In former times, the Aral Sea was one of the largest bodies of water on the planet. Now this sea is almost completely disappearing from the face of the planet, turning into a chain of individual lakes.
In 1989, the Aral Sea split into two separate bodies of water – the Northern (small) and Southern (large) Aral Sea. At the same time, the South Aral Sea was divided into two more parts: eastern and western. In 2014, the eastern part of the South Sea dried out completely.
The drying process of the Aral Sea by years
The name of the Aral Sea has changed several times. The first mention of this sea is found in the works of ancient historians. Herodotus in 448 BC described the Aral Sea as associated with the Caspian, calling it the “Saki Gulf of the Caspian Sea.” In the XI century, the Arab geographer Istraha described the sea as “Lake Khorezm” in his book “Climate”. In the XVII century, Russian scientists conducted a complete study of the Aral Sea, including it in the Big Drawing Book and a map of the Russian state. The Aral Sea was then called the Blue Sea. The current name of the sea appeared only in the twentieth century. When the sea decreased in size and several islands became immediately available to the eyes of local residents, it was called the Aral Sea, which means “island sea”.
Aerial view of the Aral Sea, 2010
The Aral Sea islands have become a kind of natural reserves, and the unique location and inaccessibility has attracted the attention of the USSR authorities. At one time, these islands were called the most “closed” reserves of the entire Soviet Union because of the strict access regime. It is known that on the Renaissance Island in Soviet times there was a laboratory where scientists worked with the bacteria typhoid, plague, anthrax. As a result of testing bacteriological weapons, there was a ban on residents of neighboring villages from approaching the island for more than 60 km. This military facility operated for almost 45 years until 1992, until it was closed.
Once travelers who managed to visit there even before the shallowing, described the water surface of the Aral Sea infinitely blue and merging with the sky. It is not surprising that in Russian chronicles the Aral Sea was called the Blue Sea. It is believed that the famous wreck of the ships of Sadko (the hero of epics from Slavic mythology) took place there.
Satellite image of the Aral Sea, 2019
Satellite images of 2018-2019 show that the sea has essentially ceased to exist, having turned into a chain of separate reservoirs that are doomed to final drying out without feeding with river water.
Natural riddles of the Aral Sea
By the way, the Aral Sea is also called the “wrong sea”. This was facilitated by a number of natural puzzles:
- According to physical laws, due to the influence of the Earth’s rotation, all seas, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water in the Northern Hemisphere deviate to the right. And the current of the Aral Sea, on the contrary, deviates to the left and moves clockwise.
- Also, in all water bodies, with increasing depth, the oxygen saturation of the water decreases, and in the Aral Sea, the opposite happens – oxygen only increases in depth.
- In the Aral Sea, sulfates and carbonates prevail (sea salt contains sulfate anions (0.82%) and calcium cation (0.03%). This means that the composition of its water is different from typical sea water, but it cannot be considered river. Thus, the Aral Sea is the only sea in the description of which the concept of semi-sea and semi-river water is used.
This amazing pond holds many other mysteries. On June 19-20, 1990, aerial photography was carried out at a level of the Big Sea of about 38 meters abs., That is, after a decrease of 15 meters. In photographs taken on a scale of 251 meters in 1 centimeter, hundreds of giant figures suddenly appeared, shining through shallow water and lying on the dried up areas of the seabed. A variety of figures consisted of single or several parallel lines of an unusual shape and suggested the idea of their artificial origin. Therefore, the figures were given the name “Traces of unknown activity at the bottom of the Aral Sea” or simply “Aral Traces”. In the pictures, they cover an area of about 500 square kilometers, but it seems to continue beyond the boundaries of aerial photography. Before the sea level began to fall, the figures were at depths of 10-15 meters, and were not visible from the surface of the sea.
For different figures, the lines have a length from 100-200 meters to 6-8 kilometers, and their width, strictly constant within each figure, varies from 2 to 100 meters. Some figures can contain up to several tens of parallel lines resembling a stroke of a comb up to 1-2 km long.
