Five Drowned Cities Around The World.
Welcome to our three-part series on DIVERSION, where we examine the idea of ‘flow’ and how it shifts from one place to the other. Not just on the mat, but in our lives, our minds and in our cultures.
For Episode 2, we’re looking at drowned cities - the beautiful casualties of DIVERSION. From hydroelectric dams to power to natural catastrophes, these are places that got left behind on our flow toward the modern age.
THE DIVERSION: A broken dam on a lake caused by a seiche, which is a wave phenomenon in constrained bodies of water caused by odd weather patterns.
THE EFFECT: The small tourist village (population ~5,000) sat below an earthen dam on the salty Lago Epecuén. The seiche created wave patterns that put pressure on the dam until it finally broke down, pouring into the village, flooding it and displacing its citizens over a course of 16 days. After reaching a peak of 10 meters, the waters didn’t recede until 2009, leaving behind a salt-crusted distortion of a city, full of petrified trees, cars, unearthed skeletons and eerily preserved buildings.
THE FUTURE: Now, the town is home to one resident, Pablo Novak, who returned to the town after the waters receded in 2009. Learn more about his story right here.
2. Sopris, Colorado
THE DIVERSION: The constant flooding of the Purgatoire River necessitated the building of a dam to protect the larger, thriving cities surrounding it. The small mining town of Sopris was not one of those cities, so it was evacuated, flooded and now lies at the bottom of the Trinidad Reservoir.
THE EFFECT: Mining towns like Sopris were common. During World War I, it had a population of roughly 2,000. The mine shut down in 1940 and by 1955 when it was evacuated and flooded, the population had dwindled to 300. The flooding of Sopris was not a sudden catastrophe, it was planned by the Army Corps of Engineers and well-covered by news outlets and residents, with many pictures showing the eerie sight of a small American town slowly succumbing to rising waters. With no working mine, Sopris no longer served American industry, so in the eyes of capitalism, it was no longer needed.
THE FUTURE: Sopris took on a new life in the form of frequent reunions among former residents and their descendants, who would meet roughly every five years on the shores of the Trinidad Reservoir to celebrate their time in the town at the bottom of it. Learn more about the town at the official Sopris website.
3. Potosi Venezuela
THE DIVERSION: Another Hydroelectric dam, this time announced when the president of Venezuela flew in by helicopter to announce that the town would be evacuated and flooded.
THE EFFECT: After the 1200 residents were forcibly relocated, Potosi became the site of the new Uribante reservoir. But the waters weren’t high enough to submerge Potosi’s church steeple, which acted as a headstone for the town itself. In 2009, El Nino caused a drastic drought in the region, pulling the waters back to reveal more of the lost town.
THE FUTURE: The town is now visible and the water has receded, with water damage making the town look ancient, when in fact it is only a few decades old. Josefa Garcia, who was there when the town was evacuated, visited the church recently and said, "It brings me joy, but it also makes me sad to see the situation that we're in."
4. Port Royal Jamaica
THE DIVERSION: An earthquake, followed by Tsunami level waves came in 1692 to destroy the city once known as “the most wicked and sinful city in the world”
THE EFFECT: Under English rule, Port Royal was one of the largest European Cities in the so-called New World. With colonization as England’s endgame, and without any gold or exploitable resources, the idyllic island became a way station for the Empire’s worst impulses, ruled by pirates and frequented by slavers. When the earthquake struck, violence broke out among its inhabitants almost immediately, still entertaining their worst instincts even as whole buildings and streets were sucked into the sea. The city still stood in various incarnations (and continued to serve the needs of pirates) until 1951, when Hurricane Charlie destroyed most of the town, leaving it under up to 40 feet of water.
THE FUTURE: Port Royal was designated as a National Heritage Site in 1999 and is frequented by divers, though you need special permission from the government to explore the underwater ruins.
THE DIVERSION: Yet another Hydroelectric dam.
THE EFFECT: Petrolandia the city still stands along the banks of the São Francisco River. The flooded portion now only shows the peaks of an oddly shaped church and is referred to as “Old Petrolandia”. There is no major tragedy in this flood, no pirates or colonizers, just the diversion of natural flow to (partially) bury a manmade monument.
THE FUTURE: Still visible to anyone who can access the “town” with a boat. Still a reminder of diversion and what gets left behind.