the first people ever to see the bottom of Cuban waters over 50 meters.
...It's so exciting. We are discovering...even possibly a sunken city
in the pre-classic period and populated by an advanced civilization
to the early Teotihuacan culture of Yucatan."
Zelitsky, ocean engineer, Advanced Digital Communications, May 2001
2001 Washington, D. C. - Reporter Andrew Cawthorne reporting from Havana,
Cuba for Reuters bylined a May 15 story entitled "Explorers Comb Cuban
Seas for Treasure, Mysteries." (See complete text below.) He interviewed
ocean engineer Paulina Zelitsky, employed by Advanced Digital Communications
and based in Tarara along the Cuba coast east of Havana. According to
the article, Ms. Zelitsky said, "We are the first people ever to see
the bottom of Cuban waters over 50 meters. It's so exciting. We are
discovering ...even possibly a sunken city built in the pre-classic
period and populated by an advanced civilization similar to the early
Teotihuacan culture of Yucatan. ...Researchers using sonar equipment
have discovered at a depth of about 2,200 feet (700-800 meters) a huge
land plateau with clear images of what appears to be urban development
partly covered by sand. From above, the shapes resemble pyramids, roads
and buildings. "
Mr. Cawthorne reported that "ADC is excited but reluctant to speculate
until a joint investigation with the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the
U. S. National Geographic Society takes place early this summer (2001)."
I have tried
to obtain contact information for Paulina Zelitsky, the Cuban Academy
of Sciences, and Advanced Digital Communications from the National Geographic
Society and to confirm this story. The following are the only comments
that National Geographic spokeswoman, Barbara Moffet, would give to
Moffet, Director of Plans and Programs, Communications Office, National
Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.: "We know what the Cuban people
have told us on the basis of a fairly preliminary survey that they did
for another purpose apparently, I believe, last year when they were
working to test some deep water equipment off Havana Bay. They found
some things they thought were interesting, but it was a preliminary
search. I don't even know the details of the type of equipment being
used. But they agreed that much more specific and different type of
equipment would be needed to go back to the site. So they have made
a proposal to us, I believe, that we get involved and help them explore
the area. It's now just one of many proposals for such exploration that
we are considering at the moment.
Who is Advanced
know details on that.
National Geographic Society have knowledge about Advanced Digital Communications?
we do and yes, Linda, I could find out more on that if you need me to
call you back on that.
Yes, I really
do. I would like to talk to someone there. Now, in terms of the Reuters
story, they have talked with Paulina Zelitsky who is identified as an
ocean engineer. Can you tell me about Paulina Zelitsky?
know too much except that she was born in the Soviet Union and is based
in Havana and she is someone very involved in underwater work in the
waters off of Cuba and we have known her for some time. Again, she is
someone who has made a proposal to us to do some exploration together.
So you at
the National Geographic are in communication with Paulina Zelitsky?
proposal she has made has been as an ocean engineer working with Advanced
Yes, I believe
she has made the proposal on behalf of the company that she represents,
ADC. But I just would say again that it is just so early in this project
and frankly some of the things that Paulina has been quoted as saying
are pretty speculative. We just don't know that anything like that exists
the Reuters article, she is quoted saying, "We are the first people
ever to see the bottom of Cuban waters over 50 meters" and this is supposed
to be down at 2,200 feet. "It is so exciting. We are discovering the
influence of currents on global climate, volcanoes, the history of formation
of Caribbean islands, numerous historic wrecks and even possibly a sunken
city built in the pre-classic period and populated by an advanced civilization
similar to the early Teotihuacan culture of Yucatan." Then she said
that ADC was using and testing deep water equipment off Havana Bay,
as you just said, when they found what she describes as clear "high-resolution
sonar images" that are showing white sand and in the middle of the white
side are "clear manmade large-size architectural designs. It looks like
when you fly over an urban development in a plane and you see highways,
tunnels and buildings."
have a copy of a story that is similar to that. I know she is quoted
as saying all that. She also said that we don't know what it is and
we don't have videotaped evidence yet. I think she would agree that
it really is early to speculate as she has here. I don't know. It would
be great if it turned out to be something that exciting. I would hope
so if we want to get involved.
seems very important and the Reuters interview says that ADC has been
using "satellite-integrated ocean bottom positioning system, high-precision
side-scan double-frequency sonar and remotely operated submarine robots.