Under water, the lines look like black stripes with narrow light fringes, similar to the dumps of soil of earth channels, and when drying on the shore, they become whitish, low-contrast. The black color of the lines along their length upon reaching the drained shore indicates their concave relief, similar to the cross-section of the channels, and their fullness with water. According to indirect signs in the pictures and measurements of two figures on the ground, it was found that the lines of the figures are furrows with an initial depth of 0.4-0.5 meters formed in sandy-silty soil of the seabed. Light spots on the surface of the water are sun glare. The black lines that come against their background are the convex parts of the furrows in the form of dumps of soil, towering above the surface of the water.
The age of the furrows, if it is supposed to be estimated on the pictures according to the degree of contouring of their contours and taking into account the relatively low rate of accumulation of bottom organic sediments, can be roughly determined up to several hundred years. And the pictures of mutual intersection of furrows (up to four times in succession) speak of cases of their successive formation (conduction) at different times on top of previously created ones.
Now it looks like this:
Parallel grooves at the bottom of the sea were also discovered, which appeared relatively recently, as the water receded. The nature of these furrows is not clear, but, in fact, these are recesses / furrows, the width of which is on average 100-200 meters.
The indicated location on the Goole Maps:
Interestingly, in addition to settlements, saxaul trunks are still found at the bottom, which grew 200-300 years before the arrival of sea water. These trunks are preserved and in some places protrude on the surface of a dry bottom, merging with the current steppe landscape. And only specialists understand the value of such finds.
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Findings of saxaul at the bottom of the sea also shows that the Aral Sea is very young and formed by catastrophic processes, and its disappearance is not necessarily related to human activities.
Human settlements on the site of the Aral Sea
In the Aral Sea, there are about 60 historical and architectural monuments. According to the researchers, the sea water left there and replenished more than once before, in ancient times. Found at the beginning of the 21st century on the seabed, the remains of the Kerderi mausoleum dating from the 11th-14th centuries, and the Aral Asar settlement, which dates back to the Golden Horde period, testify to the medieval culture and civilization that once reigned there. Traces of caravan roads, stones, a brick workshop, candles and coins, large mill and granaries were also found on the seabed. In general, there are remains of ancient settlements and religious buildings from the 11th to the 16th centuries. Other architectural monuments reveal themselves gradually, as the Aral Sea becomes shallow. Therefore, the largest finds, according to archaeologists, are ahead. These places are called the Aral Atlantis.
Excavations of the Kerderi Mausoleum, the bottom of the Aral Sea
According to scientists, the ancient settlement, conditionally called Aral-Asar, covers an area of 6 hectares. The building structures of the city today are almost indistinguishable, they are blurred and smoothed by the waters of the Aral. But archaeologists in large numbers found household items: millstone, ceramic vessels and their fragments, fragments of iron and bronze products. Found 14 millstones and adjacent premises for the storage of flour – Khumdanov. Apparently, flour milling was developed. There was an irrigation canal 2-2.5 meters wide, passing through the hillfort, indicating a developed irrigation system and the fact that residents stretched water, apparently, from the channels of the ancient channels of the Amu Darya or Syr Darya for many tens of kilometers.
The evidence of those who lived in the south of the Aral Sea is also interesting. Here is what Viktor Lukyanov writes:
I remember that in the year 1972-76, my father’s friend, a land reclamation machine operator who worked in the Ellikalinsky district of Karakalpakstan to develop virgin lands (it seems under rice cultivation), returned from the shift and said: “We remove the dune with a bulldozer, and there are beds! It turns out that before people lived and there was water! The desert turns out to be approaching. ”
At about the same time, the tugboat captain, a distant relative who was transporting barges from Muynak to Aralsk, was surprised to note that at the bottom of the building are visible – the ruins of houses and duvals. Then the problem of drying out of the Aral Sea was already manifested and he noted what it means, in the past the sea was even smaller. Recently, scientists found a mosque on a dry bottom. There was a legend in that locality that the local khan defeated his neighbor Amudarya in dice for three days to water the land, but it was not possible to return it to its former course (Uzboy).
Two examples of the sandy settlements can still be seen on satellite maps in the Takhtakpyr district of Karakalpakstan (Republic of Uzbekistan) at coordinates 42.616329 61.200814 and 42.632005, 61.083315:
Of particular interest is the fact that bones of people and animals living in settlements are found at excavation sites within the boundaries of the former bottom of the Aral Sea. Their chaotic location at the time of death suggests that death came relatively quickly and inevitably, most likely as a result of some kind of cataclysm.
