A team of real-life treasure hunters recently set out to uncover something that had been lost years ago. Their goal? Unearth something that had been lost since the Cold War. Back in the 1950s, the Canadian government eagerly sought to destroy any trace of this object’s existence. Despite their attempts, the item was found still intact, sitting at the bottom of Lake Ontario. This is the story of the object and the people who found it.
They Didn’t Know If They’d Find It
In August 2017, a team of Canadian researchers at OEX Recovery Group Incorporated decided to go look for something they’d heard might have been lost years ago in Lake Ontario. Project Raise the Arrow was born, its purpose being to find whatever valuables lay at the bottom of Lake Ontario.
The plan was to search some areas that were likely to have the object in question. With a lot of money on the line, the team gambled losing their funding if they couldn’t recover it in time.
Locals Knew They’d Seen Something
While the search team needed to take measures to expedite a seemingly overwhelming process, they weren’t exactly clear what they were dealing with. All that they knew for certain was that in 1950 some locals had seen an object vanish into the lake.
Tales about the mysterious lake object stirred amongst Ontario locals until the team finally caught wind and decided to hunt the item down. Trying their best to deduce what the object might be based on locals’ age-old accounts was a difficult feat.
The Sweet Spot
According to locals, the landing point for the mysterious object was somewhere around Point Petre. A part of Prince Edward County in the Ontario Province, the spot is a favorite amongst tourists. The wildlife conservation spot boasts beautiful scenery and is a birding hotspot.
Nature lovers particularly enjoy coming to this spot for its incredible rock formations and crystal clear water. On the weekends, visitors can enjoy camping along the waterline and warming up to a campfire.
New Technology Keeps Getting Smaller
ThunderFish, pictured above, is a mini-submarine that is operated remotely. A sonar device within the submarine captures high-resolution images. These images greatly aided the team in their quest for an underwater missing object.
Underwater objects have brewed some pretty interesting rumors in the area. Back into 2013, rumors spread about an alien-run base existing at the bottom of Lake Ontario. The team wasn’t there to check on alien presence. Instead, they were out to solve a decades-old mystery.
Lake Ontario Is Multinational
Lake Ontario is so huge that it has shoreline in both the US and Canada, and is the fifth largest lake in North America and the 14th largest in the world. New York state falls on its eastern and southern shores. The lake covers about 7,500 square miles and is about 280 feet deep.
The lake boasts over 100 beaches. It is too big to ever fully freeze, though its surface has frozen over at least five times according to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
The Lake Dates Back To These Times
Around 11,000 years ago, the Ice Age was nearing its end. At that time, The Laurentide Glacier that once covered all of Canada melted into Lake Iroquois. As the melting continued, water began to rush into the Atlantic ocean.
As the rocks and islands beneath the gigantic lake settled, and more water poured into the Atlantic, the formation of the lake and its surrounding land began to form, leaving behind the Lake Ontario we know today.
The Search Crew Discovered Something
Given the lake’s great enormity, this team knew what they were up against. The thrill of discovering that ThunderFish had picked up on something was immense. Looking closely at the images that the sonar sent back, they realized what it had found at last.
The object was a lost miniature prototype of a 1950s aircraft. After being lost, engineers never replicated the object. Completely submerged by the water, scientists had no clues in which to find the now 60-year-old figure.
It All Began In 1946
The prototype that crashed had serious potential during the Cold War years. The Canadian government sought to develop a supremely destructive jet fighter. This prototype was one for a plane that could lead the Canadian military, who had been allied with the United States against the communist states of Russia.
Meanwhile, the Soviets were building aircraft that could fly over the Arctic towards the US and Canada. The jet fighter was their defense against looming airborne strikes.
A V Roe’s Plant Creates “Clunk”
The Canada firm Avro Canada, aka A. V. Roe Canada, were tasked with building an aircraft as a response to planes being worked on by Russia. Workers put together the Avro CF-100 Canuck, nicknamed Clunk.
The above photograph shows an assembly of multiple “Clunks” being formed in a row. The aircraft was launched in 1953 and remained an active part of the military until the ’80s. Today, the plane is displayed in an exhibition in Duxford, England as one of the rarest and most treasured aircrafts.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Right before the Canuck model launched, news broke in 1952 that Russians were developing an aircraft that was even more high-tech and high-speed. The Royal Canadian Air Force needed something stronger.
When Canuck launched the Canadian Air Force was already developing its successor. The RCAF put together a report on how to improve the Canuck, birthing a plan for what would become the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, a plane that could fly at 50,000 feet at the speed of 1,500 mph.
Launching Tests Happened Here
Between 1953 and 1957, nine prototypes of the Avro Arrow were created. One of the notable features of the Arrow was its large, triangular shapes wings. These delta wings were new at the time and were constructed to enable the craft to surpass the speed of sound.
