Greatest Underwater Discoveries Ever

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
Imagine stumbling across one of these incredible pieces of history. For this list, we're looking at some of the most amazing and important underwater discoveries, ranging from marine biology to archaeology. Our countdown includes HMS Terror & Erebus, Titanic, The Antikythera Mechanism, and more!
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Top 10 Greatest Underwater Discoveries Ever


Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Greatest Underwater Discoveries Ever.

For this list, we’re looking at some of the most amazing and important underwater discoveries, ranging from marine biology to archaeology.

Let us know in the comments which one you think is the most significant.

#10: HMS Terror & Erebus

In the 1840s, the polar exploration ships Terror and Erebus had already had successful voyages to the Antarctic; but they were doomed when, in 1845, they embarked on an expedition to Canada. While trying to chart the Northwest Passage, both ships disappeared. They had become trapped in ice and the crews all perished in the cold eventually. But the shipwrecks themselves weren’t found until the 21st century; in 2014 and 2016 respectively, Erebus and Terror were found after a long and expensive search undertaken by the Canadian authorities. Finally, after more than 150 years, we might get answers on why the ships suffered such a tragic fate.


#9: Cold Case Cars

In 2013, two cars both dating back to the 1970s were found in Foss Lake, Oklahoma. A few years of investigation showed that both cars belonged to separate missing person cases; one, a 1969 Camaro, held the remains of a group of teenagers who went missing in late 1970, while an older Chevrolet contained three people reported missing in 1969. The cars have since been brought up from the bottom of the lake, in a discovery that finally solved the disappearances of several people. However, cops still don’t know how the cars actually got into the lake; most believe it was an unfortunate accident due to unsafe roads, while others still think foul play was involved.


#8: Pavlopetri

Humans have lived in Greece for thousands of years, and one of the oldest sites that prove this is Pavlopetri. This five-thousand-year-old township was first excavated in the late 60s and has since received the title of “the oldest submerged city in the world.” It was lying only a few feet below the surface but still managed to go undetected for millennia. Any evidence of ancient humans is always going to be significant – it’s not a subject anybody can know too much about – and Pavlopetri is one of the most incredible archaeological finds in history. It survived in spite of the damage passing ships cause, though remains at risk of destruction.


#7: Giant Tube Worms

One of the most inhospitable places on Earth are deep-sea volcanoes; organisms have to contend not only with the pressure of being so far down, but also the extreme temperatures the volcanoes cause and the toxic materials they eject. So, in 1977, researchers weren’t expecting to discover an entirely new and bizarre creature while investigating hydrothermal vents in the Galapagos Islands – but that’s what happened. Giant tube worms are alien-like invertebrates that grow around the vents, withstanding immense amounts of sulfur and high temperatures of hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit. The discovery of the worms gives us hope that there might be life on other planets the mirror the hostile environment of underwater volcanoes.

#6: The Antikythera Mechanism

This unusual object, described by many as the world’s earliest computer, was found in a shipwreck in 1901, having been eroded by thousands of years underwater. For decades, the mystery of what the Antikythera Mechanism was – and whether it even originated on Earth at all – has confounded scientists. But today, we think we have the answer: most likely, it’s a cosmological device for charting the stars and had been used to predict eclipses and other astronomical events accurately. That doesn’t make it any less interesting, however, since it would take humans centuries to develop technology as advanced as this mechanism again when the knowledge was lost.


#5: Lost Mahabalipuram Pagodas

The Seven Pagodas belong to an old Hindu myth about a man who is punished for his lack of faith in Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s most important and powerful gods; the man’s son then built the city of Mahabalipuram, said to be the site of these pagodas. For centuries, it was believed they belonged firmly in the land of myth, but that changed just a few decades ago. In 2004, during the tragic and devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, witnesses on the beach saw the legendary pagodas emerge as the tsunami pulled the water and silt from the shore. Two submerged temples were investigated after the disaster, in a major archaeological discovery.



#4: Atlit-Yam

Just off the coast of Israel is a Neolithic village believed to be one of the oldest in the world, constructed an incredible 9,000 years ago. It was abandoned at some point, likely due to a tsunami or similar disaster, and wasn’t found again until 1984. Despite it being abandoned, skeletons have been found there as well and studied – but they probably didn’t drown, since we know they had tuberculosis, in the earliest cases of TB yet known. Today Atlit-Yam is a hugely important site, even being dubbed “Israel’s Atlantis,” but it’s not clear how much longer it can survive underwater.


#3: Thonis-Heracleion

Lost, ancient cities abound in myths and pop culture, with Atlantis undoubtedly being the most famous lost city in the entire world. But while Atlantis almost certainly isn’t real, Thonis-Heracleion certainly is. It was first spotted by a pilot flying over Egypt in the 1930s, but it took until 1999 for the ruin’s true location to be ascertained and excavated. What they found was extraordinary; an ancient city at the mouth of the River Nile that solved not one, but two ancient mysteries, since Thonis and Heracleion – previously thought to be separate settlements in antiquity – were actually the same place. We found statues, temples, currency, and other incredible relics that had all sunk into the sea.


#2: The Uluburun Shipwreck

This Turkish shipwreck is one of the oldest ships ever found, and despite being made of wood, it remarkably survived in the Mediterranean Sea for around 1,600 years. We know humans were sailing for much longer than this, but the Uluburun shipwreck’s age and its condition make it a major archaeological find. It took ten years and over 20,000 dives to bring the ship and its contents to the surface for further investigation. It contained incredible riches for the time, like ostrich eggs, elephant tusks, and even gold jewelry. It was truly a relic of the Bronze Age frozen in time, just waiting for somebody to find it – even if that didn’t happen until the 1980s.



Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few Honorable Mentions:

I-400 Japanese Submarine
These Giant Subs Were Captured & Sunk by the US, Remaining Lost Until the Next Century

Train Graveyard
It’s Still Not Entirely Clear How These Steam Trains Found Their Way to the Bottom of the Sea

The Marianas Trench
The Deepest Part of the Ocean Wasn’t Fully Investigated Until the 1950s

Giant Squid
We Didn’t Photograph This Ocean Monster Alive in the Wild Until 2004

The Bismarck
This Nazi Warship Was Sunk in 1941 & Was Finally Rediscovered in 1989

#1: The Titanic

When the Titanic sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage from Great Britain to the US, it was a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Over 1,500 people lost their lives in the disaster, and many of the survivors spent the rest of their lives traumatized. But despite knowing roughly where the Titanic sank, it took until 1985 for the actual wreck to be located 12,000 feet down – and until then, we didn’t even know that it had actually split completely in two. It took decades of searching and many advances in deep-sea technology to find the wreck, including sonar and underwater photography, all of which remain invaluable in modern ocean exploration.
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