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Underwater Excavation at Gray's Reef

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August 25, 1997 -- Seventeen miles off the Georgia coast and 58 feet below the water’s surface lies a 17.5 square mile marine protected area with limestone and sandstone rock ledges known as Gray's reef. The reef and its surrounding waters became part of the National Marine Sanctuary Program in January of 1981. As a habitat, this sanctuary is unlike other reef sites in the program because it is not a tropical coral reef but a live-bottom rock reef. However, the biology of this sanctuary is not the only thing that sets it apart from other sanctuaries in the program.

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is unique because of the wealth of information scientists have gathered from its reef. It has yielded clues to what life was like thousands of years ago. This "paleo-environment" shows that 12,000 years ago the area was dry land--an ice age gripped the Earth, water was frozen in glaciers, and the oceans shrank. When the earth warmed up land masses once again became submerged and water covered the area that is now Gray's reef.

So it's up to underwater divers to find clues to the past --- and they have done an incredible job. From plant pollen to bone fragments this underwater island speaks volumes about the formation of life and civilization off our US coasts.

The Radio Expeditions team went to Georgia to record an archeological dive with Dr. Erv Garrison from the University of Georgia and Bruce Cowden from Gray’s reef NMS.

Trivia: The archeological research at Gray's reef, National Marine Sanctuary is the first of its kind off US shores. Nowhere else in US waters have scientists conducted such extensive underwater archeology. In the first three years of this study, over a doxen fossilized animal remains were found.

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Photo: Gray's reef NMS

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Photo: Passage Productions

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