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Chapter Twenty-Seven
Confronting Yonaguni

The Score So Far

By my count so far I have one marine archaeologist, Sundaresh, who is convinced that the Yonaguni structures are “undoubtedly man-made”, and who represents 100 per cent of all the archaeologists who have ever dived there up to time of writing. I also have one marine geologist, Masaaki Kimura, who believes the same thing, a second, Robert Schoch, who is undecided, and a third, Wolf Wichmann who is convinced that they are natural.

I decided when I got the opportunity that I should try to dive at Yonaguni with Wichmann and see if I could change his mind. To this end, a few months after the Der Spiegel article appeared, I made the following statement on my website:

“I would like to offer a challenge to Wolf Wichmann Let us agree a mutually convenient time to do, say, 20 dives together at Yonaguni over a period of about a week. I will show you the structures as I have come to know them, and give you every reason why I think that the monuments must have been worked on by human beings. You will do your best to persuade me otherwise. At the end of the week let's see if either side has had a change of mind.”(13)


In March 2001, on a mini-expedition funded by Channel 4 Television, Wichmann took up my challenge. A small, wiry, dark-haired, unpretentious man, I liked him the moment I met him, and continued to do so throughout the week that we spent diving in Japan and arguing, in a mood of amiable disagreement, about what we were seeing underwater.

Predictably we did not reach a consensus: Wolf left Yonaguni still holding most of the opinions with which he had arrived, and so did I. But I think that we each gave the other some worthy points to ponder. I know that I benefited from what amounted to a very useful field seminar on the natural history of submerged rock and began to understand clearly for the first time exactly how and why a geologist might conclude that the Yonaguni underwater structures are entirely natural - or at any rate (to sum up Wolf’s position more accurately) that they all could have been formed by known natural forces with no necessity for human intervention.

Before going on toYonaguni, Wolf and I paid a visit to Professor Masaaki Kimura at his office in the University of the Ryukyus. I started the ball rolling with a general question for Professor Kimura concerning the age of the structure:

GH: People can argue for the next five centuries about whether what we see underwater at Yonaguni is manmade or artificial. But one thing which we can hopefully get clear is how old it is when it was submerged?

So the first question I want to ask you is what is your view of the age of this structure? The last time that it was above water?

PROF KIMURA: This construction has been submerged since 6000 years ago, because the coralline algae attaching to the wall of this structure shows 6000 years.

GH: And those coralline algae, because they're organic, you've been able to carbon date them?

PROF KIMURA: Yes, Carbon-14.

GH: Right. So that tells us the age of that biological item it's 6000 years old and it's attached to a stone structure which, therefore, must be older than that.

PROF KIMURA: It must be older, and so in general 6000 years ago the sea level at that time [was lower] So if this was made by men, this must be when this area was land it's about 9000 or 10,000 years ago.

GH: 9000 or 10,000 years ago? So -- again to clarify, because I need to get this straight, -- you're saying that 9000 or 10,000 years ago, the whole area was above water and the date of submergence would be about 6000 years ago?

PROF KIMURA: Before 6000 years ago.

GH: This is the problem with Carbon 14 isn’t it? It dates the organism, not the structure. So then you can only say that the structure is older than that, but how much older is not sure. How much work have you done on sea level change as a dating guide? And how big a factor is the possibility of sudden maybe recent land subsidence as a result of earthquake?

PROF KIMURA: Yes, I'm looking for such evidence, that is geological evidence, but there is no evidence of movement. If this area had subsided by movement it would be due to earthquakes and faulting, but there is no active fault nearby, the fringing coast is continuous, and between the beach and Iseki Point, there is no discontinuity or fault.

WOLF: I see.

GH: That makes things fairly clear then. It leaves us with the sea level issue on its own to base a date on, without complicating factors, which is great. At least we can be clear on one thing.

WOLF: I think that questions for sea level rise are very fairly proved by scientific evidence here in the area. I mean, they're experts in their field.

GH: So you'd have no problem with the 9000 year date?

WOLF: No, no not at all. No, the question was, or is still, is it and, if yes, to what extent is it made by man or overworked by man? This is the question.

GH: Well hopefully we'll get a chance to investigate that when we go to Yonaguni.

PROF KIMURA: We need to research much more.

WOLF: Yes.

GH [speaking to Prof Kimura]: I mean you're practically the only person who's done - you and your team here - have done continuous research for some years. But almost nobody else is working on it, I think, at the moment?

PROF KIMURA: Japanese scientists cannot dive.


Throughout our discussion Professor Kimura strongly maintained his commitment to the manmade character of Yonaguni’s underwater monuments - not simply on the basis of his technical findings, cited earlier which I need not repeat here, but also, and I found persuasively, because: “This kind of topography - if this has been made by nature it is very difficult to explain the shape.”

Wolf’s riposte was immediate: “So what I would say to that formation is that I’ve seen many natural formations, especially coastlines, being worked out by waves and wind, especially with the help of weapons, erosive weapons -- sand and so on Seeing with the eye of a geologist or a morphologist it is, OK, a very fine, a very nice thing, but possibly made by nature.”

I asked Wolf whether in fact he had every seen anything like the Yonaguni “formation” anywhere else in the world.

“Not in that exact combination,” he replied. “This is what is surprising me; it's a very strong, compressed combination of the different shapes and the different figures you can find naturally in the world somewhere.”

“But you don't usually find them in combination like this?”

“No, I haven't seen that. So that is a marvel. It is a very beautiful formation.”

“Or the work of human beings? I prompted.

“Or of that. So that's what we're here for.”

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