Places That Sank Into the Sea

There are many examples throughout history of cities that sank into the sea, sometimes killing thousands, leaving Mother Nature with blood on her giant, probably freaky hands: earthquakes, tsunamis and floods are all common explanations for cities or islands that disappeared underwater.

But sometimes man is responsible for places that sank into the sea, often in the name of progress. Creating artificial lakes and dams for hydroelectric power often means sacrificing small towns and villages for the greater good. There are also many instances where archaeologists simply don't know why sites became submerged. Here's a look at some sites around the world lost to the sea.
Photo: Luca Scotto di Clemente / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

  • Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt

    Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt
    Photo: World Imaging / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    One of the most impressive port cities in the world 2,300 years ago, Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt (known as Thonis to the Egyptians and Heracleion to the Greeks) is now entirely underwater - and no one knows why! A French archaeologist discovered the sunken city in 2000, which included more than 60 ships, 16-foot statues, a temple, and plenty of gold coins.
  • Solomon Islands
    Photo: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Entire islands are disappearing in the Pacific Ocean in the Solomon Islands archipelago. Five, in fact, have sank into the ocean in the past seven decades thanks to rising sea levels. And that's not all: the remaining islands (900+) are being swallowed, slowly, by the sea, with six of them losing more than 20% of their surface area in the same time span, forcing generations of families from their homes and damaging local economies.

  • Port Royal, Jamaica

    Now largely under 40 feet of water, Port Royal, Jamaica, used to be known as "“the most wicked and sinful city in the world," complete with pirates (including the real Captain Morgan), prostitutes, and an extraordinarily potent spirit known as "Kill Devil Rum." That all changed when an earthquake in 1692 sucked most of the city into the ocean, killing around 2000 people and prompting wide-scale looting and violence among the survivors. The lost city is now considered to be a rich archaeological marvel, drawing comparisons to Pompeii.

  • Helike, Greece

    Around 373 BC - arguably the height of Greece's cultural powers - the Greek city of Helike sank into the sea following a massive earthquake (ironically, the patron god of Helike, Poseidon Helikonios, was the god of the sea and earthquakes). In the years that followed, the remains of the city were further lost under thick layers of sediment (the city was drowned and buried, essentially). In 1995, archaeologists rediscovered the city and have been recovering its many artifacts ever since. 
  • Pavlopetri, Greece

    Pavlopetri, Greece
    Photo: Spiridon Ion Cepleanu / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Pavlopetri in southern Greece is the oldest submerged city in the world, with ruins dating from 2800 to 1200 BC (archaeologists think the sea slurped it up in 1000 BC). It's considered to be the closest thing to Plato's allegorical Atlantis ever discovered (and it predates the Atlantis tale!).

  • Baia, Italy

    A Vegas-like resort town for the Roman elite, Baia was lost to the sea around 1500 after being sacked in the 8th century. The volcanic vents that provided the hot springs so attractive to the likes of Caesar and Cicero eventually rose the water levels and drowned the ancient ruins, which have been amazingly well-preserved (including fully-intact ancient statues). Today, curious divers can explore Baia, which is now one of the world's few underwater archaeological parks.