The prototypes were about ten feet long with nearly a seven-foot wingspan. Built to run on solid fuel, the prototypes were launched from Point Petre near, you guessed it, Lake Ontario.
Not Such A Big Deal Afterall
After initial tests, engineers added a tail cone and modified its wings and nose. Once tests were passed, buidling of the actual-sized craft began in 1955. In October 1957, a model of the Avro Arrow was launched. Around the same time, October 4, 1957 to be exact, the Russians took the lead in the space race, coming up with Sputnik 1.
The satellite was the first to orbit the Earth, shocking the world with its success. Worse, the RCAF project on Avro Arrow was completely dropped by 1959.
Not A Trace Was Left
Rather than continue the money pit that the Arrow was becoming, the Canadian government decided to buy the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo aircraft and Bomarc B missiles from the United States. 30,000 people were laid off because of it.
All drawings, models, and other information regarding the Avro Arrow were destroyed in order to prevent replication. The only traces of the project that couldn’t be properly exposed of without a trace were sunk into the bottom of the Ontario Lake.
The Leader Of The Mission
John Burzynski, a gold miner with Osisko Mining, headed project Raise The Arrow. During an interview, he said, “As professional explorers in the mining business, we initiated this program about a year ago with the idea of bringing back a piece of lost Canadian history to the Canadian public.”
The team met with an eye-witness who saw the prototypes launch back in the 1950s. Jack Hurst assured the team that the small crafts would only be about a mile out, given that they went up only a few thousand feet.
Something’s On The Lake Floor
John Burzynski led the team to various high probability areas, and after weeks of searching success hit. Being able to locate a 60-year-old prototype in time by using Canada’s leading-edge technology restored some of the pride that may have been damaged in those Cold War years, when Russians were hard to keep up with.
Covered in zebra mussels, the first model was found on the rocky lake bed at the end of August 2017. Returning it to land would be a gradual process.
Diving Is A Lot More Dangerous Than We Realize
Divers were sent down to remove the debris and assess the object. According to USGS, “Zebra mussels are an invasive, fingernail-sized mollusk that is native to fresh waters in Eurasia. [They] probably arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s via ballast water that was discharged by large ships from Europe.”
Having rapidly expanding throughout the great lakes, it’s not surprising that divers have to take care to remove these mussels which had nearly covered the prototypes over the past several decades.
Finding The Object Was Only Half The Battle
Divers had to unbury the found object well enough to secure the pulley underneath the heavy object. The difficult feat required trained workers to remain at the bottom of the lake’s floor. Lake Ontario’s maximum depth is 800 feet.
The only way a diver can reach levels beyond a couple hundred feet is by wearing an atmospheric suit. Technology was not only needed to find these peices, but also to retrieve them without harming the team.
A Year-Long Removal
Once the prototypes were removed, it was much easier to continue the process of clearing the item for closer inspection. However, getting the model onto land was a much longer process than one might assume it’d be.
Despite initial findings having been detected via sonar shortly after the team set out in 2017, it was not until a year later that the item made it onto land. Once a heavy item has become encrusted on the floor of a great lake, it can’t just be ripped out.
A Picture Worth A Thousand Words
By using a properly scaled schematic, team members were able to compare the found object to the prototypes that had been lost in the 1950s. Even after years of chemical reactions with the water, the structure clearly resembles the Arrow.
What’s more amazing is how intact the item is. Though only small-scale prototypes, it was important to make them as durable as possible. Without the technology of today, testing out these models was our only indication of how aircrafts would fly.
The Guy Who Saw It All
A post by Raise the Arrow on Facebook reads, “Jim Johnson, member of the test programs at Point Petre from 1952 – 1957, identifies the test model at Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa earlier today.”
The gentleman in a navy blue shirt was one of the engineers who sent these models into the lake. Having come full circle, he now works with the team who has brought them back onto land to verify their success.
The Waters Of Lake Van
There is a gorgeous lake in present-day Turkey called Lake Van that is known for its stunning turquoise water. People have been coming to the lake for decades to admire the majesty of nature. The lake is located right next to an impressively tall mountain, lush green foliage, and an ancient church that sits on the edge of a cliff.
In this spot, architecture and nature blend to create a landscape that’s part man-made and part divinely inspired.
A Volcanic Eruption
Back in ancient times, a volcano erupted and the flow of lava ended up blocking Lake Van’s outlet. This lake is at a really high altitude: 5,380 feet above sea level. Most water would freeze at that altitude, but Lake Van is salty enough that it stays fluid, even when there’s snow all around it.
Could it be that whatever is at the bottom of this lake ended up there because of the volcano?
A Rising Tide
Lake Van was formed over 600,000 years ago. As you can imagine, the Earth looked quite different in those times. The water levels of this lake have risen since the lake was first formed.
