APEX Expeditions to Bimini: Past and Future

In my last post I briefly described a spring, 2009, expedition being planned by Bill Donato and the APEX Institute. As a result of the interest in this post, Mr. Donato agreed to provide a summary of his past expeditions to Bimini. What follows is a direct quote from him and sheds some light on why the upcoming expedition could prove to be archaeologically historic.

In 1993 “The Atlantis Organization” founded by William Donato, Vanda Osmon, and Thomas Vanderveer, began the first of the “Project: Alta” expeditions and were documented on television in the Secrets of the Deep episode “The Hunt for Atlantis”. During that expedition we used side-scan sonar in an effort to look for the remains of ancient man.

Prior to the last melting of the glaciers the Bahamas were all above the surface comprising a land mass of virtually thousands of square miles, in effect a “micro-continent.” We were initially looking for anomalies like the so-called Bimini Road (now verified as one of three features comprising a harbor complex like those in the Mediterranean) or other features that Dr. Manson Valentine had documented photographically after many years of investigations in the Bahamas. Most people don’t know that his investigations with associate Jim Richards included approximately 10 years of aerial investigations that showed numerous large-scale underwater geometric features, some of which ran for long distances. We verified some of these and discovered others, in particular a large pentagon to the south and east of Bimini between Cat Key and Ocean Key.

The 1993 expedition started at South Bimini, headed to the northern tip of North Bimini, went south along the drop-off, and ended at Gun Cay when the equipment failed. The side-scan unit was a “wet paper” type and GPS (“Global Positioning System”) coordinates were at about 100 yard intervals. We picked up at least 30 “anomalies” and only some of these have been investigated to date (2008). Because of some interesting geometric features underwater (multiple right angled features, concentric circles, etc.) we initiated another set of expeditions in November 1997 to do preliminary work for the the more expansive project in June 1998.

This entailed use of side-scan sonar, a submarine, aerial investigation, and on-site diving — as well as our first trip to investigate a site at Anguilla Cay, now believed to be a harbor site similar to the Bimini Road. The Anguilla site contains a large semi-circular enclosure first described by my associate Herbert Sawinski, who was of great help to us. I have since designated this feature the “Anguilla Arc”. The submarine investigations were done off of Gun Cay and North Bimini in a “Nekton Gamma” two-man submarine and a 105 foot support vessel. An anomaly was noted off Gun Cay that would not be understood until an associate’s later expedition using “tech divers” (deep gas mixture divers) and consisted of rectangular patterns of sand and vegetation). The remnants of an ancient waterfall were discovered by team member Steve Smith off Entrance Point. The late Donnie Fields also noted what may have been a megalithic stone block at depth. The side-scan sonar images were received by me a few weeks later and several appeared to show features underwater that were clearly not geological. A couple may have been debris or parts of ships, but some looked architectural.

The most interesting of these images I designated as “Target 1″ and “Target 2″, which an associate determined were only about 105 feet from each other. They are now believed to be part of the same site area. If it had not been for some “accidents” we might never have seen them. It was found that the “gain” was adjusted too high, but if it hadn’t been we may not have noticed the features. The side-scan fish was also very low. Typically it should be between 50 and 75 feet under the water (from what I have been told), but it was only 17 to about 23 feet from the bottom. This version of side-scan sonar was put out by “Marine Sonics” and records the data electronically, providing GPS coordinates for literally every pixel — a huge advance over the prior system. It can also measure the features. The features that got my attention had all the hallmarks of architecture and were proportional in size to human architecture.

The largest feature appeared to be a multi-tiered feature with a possible staircase and doorway at the top, analogous to a Maya-type “temple pyramid”. Because of the relative closeness of the side-scan “fish” to it neither the top nor the bottom could be seen, though there appeared to be about 7 tiers (like ziggurats?) and each tier upward was smaller than the one below it, also similar in size to those of the Mayas. In addition there was also what appeared to be an attached structure (also seen in Maya sites). The same image showed 2 ”post-litel” systems, one atop the other (about 12 feet long — megalithic?). At the “left” side of the image was what appeared to be a structure with 2 vertical support elements (pillars?) about 10 feet high and 2.5 feet thick, a staircase, a 75 foot long “wall”, and several “square” features that a Marine Sonics tech person said represented “hard targets” because they had square shadows in association with them. Target 2 had a rectangle measuring 31 by 65 feet. The technician could not explain it.

