Friday, May 20, 2011

Every story has a beginning III

Here I am, back in the virtual world after a far longer absence than I would have liked. The truth is that things have been rather difficult over the past few months. I haven’t even had time to update this blog. Followers of Hyperborea Exists, I hope you’ll accept my sincerest apologies. Now that I’m back, here is a new entry in the series ‘Every story has a beginning’. In this series, I’m progressively explaining how I came to be professionally and academically involved in the Hyperborea myth.

As I explained in the second post in this series, the first week of our work and observational expedition was calm and routine with nothing out of the ordinary. The second week began very much like the first. No new developments. Until we reached the twelfth day of underwater prospecting. On the twelfth day, Olve, Geir and I woke up as usual. We were just finishing breakfast and having our first coffee of the day when we received an alert informing us that we had reached the next waypoint. That meant it was time to launch one of the mini-submarines into the water. It would show us the ocean floor before we laid the next stretch of guide cable.

Rise of Barracuda 1. After carrying out on-site observations with the underwater robot throughout the day, it had to be recovered in order to collect the samples gathered and perform maintenance.

After winching Barracuda 1 up and launching it into the ocean, we squeezed into the operations room where Olve was in charge of operating the robot by remote control. The submarine slowly descended to the ocean floor, almost ten thousand feet deep. It took half an hour for the robot to reach the bottom then it started to explore the area where the guide cable would be laid. This part of the seabed wasn’t flat; there was a mini-fault and several sharp drops so it was important to check the entire area carefully. We were at the far south of what is known as the Jan Mayen reef, about half a mile from Iceland.

The environment was rich in marine flora and fauna. Geir was thrilled, this was a great opportunity to observe the species that populated this small section of sea, even if it was from a distance. Fish tend to be extremely shy at these depths, so each animal we spotted was a small achievement for all of us. Geir’s enthusiasm was catching. He was focused on any living creatures that appeared before Barracuda 1’s cameras. Olve was concentrating on operating the submarine, no easy task considering the underwater conditions. Meanwhile, I was carefully examining the reef, rock and ocean floor formations in search of any pattern that might mean possible archaeological remains. I was very thorough, even if I was convinced that we wouldn’t find anything there.

We spent two hours observing the seabed. This phase had nearly finished and we were just about to raise Barracuda 1 back up to the boat when we made our first discovery. We spotted what looked like a well, an opening in the middle of a hundred-foot long ridge. I was keen to explore it. Geir was too. He thought there might be a rich ecosystem inside the well and perhaps he would be able to catalogue a new species. I was interested because I’ve always been fascinated by underwater subterranean formations. I wanted to see whether it was just a well or the entrance to a larger system of galleries.

Nyocema in detail. This elongated orange and very rare fish was seen both in the Niflheim cave and in other abyssal points of the Atlantic Ocean.

Olve carefully guided Barracuda 1 into the well. It was a tricky manoeuvre. If the robot bumped into the rocky sides, or was struck by falling rocks, it could be seriously damaged. And this visit wasn’t exactly within the remit of our mission. It turned out to be a fairly large cave measuring about sixty-five metres high, a hundred and thirty metres long by a hundred metres wide. The floor was covered in very pale sand. Small coral colonies were scattered across the cave and Geir made his first great discovery of the mission when a strange-looking, long orange fish appeared. It would later be named ‘neocyema’. We also found an unusual blue octopus that was extremely curious about Barracuda 1.

When the submarine robot entered the cave, its propeller blades stirred up lots of ‘dust’ that had been lying on the floor. At one point it became very hard to see, so we decided that as soon as the dust settled and our vision improved, we’d guide the robot back up to the surface. When Olve could finally see, he drove Barracuda 1 towards the exit. That was when I saw it. A reflection caught my eye. We hadn’t spotted it earlier because it had been covered by a layer of dust but now it stood out clearly. It was a small, spherical formation and although it was surrounded by coral it instantly grabbed my attention. It definitely wasn’t naturally occurring.

Abyssal Octopus. This animal showed great curioisty for the Barracuda 1 when it entered the cave of Niflheim.

We guided Barracuda 1 closer for a better look. When we were about three feet away, Olve used a robotic arm to get a feel of the formation. The arm stretched out and opened its pincers to grab the sphere. The pincers closed around the object and tried to pull. We were out of luck. Whatever it was, it was firmly stuck to the ground. However, we soon noticed that as the robot pulled, the ground around the object moved too. It appeared to be attached to something bigger, something that was neither the ocean floor nor rocks. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Everything pointed towards the discovery of strange archaeological remains. But the remains of what? I didn’t have the faintest idea.

Followers of Hyperborea Exists, I’m afraid that’s all for this post. When I return, I’ll explain what happened next and our first discoveries in the Cave of Niflheim. That was the name we gave to the cave, after a world that appears in Nordic mythology. Thank you for your support, as always, and above all your patience with my delays in updating the blog. Best wishes to you all.

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