It’s entirely possible that the artifact at the bottom of the lake was once on dry land, but the rising water eventually engulfed and sunk the structure. We may never know the real reason this lake carries so many secrets.
A Hidden Treasure
Scientists have always been fascinated with Lake Van because of how old it is. People have been studying this lake for decades, trying to figure out more about its history and ontology.
The scientists were focused on the chemistry and geography of the lake, so they didn’t notice this gigantic structure in the depths of Lake Van. If one momentous event hadn’t happened, that structure may never have been discovered.
An Ancient Kingdom
Maps from the 9th century look a lot different from today’s maps. Here you can see that Lake Van was once very close to Tushpa, the capital of Urartu. During the Iron Age, Urartu was a thriving kingdom.
The kingdom was active from 860-560 BC— at least, that’s what legend tells us. However, there has been no physical evidence of this kingdom ever existing. No evidence that is, until now.
A New Expedition
In 2017, a group of archaeologists, historians, and photographers traveled to Lake Van based on a hunch that they might discover something amazing. They had heard stories about an ancient kingdom and the structures they may have left behind. But they had no idea whether those stories were true or not.
The curious team thought that it couldn’t hurt to do some exploring. If they didn’t find any artifacts, at least they might learn something new about the lake.
A Prior Mission
This lake had been around for hundreds of thousands of years, so the explorers and researchers thought that there had to be something lurking in its depths. They planned to spend weeks looking for proof of this ancient kingdom.
In the 1950s and ’60s, researchers had gone on a similar mission. And when they did, they found something pretty interesting… Keep reading to find out more about what they discovered.
A New Look At An Old Site
In the 1950s, scientists were aware that there might be some sort of ancient structure at the bottom of Lake Van. They heard that the structure was built during the Middle Ages between the years 476 and 1450 A.D. In the ’50s and ’60s, scientists didn’t have access to the kind technology that we have now, that aids in making these types of underwater discoveries.
On this second expedition in 2017, the scientists would be able to discover much more than their past counterparts.
The A Team
The group of archaeologists, photographers, and researchers teamed up with some of the very best divers in the area. The team was assembled by Yan Yüzüncü Yıl University. The University was funding an underwater excavations study related to Lake Van.
All of these people set off to discover more about this deep, ancient lake. Little did they know, they were about to make a discovery that would illuminate a people’s entire history.
The Lost City
This lake has been a hot spot for explorers for decades. People have been coming here in search of a long lost city, similar to the City of Atlantis. Divers have found old bottles, bits of glass, some interesting stones, but no evidence of a lost civilization.
This team of researchers wasn’t expecting to find something as magical as the sunken City of Atlantis, so when they did, they almost couldn’t believe their eyes.
An Amazing Discovery
The team put on their diving gear and got their cameras ready. They dove deep below the surface of Lake Van, where they found the lost kingdom.
The entire research team was completely overwhelmed, as they knew the significance of this discovery. They hoped they would find something interesting, but to actually locate a 3,000-year-old building was beyond their wildest expectations. Their dive was about to result in uncovering ancient history.
Search And You Shall Find
Deep in the water sitting on the floor of the lake was a huge castle that had been perfectly preserved by the salty water, after all of these years. The divers and researchers had searched long and hard, and this was the reward for their dedication. It was a moment that none of them would ever forget.
The head of the diving team, Tahsin Ceylan, had actually set out on a completely different mission, so he was especially surprised by this find.
Who Else Is Lurking In The Depths?
Ceylan wasn’t looking for a castle, he was looking for a monster. There was a rumour that had been circulating for centuries that there was some kind of mythical sea creature living in Lake Van.
Ceylan said, “There was a rumor that there might be something under the water, but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we won’t find anything.” Do we think Ceylan could be on to something?
The Size Of The Thing
At the bottom of the lake, the ancient castle sat as though it were on dry land, in impeccable condition. The team wondered how the castle ended up at the bottom of the lake, so they started collecting clues to examine.
The castle walls were about 4 meters high and the structure was about a kilometer wide. The researchers wondered how a castle so massive could end up at the bottom of a lake without documentation as to what happened.
An Answer After Years Of Questions
This castle seemed to be evidence that the long lost Urartu kingdom actually existed. The team had unlocked new evidence that could teach us a great deal about the Iron Age.
The area around the lake was also known as the Kingdom of Van. It existed from the 9th to the 6th century BCE. The scientists on the team hypothesized that the kingdom had been destroyed due to rising water levels.
Learning More About The Uratians
The scientists believed that when the Urartian people first built their castle, the water levels of the lake were dramatically lower. The people must have thought that it was a good idea to build their kingdom next to a water source, even if the water was brackish.
There are probably more Urartian structures at the bottom of Lake Van which means that there’s more exploring that needs to be done.
