The Three Geologists
Three qualified geologists -- Masaaki Kimura , Robert Schoch and Wolf Wichmann -- have dived at Yonaguni, acquired first-hand experience of the underwater structures, and commented publicly on what they saw. So far as I know, they are, at time of writing, the only geologists ever to have dived there. Therefore when we speak of ‘geological opinion’ concerning the Yonaguni anomalies it is important to be clear that we are referring to the work and ideas of just three men who, moreover, do not agree with one another – so there is no concensus. Other geologists who have expressed views without diving at Yonaguni hardly qualify to participate in the debate.
Since there are grave issues at stake concerning our understanding of prehistory and the story of human civilisation I propose to devote the necessary space in this chapter to an accurate summary of the views of the three main geological protagonists.
The doyen of the group, and in my view the hero of the Yonaguni saga for his determination, persistence and refreshingly open-minded intellectual approach, is Dr Masaaki Kimura, Professor of Marine Geology at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. He and his students have completed hundreds of dives around the main “terrace” monument at Yonaguni as part of a long-term project in which they have thoroughly measured and mapped it, produced a three-dimensional model, taken samples of ancient algae encrusted on its walls for carbon-dating, and sampled the stone of the structure itself. Professor Kimura’s unequivocal conclusion, based on the scientific evidence, is that the monument is man-made and that it was hewn out of the bedrock when it still stood above sea-level -- perhaps as much as 10,000 years ago. The principal arguments that he puts forward in favour of human intervention are on the record and include the following:
1. “Traces of marks that show that human beings worked the stone. There are holes made by wedge-like tools called kusabi in many locations.”
2. “Around the outside of the loop road [a stone-paved pathway connecting principal areas of the main monument] there is a row of neatly-stacked rocks as a stone wall, each rock about twice the size of a person, in a straight line.”
3. “There are traces carved along the roadway that humans conducted some form of repairs.”
4. “The structure is continuous from under the water to land, and evidence of the use of fire is present.”
5. “Stone tools are among the artefacts found underwater and on land.”
6. “Stone tablets with carving that appears to be letters or symbols, such as what we know as the plus mark ‘+’ and a ‘V’ shape were retrieved from under water.”
7. “From the waters nearby, stone tools have been retrieved. Two are for known purposes that we can recognise, the majority are not.”
8. “At the bottom of the sea, a relief carving of an animal figure was discovered on a huge stone.” (1)
9. On the higher surfaces of the structure there are several areas which slope quite steeply down towards the south. Kimura points out that deep symmetrical trenches appear on the northern elevations of these areas which could not have been formed by any known natural process.
10. A series of steps rises at regular intervals up the south face of the monument from the pathway at its base, 27 metres underwater, towards its summit less than 6 metres below the waves. A similar stairway is found on the monument’s northern face.
11. Blocks that must necessarily have been removed (whether by natural or by human agency) in order to form the monument’s impressive terraces are not found lying in the places where they would have fallen if only gravity and natural forces were operating; instead they seem to have been artificially cleared away to one side and in some cases are absent from the site entirely.
12. The effects of this unnatural and selective clean-up operation are particularly evident on the rock-cut ‘pathway’ [Kimura calls it the ‘loop road’] that winds around the western and southern faces of the base of the monument. It passes directly beneath the main terraces yet is completely clear of the mass of rubble that would have had to be removed (whether by natural or by human agency) in order for the terraces to form at all.(2)
The second geologist to dive at Yonaguni, Professor Robert Schoch of Boston University, has vacillated tenaciously in his opinions – but I take this as a sign of an open-minded scholar ever willing to revise his views in the light of new evidence.
Thus when we first dived there together in September 1997, he was sure that the structure was man-made.(3) Within a few days, however, he had changed his mind completely:
“I believe that the structure can be explained as the result of natural processes The geology of the fine mudstones and sandstones of the Yonaguni area, combined with wave and current actions and the lower sea-levels of the area during earlier millennia, were responsible for the formation of the Yonaguni Monument about 9000 to 10,000 years ago.”(4)
A few days later, Schoch softened his position again:
“After meeting with Professor Kimura, I cannot totally discount the possibility that the Yonaguni Monument was at least partially worked and modified by the hands of humans. Professor Kimura pointed out several key features that I did not see on my first brief trip If I should have the opportunity to revisit the Yonaguni monument, these are key areas that I would wish to explore.”(5)
Schoch did have an opportunity to revisit the structure in the summer of 1998, carrying out several more dives there. Then in 1999 in an interview given to the BBC science programme “Horizon” for a documentary attacking my work – and in the same year in his own book “Voices of the Rocks” -- he expressed what sound like two very different, even contradictory opinions about the structure.
Here is the relevant section from the BBC Horizon transcript:
NARRATOR: “Yonaguni looked as if it could be a spectacular discovery and Hancock needed corroboration. He invited the Boston University geologist Robert Schoch to inspect the site. Professor Schoch has taken a keen interest in unorthodox views of the past and he welcomed the chance to examine the underwater discovery. Schoch dived with Hancock several times at Yonaguni.”
