My Search for an Underwater Town

Note: I was extremely honored nay overwhelmed, when my buddy Saleem asked me to write for his blog.  As a journalist, TV producer and writer I am usually the one who has been told not to write by my superiors.  Media organizations are either funded by governments or by private corporate sector and straight-forward journalism has the tendency to evolve into threat to national security or anti-corporate rhetoric damaging to the advertising revenue.  Thus we journalists are repeatedly being censored!  After a good thirteen years of censorship, I felt like I genuinely needed an intellectual vacation from the tightly controlled world of professional journalism into the “write whatever the heck you want” world of bloggers that is generating an audience at a rate faster than television is losing them.

In days to come I will be sharing stories about my arctic travels, encounters with Eskimo tribes, paranormal investigations, deep sea diving, submerged cities and sunken ships. Some of these have already made air and then there are those that never did because of reasons that will be fairly obvious to the readers inshAllah.
First entry is about the search on an under water city…
 
It was a man by the name Todd Stegall who emailed me the sonar image of what appeared to be a submerged house. The image was taken by a side-scan sonar from a boat and showed what seemed like a man made structure 60 feet below water level in Lake Lanier Georgia. Todd was a local from that area who had been exploring the lake for years in his boat. The side scan sonar had picked up a such a perfect square shape that it could not have been the work on nature. In fact when I looked at it closely I could also make out a small chimney. 
 
“Who would make a house 60 feet under a Lake?” 
 
When I dug into government records and history of Lake Lanier, it turned out that when Buford Dam was built in 1956, large areas of surrounding towns went under the rising water levels. Seven hundred families had to be relocated because their township was about to get submerged. Then US Corps of Engineers went about demolishing all buildings so that the debris from these structured down not float and become a navigational hazard for any future boat traffic. Or thus went the official version! Yet we had in our hands a photograph of a possible double story building with a chimney, most likely left intact by the engineers. Or was it a natural rock-like formation that appeared to be a man made structure?
 
There was only one way to find out and that was to dive! 
 
Every dive has its challenges and Lake Lanier was no exception. There were two things that made this dive difficult. Limited visibility and thermoclines. 
 
Lake Lanier was muddy waters and visibility ranged from a 5 feet to less than a foot. In order to actually see something you had to be face to face with it. This created an environment where diver separation was a strong possiblity. A dive team of three divers would have to swim extremely close to each other. Even if one person drifted 5 feet away the rest would lose sight of him and there was little chance of uniting in the water. Dive would have to be aborted and everyone would have to surface. 
 
Besides soup-visibility, thermoclines were another factor. Thermocline is a body of extremely cold water that is sitting right under a layer of hot water. Thus surface conditions and the first few feet of water would be fairly warm but divers descending would immediately find themselves in near ice conditions. Since regulators had the possibility of freezing up, these dives had to be planned like they were cold water dives but no one knew how cold. 
 
I sent out a few emails to diving forums and was able to recruit a diver by the name of Ken Flemming. Ken was a Cave diver and specialized in entering overhead environments. We had no idea what the condition of this “house” would be so it was decided that in the initial survey Ken and I would both stay outside and photograph the structure. On our second dive we will decide whether it it safe to enter the “house” because the ceiling and walls could easily collapse.
 
The rest of the expedition can be viewed in this Voice of America news report.
A few weeks later, I received a call from Todd Stegall who had discovered and photographed the house. He had succeeded in finding the owner of the building. An old man of past seventy years of age, this gentleman (Paul if I remember the name correctly) grew up in the house and remembered every wall and corner. But most importantly, he remembered a gas station a few blocks from his house which was also left intact by the engineers. This called for another diving expedition. We were gearing up for a second diving expedition to locate and film the submerged gas station when VOAs transmission to Pakistan (Beyond the Headlines) was discontinued and the follow up story became not so feasible.
But yes. For those who like submerged cities and ghost towns, let me tell you that there is a gas station in the depths of Lake Lanier GA.
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Comments

  1. Aziz, thank you for your wonderful post on your exploration of Lake Lanier. You are a top rate journalist and explorer!

  2. abbuhaneefah says:

    Very interesting! I look forward to more of your stories.

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