Looking At The Numbers
Some of the sections of the castle were still standing strong, while some walls had disintegrated into piles of loose rocks. Sections of the castle and the city surrounding it were found dispersed along the shore of the lake.
The scientists started looking at the quantifiable data. They measured all of the standing walls and wondered how deep they were buried into the floor of the lake. The more they discovered, the more questions they had.
Who Could This Castle Belong To?
The discovery of this castle answers a lot of questions, but it also brings up even more. The team wanted to learn more about the people who had constructed this castle. They also wanted to know who lived in the castle before it was swallowed up by the lake.
After inspecting the walls of the castle for some time, Ceylan’s team discovered a drawing of a lion etched into the rock.
Back when Urartu was a thriving kingdom, they used a lion motif to represent themselves. At first, the archaeologists on the team thought that this was irrefutable evidence that this was an Urartian castle, but another archaeologist named Geoffrey Summers had a different opinion.
He said, “It looks more medieval than something from the Urartian kingdom.” If Geoffrey is right, it could mean that this castle was still standing (outside of the lake) during the medieval period.
Even More Experts
The researchers determined that some of the stones that the Urartians used to build their castle were originally made during the medieval period. The Urartians were recycling these materials from previously created structures.
An archaeology professor at Marmara University said, “The walls [seem] medieval or late antique period rather than Urartu. Urartian never used any material between ashlar wall stones to connect each other.” At that point in the mission, it seemed as though everyone had a different idea about who built this castle.
The Scholar Of Lake Van
A moderately famous scholar named P. Hulin published a report on the ancient mystery surrounding Lake Van. He wrote, “a lofty wall of later than Urartian times runs under the lake.” So, some experts think this is a Uratian castle, some think it’s pre-Uratian, and some think it’s post-Uratian. So which one of them is right?
P. Hulin had a few more things to say about this intriguing and mysterious castle.
The Writing On The Wall
As part of his research, Hulin discovered inscriptions in artifacts found around Lake Van that spoke about the Urartian King, Rusa. The problem is, these writings had survived all kinds of weather over hundreds of years. The writing wasn’t as clear as it used to be.
Hulin was going to have to pull out all the stops if he was going to figure out what was originally written on those stones.
Rusa The Conqueror
King Rusa became the King of Urartu after his father, King Sarduri II died. While his father was still alive, Rusa was a conqueror who expanded the Kingdom of Urartu. During that time, he took over several Anatolian territories.
Once Rusa became king, however, his conquering days would come back to haunt him. You can’t just take somebody else’s land and expect them to be okay with it. There were consequences on the horizon.
A New King
Now that King Rusa was on the throne, the Assyrians had an idea. They appointed a new king by the name of Tiglath-Pileser III. That king instructed his people to regroup, build up their strength, and prepare for battle.
He was going to take back the land that had been taken away from him. He wasn’t going to be a weak leader like the king before him was. He was prepared to fight back.
A Battle For Power
King Tiglath-Pileser III was preparing his loyal subjects to take back the land that King Rusa’s father had taken control of when he was on the throne. Some researchers thought that this was the moment that the Urartian castle disappeared into the lake. Maybe some kind of battle broke out and the castle was completely displaced.
We may never know what really happened to that castle, but we can test all of these theories against the evidence found in the lake.
A Fight To The Finish
When King Rusa took over the Urartian kingdom from his father, he had to immediately fight off King Tiglath-Pileser III’s troops. These people had been training for a battle, and it was abundantly clear that nothing (short of brute force) was going to stop them from taking their land back.
Fights over land ownership dominate much of history (and much of current affairs, if you think about it). Land has always meant power, and people have always wanted power.
Hard Work Pays Off
The Urartu kingdom was invaded time and time again, and it had to repair itself each time it was attacked. After all of these battles, the kingdom was gradually deteriorating. Each time, the kingdom needed more resources to make the repairs.
King Tiglath-Pileser III’s army was breaking down the Urartu kingdom bit by bit. They saw their efforts working, and believed that with patience and diligence, the kingdom would fall and the land would be theirs for the taking.
The Urartians Admit Defeat
The Urartu people were suffering. They were running out of money and resources and they were growing tired of defending themselves. Eventually, they were forced to admit defeat. They handed over their land and their castles to the people of Assyria.
King Rusa spent most of his reign at war with the Assyrians. In the end, he lost both his kingdom and his mind. He couldn’t keep the land he had conquered and felt totally defeated.
The Research Continues
The discovery of the ancient castle at the bottom of Lake Van as attracted many scientists, archaeologists, researchers, and divers to the area. Everyone is determined to find out more about this mysterious structure and how it ended up so far below the surface of the lake.
There is so much more to discover about this massive artifact. Hopefully, the experts will be able to come to a consensus and tell us more about the Urartian people and their kingdom.