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Jul 09, 2013 01:15 PM EDT

Underwater Forest off Alabama Coast Uncovered by Katrina is 50,000 Years Old (VIDEO)

Underwater Forest
(Photo : Flickr.com) Underwater forests are created by the tide rising higher and higher over long periods of time and enveloping trees and shrubs in water.

An underwater forest off the coast of Alabama has been calculated to be much older than previously thought, AL.com reported.

According to the firsthand report by diver Ben Raines, an Alabama environmental journalist, the samples he collected were discovered by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to be 50,000 years old. The forest is located 60 feet underwater and ten miles off shore.

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CLICK HERE for pictures from the dive.

The scientists who studied the samples commented on the well-preserved state they were found in.

"It is a little darker in color than a piece of modern cypress, but if I didn't tell you that it was over 50,000 years old, you wouldn't know it," said Kristine DeLong, the Louisiana State University researcher responsible for preparing and sending the samples for analysis. "I showed it to some of the other professors and they couldn't believe the wood was that well preserved. It's amazing it has held up. When I cut into them, they smelled just like you were cutting into a cypress tree."


Raines reported the forest was buried for eons before apparently being uncovered by the giant waves caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Original tests suggested the tree samples were between 8,000 and 12,000 years old, consistent with the Gulf Coast sea levels during the most recent ice age. The older dates point to a much more distant ice age.

"Trees that are 50,000 to 80,000 years old, they should be down 120 feet to 180 feet underwater. But these are sitting at 60 feet. That means that coastline has come up about 60 to 100 feet. That's unusual," said DeLong.

Since becoming uncovered, it has attracted all kinds of sea creatures and fish. Some of the marine animals that will inhabit the forest will likely burrow their way into the wood, destroying it in the process, LiveScience.com reported.

Scientists are now running out of time to collect samples for analysis, but Raines' work should have given them enough data and the experience will not be one he soon forgets.

Raines told Live Science "Swimming around amidst these stumps and logs, you just feel like you're in this fairy world."

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