They plan to add two submersibles to take people down." And it sounds
as if Paulina Zelitsky has been looking at high-resolution sonar images.
I have said that ADC equipment includes those things. I don't know if
they have had a chance to use them in the site yet. But I don't know.
Obviously, there is a lot more to find out about this whole project
and that is something we're in the process of trying to do right now.
Reuters says "ADC is excited but reluctant to speculate until a joint
investigation with the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the U. S. National
Geographic Society takes place early this summer." Can you talk about
the work that you are doing with the Cuban Academy of Sciences?
paragraph assumes that we have a project and unfortunately, that hasn't
been decided yet. There are many logistical questions that we are still
working out. And as I said, it is one of dozens if not hundreds of projects
that we're considering right now from all over the world. So it is even
earlier than this story is indicating. I don't think we have anything
official with either group.
must be someone at the National Geographic Society who has even images
from the high-resolution sonar that Paulina Zelitsky is describing upon
which to base a decision to do this underwater archaeological work?
asked that. I haven't seen anything like that. I think it has been mostly
just conversations. But I can find out and let you know.
Reuters story says quoting from Paulina Zelitsky, "Our agenda is much
broader. We are very anxious about global environmental changes. Archaeology
is providing us with the means to conduct broader scientific ocean exploration."
And that three other foreign companies, "one Canadian, one French and
one South African operate in shallower waters than ADC. Under contracts
with Cuban state partner, Geomar, all the firms have concessions to
explore in different swathes of sea and would share profits with the
government." Can you make any comment about these other international
efforts there off the coast of Cuba?"
National Geographic Society is working only with ADC?
As far as
I know, yes.
Cuban Academy of Sciences.
not working with any of them for sure yet. It's just what we are considering.
And if you
do, it would be this summer of 2001?
know that that question has been answered, but I think we would like
to do it as soon as possible if it does happen. But it's not definite
do you think a decision will actually be made about National Geographic
going forward with the Cuban Academy of Sciences and ADC to look at
this underwater find more closely?
know that either. I know that we're seriously considering it though."
later, Ms. Moffet left this message on my phone's voice mail:
it's Barbara Moffet at National Geographic calling back. I don't have
anything else for you, I'm afraid. The principals involved in this project,
most are not here today. But the ones who I have talked with, and my
boss, say the nature, the status of this project and the place we are
in this project, is still at a very confidential stage. There is nothing
else we can release. We don't have images to release. I don't even think
we have any images or any other phone numbers. It's just that the information
is confidential right now. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, but I
hope you are able to do a little bit with what I have given you and
I am keeping your name and number to inform you once that day comes.
Thanks a lot."
14 11:59 AM ET
Explorers Comb Cuban Seas for Treasure, Mysteries
- Barely touched since the colonial era of piracy and shipwrecks, sea
bottoms around Cuba are an underwater fantasy world promising treasure-laden
sunken ships, insights into times gone by -- and maybe even a lost city.
Once a hub
for shipments of gold, silver and other plunder from New World to Old,
the Caribbean island's waters likely hide billions of dollars' worth
of treasure from hundreds of ships that sank after encountering reefs,
storms or pirates.
is not all that tempts foreign companies, which, in a joint venture
with President Fidel Castro (news
sites)'s government, are beginning an unprecedented, systematic
search of one of the world's most-fascinating, least-explored undersea
as gold-laden Spanish galleons, important secrets and insights into
regional history, global environment trends, ancient geography and marine
science also lurk in the depths.
new frontier,'' enthused Soviet-born Canadian ocean engineer Paulina
Zelitsky, from British Columbia-based Advanced Digital Communications,
poring over video images of hitherto unseen seafloor taken by underwater
the first people ever to see the bottom of Cuban waters over 50 meters.
... It's so exciting. We are discovering the influence of currents on
global climate, volcanoes, the history of formation of Caribbean islands,
numerous historic wrecks and even possibly a sunken city built in the
pre-classic period and populated by an advanced civilization similar
to the early Teotihuacan culture of Yucatan,'' she said.
heavyweight among four foreign exploration firms here, was testing its
deep-water equipment off Havana Bay late last year when its ship, ``Ulises,''
found the century-old wreck of a U.S. battleship, The Maine, while surveying
blew up mysteriously in 1898, killing 260 American sailors and touching
off the Spanish-American War.
also been exploring a string of underwater volcanoes about 5,000 feet
deep off Cuba's western tip, where millions of years ago a strip of
land once joined the island to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
OFF WESTERN CUBA?
researchers using sonar equipment have discovered, at a depth of about
2,200 feet, a huge land plateau with clear images of what appears to
be urban development partly covered by sand. From above, the shapes
resemble pyramids, roads and buildings.