PROF. ROBERT SCHOCH (Boston University): “I went there in this case actually hoping that it was a totally man-made structure that was now submerged underwater, that dated maybe back to 6,000 BC or more. When I got there and I got to dive on the structure I have to admit I was very, very disappointed because I was basically convinced after a few dives that this was primarily, possibly totally, a natural structure Isolated portions of it look like they're man-made, but when you look at it in context you look at the shore features etc and you see how, in this case, fine sandstones split along horizontal bedding plains that gives you these regular features. I'm convinced it's a natural structure.”(6)
Well that seems straightforward. But then here is what Schoch says in “Voices of the Rocks”:
“Possibly the choice between natural and human-made isn’t simply either/or. Yonaguni Island contains a number of old tombs whose exact age is uncertain, but that are clearly very old. Curiously the architecture of the tombs is much like that of the monument. It is possible that humans were imitating the monument in designing the tombs, and it is equally possible that the monument was itself somehow modified by human hands. That is, the ancient inhabitants of the island may have partially reshaped or enhanced a natural structure to give it the form they wished, either as a structure on its own or as the foundation of a timber, mud or stone building that has since been destroyed. It is also possible that the monument served as a quarry from which blocks were cut, following the natural bedding, joint and fracture planes of the rock, then removed to construct buildings that are now long gone. Since it is located along the coast the Yonaguni Monument may even have served as some kind of natural boat dock for an early seafaring people. As Dr Kimura showed me, ancient stone tools beautifully crafted from igneous rock have been found on Yonaguni. Significantly, Yonaguni has no naturally exposed igneous rocks, so the tools, or at least the raw materials from which they were made, must have been imported from neighbouring islands where such rock is found. The tools could have been used to modify or reshape the natural stone structures now found underwater off the coast of Yonaguni. The concept of a human-enhanced natural structure fits well with East Asian aesthetics, such as the feng shui of China and the Zen-inspired rock gardens of Japan. A complex interaction between natural and human-made forms that influenced human art and architecture 8000 years ago is highly possible."(7)
As further evidence for a very ancient human role in the construction of the Yonaguni monument, Schoch then sets out an argument of mine, advanced in my 1998 book “Heaven’s Mirror”, that the structure is not only man-made but could also have served a specific astronomical function -- since calculations show that around 10,000 years ago, when it was above water, it would have stood on the ancient Tropic of Cancer.(8) Writes Schoch:
“The ancients, I suspect, knew where the tropic was, and they knew that its position moved slowly. Since Yonaguni is close to the most northerly position the tropic reaches in its lengthy cycle, the island may have been the site of an astronomically aligned shrine.”(9)
In summary, therefore, Schoch has not come down definitively either on one side of the fence or on the other but seems to be wavering in the direction of a compromise in which the structure is both natural and man-made at the same time.
I cannot avoid adding that all rock-hewn structures, whether the weird terraced granite outcrop at Qenko near Sacsayhuaman in Peru,(10) or the wonders of Petra in Jordan, or the temples of Mahabalipuram in South India are, by definition partly natural – the base rock out of which they are hewn – and partly man-made. They can’t help but be anything else.
The third geologist, German science writer Dr Wolf Wichmann, has definite opinions and expresses them with certainty. In 1999 he informed Der Spiegel magazine – who had taken him to Yonaguni -- that he regards the underwater monument as entirely natural. He made just three dives on the main terraces and then declared:
“I didn't find anything that was man-made."(11)
Japan's marine scientists “haven't got a clue” what the terraced underwater structure at Yonaguni is, reports Der Spiegel:
‘"It is unlikely to be anything natural" said the oceanographer Terukai Ishii from Tokyo. Masaaki Kimura, a marine researcher at the Rykyus University (Okinawa) talks about "a masterpiece". He thinks the structure is a sacred edifice built by a hitherto unknown culture possessing advanced technical abilities.
‘The debate going on in the Orient has awakened the curiosity of the West. People with second sight find themselves magically attracted by "Iseki Point ("ruins"). At the beginning of 1998 the geologist Robert Schoch, who believes the Sphinx was built by the people of Atlantis [sic -- completely untrue; Schoch does not believe any such thing] swam down to the site and declared it to be "most interesting". The guru of ancient antiquity and best-selling author Graham Hancock was also investigating the site. After an excursion in a submersible he records that at the base of the monument can be seen a "clearly-defined path." [actually I have never been in a submersible at Yonaguni and I do not consider my four years of hands-on diving there as any kind of excursion; there is, however, a clearly-defined path at the base of the monument].
‘The rock expert Wolf Wichmann could not corroborate these conclusions. In the company of a team from SPIEGEL TV he returned to explore the coastal area, under threat from tsunamis. In a total of three diving operations he gathered rock samples and measured the steps and "walls". He was unconvinced by his findings: "I didn't find anything that was man-made".
‘During the inspection it was revealed that the "gigantic temple" is nothing but naturally produced bedded rock. The sandstone is traversed by vertical cracks and horizontal crevices. Perpendicularity and steps have gradually developed in the fracture zones. The plateaux at the top are referred to by Wichmann as typical "eroded plains". Such flat areas occur when bedded rock is located right in the path of the wash of the waves.
‘Suggestive pictures rich in detail and contrast may indeed reveal something else, but in general the mass of rock looks like a structure rising out of a sandy bed, with no sign of architectural design. The plateaux have gradient sections, and there is no perpendicular wall. Some of the steps just end nowhere; others are in a spiral, like steep hen-roosts.
‘The stony blocks show no signs of mechanical working. "Had the 'ashlars' been hewn by tools, they would have been studded with flutes and cuts and scratches", said Wichmann. Three circular recesses on the topmost plateau, referred to by Kimura as column foundations, are nothing but "potholes". These occur when water washes through narrow spaces.
‘Facts like these fail to stem the current epidemic of mystery-fever. The Yonaguni monument has for some time played a key role in the world picture of archaeological dreamers.(12)