There is also reason to believe that the Aral Sea was filled and dried up not the first time. This gives hope that the water in the sea will return, perhaps in centuries. The cyclic nature of this process has not yet been studied.
Geoglyphs of the Aral Sea
Around the drying up Aral Sea, a lot of talk arose about the manifestation of signs and symbols (geoglyphs), appearing from under the water column as it dries. However, the most common examples of such geoglyphs with more thorough verification turned out to be fakes.
The following message is quite common on the Internet:
In 1990, employees of the Kazakh Research Institute, surveying the coastal zones of the Aral Sea, took dozens of large geometric patterns similar to the famous images in the Nazca desert at a depth of 15 meters. Surprisingly correct geometric shapes were made in one direction and covered about 500 square meters, and the width of the drawings ranged from 2 to 50 meters. Immediately after the discovery of these mysterious geoglyphs, a sand dam broke, and the water flooded the place of shooting, and their origin was never found out.
All such messages are usually accompanied by photographs of geoglyphs of rather poor quality, without indicating their exact location. However, a deeper study of this topic will lead those interested in the following results:
1. The figure is visible on Google Maps at the coordinates 46 ° 40’50.0 ″ N 61 ° 26’13.0 ″ E (46.680556, 61.436944).
2. The figure is not observed on other cards, for example, on more detailed Bing cards.
3. The dimensions of the figure do not match what is given in the message. Actual dimensions: the figure is 250 meters wide and 230 meters high.
4. The thickness of the lines matches the standard width that a classic car leaves. It is significant that to the southeast of the figure a trace from the car is visible, part of the path of which is “painted over” in the same color as the geoglyph. As if in this place they trained or didn’t have time to “finish” another geoglyph. It can be assumed that this could technically be done, for example, by tying something massive and heavy to the car, which would leave a mark on the steppe surface. There is nothing supernatural in this.
You can form your own opinion by examining the indicated location on the Goole Maps:
Another example is no less remarkable. Here is the source text of the message:
The most amazing and most understandable symbol is the “pointing arrow”. Unfortunately, no full-scale studies of these formations have been carried out so far, which means where the giant arrow points and whether the rest of the symbols mean anything at all, remains a mystery.
Studies have shown that:
1. The figure is located at 45 ° 12’13.2 ″ N 58 ° 20’30.4 ″ E (45.203658, 58.341767). This is not the bottom of the Aral Sea, but the steppe on its western shore.
2. The figure was indeed “drawn” on the surface, but in such a way that it becomes less noticeable every year. For example, on Google Maps it is no longer visible, but on Bing maps it is still distinguishable.
This allows two conclusions:
- The technology for creating a symbol on the surface of the steppe is less stable than traces from the wheels of cars, which quite nearby created a round shape with roads going to the sides.
- If a figure became barely distinguishable in just a few years, it could not be created centuries or millennia ago – this is a remake.
Thus, the figure of the “arrow” is in fact real, but not having any relation to ancient symbols.
The image of another figure from the territory of the Aral Sea “wanders” on the Internet and causes various associations – this is the figure of a “star”. Here is the image:
In fact, there is nothing mystical in it, since we are talking about the territory of the airport near the village of Aralsk-7 (Kantubek), the Republic of Uzbekistan. This is an abandoned closed city on the former Renaissance island. The city of Kantubek was an administrative-residential zone of the training ground, where 1.5 thousand people lived (employees of the training ground with families, as well as about 800 military servicemen). Currently, the city is uninhabited and is in ruined condition. From 1942 to 1992, a military biochemical training ground with the code name “Barkhan” operated on Renaissance Island.
3 kilometers west of the city of Kantubek in the early 1960s, a military airfield was built, consisting of four runways (initially unpaved) in the form of a wind rose. In the 1980s, aerodrome runways were equipped with concrete slabs.
The landfill with the city of Kantubek functioned until 1992. In October-November 1992, the military contingent (along with their families) was relocated to Russia (the city of Kirov), the biological laboratory was dismantled, the documentation and some of the equipment were removed, the rest was abandoned on the island and over time the city gradually collapsed.
What it looks like now can be viewed on Google Maps at coordinates 45.158434, 59.296239.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the Aral Sea is indeed a very interesting and mysterious place where many mysteries remain. But these riddles are mostly natural and such that require more in-depth scientific research with field expeditions.