ADC is excited
but reluctant to speculate until a joint investigation with the Cuban
Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Geographic (news
sites) Society takes place early this summer.
stunning. What we see in our high-resolution sonar images are limitless,
rolling, white sand plains and, in the middle of this beautiful white
sand, there are clear manmade large-size architectural designs. It looks
like when you fly over an urban development in a plane and you see highways,
tunnels and buildings,'' Zelitsky said.
know what it is and we don't have the videotaped evidence of this yet,
but we do not believe that nature is capable of producing planned symmetrical
architecture, unless it is a miracle,'' she added in an interview at
her office at Tarara, along the coast east of Havana.
equipment includes a satellite-integrated ocean bottom positioning system,
high-precision side-scan double-frequency sonar, and remotely operated
submarine robots. They plan to add two submersibles to take people down.
On the treasure
trail, it has already located some 700 target sites where historic wrecks
are thought to lie and it recently videotaped and identified three of
them as large, 17th century ships with valuable cargo.
up treasure will finance the project. But Zelitsky said, ``Our agenda
is much broader. We are very anxious about global environmental changes.
Archeology is providing us with the means to conduct broader scientific
three foreign companies -- one Canadian, one French and one South African
-- operate in shallower waters than ADC. Under contracts with Cuban
state partner Geomar, all the firms have concessions to explore in different
swathes of sea and would share profits with the government.
BARRED BY EMBARGO
companies are prohibited from participating by the long-running U.S.
embargo on the Communist-run island.
of interest in Cuba's seas is due in part to the Castro government's
recognition that it does not have the money or technology to carry out
systematic exploration by itself, though it does have excellent divers.
know, we have financing problems. This is a very expensive activity.
They give us technology and financing. We provide historical and ocean
expertise,'' Eddy Fernandez, vice president of Geomar, said.
projects are very important in helping us rescue things from history,
which contribute to our national patrimony,'' he added at a ceremony
launching a mini-submarine used by the other Canadian company, Toronto-based
which operates in Cuba out of Havana's Marina Hemingway, says it has
already brought up some 7,000 artifacts including jewelry, diamonds
and pistols from a brigantine called ``Palemon'' that sank in 1839 off
Cuba's northern coast.
target in Havana Bay is the ``Atocha y San Jose,'' which sank in January,
1642, while trying to reach port after fleeing storms at sea. Like the
other firms, Visa Gold combines sea exploration with research, checking
archives in Spain and elsewhere to establish roughly where boats went
a very historic point, the mouth of Havana Bay, the most strategic point
in the New World at that time,'' company president Paul Frustaglio said
at the launch ceremony.
large natural harbor and Cuba's location as a stopping point between
Europe and mainland Latin America made the island a natural trade hub
after the arrival of 16th century Spanish conquistadors.
right in the center, the logical route for all the boats,'' local naval
historian Cesar Garcia del Pino said.
congregated around Cuba, it was also logical many of them should sink
here thanks to piracy, poor maps and navigation equipment, and regular
storms in the Caribbean.
of about 1,600 boats from the 16th to the 20th century that went down
here. Those that came from Europe were full of merchandise and those
leaving from America were carrying the products of the region -- gold,
silver and so on,'' Del Pino said. ``I consider the historical value
greater than the commercial value because a sunken boat is a time capsule.''
ADC is drawing
on local talent, with a mainly Cuban staff of 50, including 14 on land
and 36 on its research vessel ''Ulises.'' Most of its lower-tech equipment
is also Cuban including the ship, which is rented from the government.
Canadian company is proud of doing good science, it also promises to
make a lot of money and would like to plow some wealth back for the
there is $3 trillion of treasure lying on the bottom of the Caribbean,
and a good part of that is near to Cuba because a good part of the wealth
of the world came through Cuba,'' ADC representative Paul Weinzweig
have to bear in mind that it is ill-gotten wealth. A lot of it is the
result of rape and pillage of New World colonies. ... We want to cover
our costs, provide a return to shareholders, and we also want to use
a part of our personal share of returns to benefit people and humanity.''
© 2001 Reuters Limited
© 2001 Linda Moulton Howe
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