It is important to note that prior to this expedition there had been significant solar activity and the “Kosovo War”. When we attempted to verify these features in 1999 we could not locate them. It is possible that the aforementioned errors contributed to the GPS errors. One of the Ocean Technologies personnel estimated that the GPS was “off” by about 1/5 of a mile. Even though the $15,000 project did not locate the features, the side-scan re-located a target off of Gun Cay at a depth of about 112 feet over 50 feet long first detected in 1993. Also, the submarine showed us what appeared to be terrace-like features. It was uncertain whether some of these had stone walls or not. We touched bottom at 320 feet with very good visibility. The tech divers that Dr. Joan Hanley employed on an earlier investigation had reported what they described as foot paths and “switchbacks”. We also saw what appeared to be foot paths. Because we were not able, at that time, to locate the anomalies that looked like architectural features some thought that they might represent some sort of side-scan technical “glitch” or error. To me this seemed very unlikely because the features appeared very convincing in their measurements, orientations, and architectural appearance (somewhat reminiscent of the Maya “Puuc” style). The opinions held by our group were certainly NOT universal!

In order to determine whether these anomalies were real, and to investigate other anomalies, we planned an expedition that would include both side-scan sonar — to be used on the eastern side of Bimini — and a sub-bottom profiling project on the east side of East Bimini to determine why vegetation formed a 1/4 by 1/2 mile “rectangle”. Dr. Gregory Little had told me that, according to Dr. Michael Faught’s newest data, the sea level at circa 10,000 B.C. was about 110 feet lower than at the present (in 17,500 B.C. it may have been 320 to 340 feet lower). I had determined to cover a depth range of approximately 50 to 120 feet. Ronald Smith helped me arrange a scanning pattern that went just above the tip of North Bimini to just below South Bimini on the western side.  The suspected area of the anomalies was 3/5 of a mile wide, while the other grids were 2/5 of a mile wide. We did the scanning in November of 2006. Grids 1, 3, and 4 were completed, but rough water conditions prohibited the Ocean Technologies crew from completing one grid. On the first day out with the dive team our boat was contacted by the Ocean Tech team. They told me that they had something they thought would interest me. They were correct. What they showed me were some ”anomalies”. One had a rectangular stone, there were apparent coral heads (some of which appeared to be equally spaced), and other features that had the appearance of possible structures. On the first attempt to locate them diving we failed. There was only a flat ocean bottom at 96 feet. When I reported this to the Ocean Tech team they assured me that their data was of good reliability. They coordinated our GPS with theirs on the next day. Capt. Eslie Brown (of K&B EZ Dive) took the boat to the location, dived in and (later) reported that he saw a rectangular stone on the bottom. It took about 20 minutes to correctly position the boat. Krista Brown was my dive partner. We descended the anchor chain and ended up 120 feet down. We went across the level bottom to an approximate 45 degree diagonal incline of about 4 feet. On the lower side were coral heads, like those in the image. At that point my regulator began malfunctioning and I had to surface, though it did appear that we were in the generally correct area. I had planned to do a “drift dive” over the area to cover a greater expanse and increase the likelihood of locating the anomalies, but water and visibility conditions did not allow for that.

In the meantime the sub-bottom profiling produced results that the Ocean Tech team found to be surprising. Though part of the “Rectangle” was in water too shallow to scan, the outer half was accessible. On the outside of the “Rectangle” the strata followed a “normal” configuration, but on the “inside” the strata had been removed down to a depth of about of about 18 feet, implying a large scale organized labor project in ancient times. I speculate that this may have been an ancient reservoir. About six months later I received images of the side-scan project. It included several features that showed apparent orientations to each other, including two obvious rectangles with what look like thick stone walls, a possible basal terraced structure, and other anomalies. Two of the images resembled two from the 1998 scan, but from a much greater distance. Several months ago the A.R.E. (the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment), using our Bahamian archaeological permit, did further investigations. Dr. Douglas Richards was given data from John Van Auken from our investigations, Joan Hanley’s, and recent one’s done by the A.R.E. He noticed an interesting overlap of anomalous features. They are all within a 1 mile long 1/2 mile area. The results of their most recent work are not yet available.

It is our plan to do on-site investigations, probably in the Spring of 2009, of the target anomalies using both a Remotely Operated Vehicle ( ROV) and a special “drop camera” with a connected GPS system to locate the features, dive on them, and photographically and video graphically document our finds. It is expected to take at least 5 full work days, possibly more, to investigate as many of the most “promising” features as possible. Since most of the features are between 80 to 100+ feet in depth it will only be possible to do 1 or 2 such dives per day per diver, hence the importance of locating targets by remote means first. The ROV. and drop camera are owned by two of our A.P.E.X. Board Members and long-time researchers. Verification of a single structure will have far reaching consequences archaeologically.

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