The Road Beneath the Waves

Within the paragon of paranormal activity that is the Bermuda Triangle, beneath the crystalline surface of the sea – stretched like a turquoise shroud between the islands of the Bahamas – lies an unexplained underwater rock formation some say is a relic of the legendary island of Atlantis. Its name is the Bimini Road. Formed of semi-regular, roughly rectangular limestone blocks with rounded edges resembling giant loaves of bread, this incredible submerged structure extends for a distance of almost a kilometre. Yet where its ancient trail leads, nobody knows.

The discovery of the Bimini Road was a recent event. On 2 September 1968, J. Manson Valentine was diving off the northwest coast of North Bimini Island when he fell upon the extensive “pavement” of stones running in a northeast-southwest direction some 18 feet down. Astonished by what he had seen, Valentine reported his finding. Knowledge of the Bimini Road – or Bimini Wall as it is also known – spread throughout the world and ever since, it has been investigated by a steady stream of geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists and others.

For some of those who claim the Bimini Road is the work of sentient design, the date of its discovery is significant. Writing in the early 20th century, the famed American psychic Edgar Cayce proposed the fabled Atlantis was a continent that formerly ran from the Azores to the Bahamas – the seat of an ancient, highly evolved civilization with ships and aircraft fuelled by a mysterious form of energy crystal. All very steampunk, you might say, but here’s where it gets interesting: Cayce also predicted that parts of Atlantis would rise again, and the time this was to happen was 1968 or ’69. Coincidence?

Followers of Cayce have made the obvious connection and taken their guru’s prediction as a reference to the discovery of the Bimini Road. Others, however, are unconvinced. Much of the scientific community has dismissed the solidity of the supposed evidence of a lost civilisation. Geologists consider the formation to be of natural origin, its blocks of carbonate-cemented shell hash born of its Bahamas environment – not the magic of some Atlantean high culture; their rounded quality formed by the erosive powers of sea water and its organic and chemical agents.

Radiocarbon dating suggests the Bimini Road’s beachrock was formed by the cementation of sediments that began to build up around 3,500 years ago – 8,500 years after Cayce said Atlantis was drowned – and geological theories support this account. Yet despite the weight of evidence, popular voices maintain this is a manmade structure – part of a fallen wall or some larger buried building. A recent Sci Fi Channel documentary reported on a second layer of similar-sized square-cut blocks beneath the visible stones – an entire water dock, maybe, unaccounted for by the scientific consensus.

Yet not all the speculations that the Bimini Road is a structure cut by hand fall in line with those of Edgar Cayce. Proponents of ancient transatlantic cultural diffusion have a much broader outlook than the so-called psychic archaeologists who follow Cayce, their focus on other Old World civilizations rather than a strict hypothesis about Atlantis. J. Manson Valentine, who discovered the site, himself falls into this category. And if the formation is the remains of some deliberately constructed feature, given the degree of erosion that has taken place, it is highly unlikely any surface feature, like tool marks or inscriptions, would have survived.

While cultural diffusionists paint a more plausible picture of an ancient civilisation having existed in the Bahamas – with a cultural level more credible than Cayce’s Atlantis – there is still an issue over the age of the Bimini Road. The scientifically accepted view is that this area of the Bahamas has been beneath the waves since at least 8,000 BC, long before the appearance of the Mayas or any other high civilization in the Americas. As Douglas Richards of Atlantic University has said: “Discovery of submerged cities would force a major reconstruction of American prehistory.”

Is the Bimini Road the remains of some lost ancient culture? It seems unlikely – especially one of the kind envisaged by Cayce. More probably it is a natural reef – albeit one whose appearance and scale has struck a chord with our imaginations. Ultimately the two different names given to this strange sunken edifice seem to take on another layer of significance in view of the debate it has stirred up. This structure is a route to the wildly different assumption of both scientists and popular writers; yet the Bimini Wall is also a barrier prohibiting simple and definite conclusions. In the Bahamas, the treasure hunt for an unknown civilization will continue.

Sources: 1, 2