New finds reveal petrified forest extends underwater

THESSALONIKI – The forest of petrified trees at Sigri on Mytilene extends into the sea, researchers from the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest have found. So far, they have discovered trunks of petrified trees from 2.5 to 5 meters below sea level. Among the finds are huge trunks of conifers and flowering plants, some lying flat, others upright. In the course of two years, the researchers have found a great deal more than they expected. The finds, presented as a whole for the first time on April 17 at an international conference on the geology of the southeastern Mediterranean in Thessaloniki, showed that extensive areas of the Aegean subsided due to major geological changes which have taken place over the past 20 million years, creating an archipelago, as the presenters explained. Museum Director Nikolaos Zouros told Kathimerini that some 40 of the finds that were at risk from erosion and passing ships were removed, given careful conservation treatment and are now on display in the museum. «The species we found are the same as those in the part of the forest on dry land, indicating that this was a single forest whose trees were not submerged until long after becoming petrified. Studying the entire forest shows exactly how the great changes took place millions of years ago.» The underwater researchers found petrified trees at 12 sites and signs of many more. «It is certain that continuing the search will reveal even more species. We already have a fairly clear picture of what the forest was like 20 million years ago, since we have identified more than 50 genera and species. This is why foreign research teams consider it to be one of the finest geological monuments in the world,» said Professor Evangelos Velitzelos, who studied the new finds. The large petrified trunks will remain in the sea, and the aim of the museum officials is to create a sea park to the west of Lesvos, probably by 2005, where visitors will be able to view this natural wonder from special craft.

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