Ghost Towns, Once Submerged, Rise Again As Waters Recede

  @rpalmerscience on September 24 2013 3:10 PM
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Warming temperatures could eventually reveal long-lost towns.

Some ghosts are resurrected through exorcisms; some ghost towns are resurrected by droughts.

Villa Epecuen, located about 350 miles southwest of Buenos Aires, was once a popular destination in Argentina where tourists flocked to bathe in nearby Lago Epecuen, which is 10 times saltier than the ocean. As with Israel's famous Dead Sea, people thought that bathing in the lake's saltwater was good for aches, pains and other ills. (There may be some truth to the lore, at least for some illnesses. In 1997, Israeli scientists found in a small study that bathing with bath salts – from the Dead Sea or otherwise – was beneficial for psoriasis patients.)

By the 1970s, Villa Epecuen had swelled to a population of 5,000. But in 1985, a nearby dam broke and sent floodwaters into the town. By 1986, the area was under four feet of water; by 1993, the floodwaters had risen to 32 feet. But starting in 2009, the weather changed and the water began to dry up. In 2011, an AFP photographer visited the ruins of Villa Epecuen and its sole inhabitant, 81-year-old Pablo Novak.

“I am OK here. I am just alone. I read the newspaper. And I always think of the town's golden days back in the 1960s and '70s,” Novak told the photographer, according to Amusing Planet.

The drought that struck the U.S. Midwest last year had an unexpected side effect: It revealed the ruins of Monument City, Ind., a small town located about two hours northeast of Indianapolis. The town’s 100 residents were relocated in the 1960s so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could dam the Salamonie River and create a reservoir, Salamonie Lake. But in 2012, the reservoir’s water levels dipped so low that the foundations of Monument City houses and a school were uncovered.

And in 2011, a drought in Texas uncovered many artifacts of the past: an old church situated in Falcon Lake, which sits right on the Rio Grande, flowing between the U.S. and Mexico; forgotten 19th-century graveyards; and Native American tools.

The ghost town of Bluffton, Texas, also reemerged as the waters of Lake Buchanan receded. Bluffton has had an unlucky history: The original town, built as a trading post in 1852, was burnt down by a “rowdy group of cowboys” 30 years later, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The new Bluffton site, a few miles away, lasted until 1937, when it was commandeered (like Monument City) so the authorities could build a dam. The ruins include the concrete foundations of a two-story hotel, an old Texaco station and general store, the town well, and several burial sites.

And if the climate scientists are right, then the U.S. could become home to even more Monument Cities and Blufftons in the next century. The oceans are expected to rise about 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) for every degree (in Celsius) that the planet warms. In July, Climate Central scientist Benjamin H. Strauss estimated that about 1,400 U.S. cities would be at risk of being submerged by the year 2100 if climate change continues apace. Perhaps, centuries in the future, a drought will roll back the curtain of time and water to reveal the ruins of Boston, Miami and New York. 

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