lost, then found again – Helike
scientist Richard Collier has been helping to explain
why the Greek city of Helike, lost beneath the waves following
a devastating earthquake in 373 BC, has been discovered
buried by river sediment on the edge of the Gulf of Corinth
his knowledge of the geology of the region with contemporary
descriptions of the disaster which destroyed the city,
he has contributed towards an explanation of events for
a forthcoming BBC1 Horizon programme.
descriptions talked of an earthquake, followed a few hours
later by the sea coming in to cover the site. In Roman
times, Helike was still visible under the sea but in recent
history no trace of the city had been found. Over the
last 30 years there have been surveys of the Gulf of Corinth,
as it was thought the city had slumped out to sea, into
the depths of the Gulf," explained Dr Collier.
drilling onshore discovered traces of the city at a depth
of three to four metres, which helped Dr Collier understand
the reasons for its disappearance.
now think the coastal plain must have subsided by several
metres following the quake and was submerged, and over
the subsequent centuries and millennia, rivers brought
down sediment which allowed the river plain to build out
into the Gulf again and bury the site completely,"
Collier has a NERC grant to look at how, and how fast,
the earth’s crust is deforming in central Greece to help
predict the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes. "The
Gulf of Corinth is a natural laboratory for studying active
rifting," he said. "Faults there are moving
as much as five to six metres every thousand years, and
the Gulf itself is getting wider by 14mm each year – very
fast in geological terms."