The Temple of Quechula is about the closest thing we have to a lost ruin of Atlantis.
Last month, a drought in Chiapas, Mexico, caused water levels in the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir to drop over 80 feet — revealing a mid-16th century church long-buried beneath the surface. Photos of the spectacular structure went viral online, and residents and tourists alike recruited local fisherman to row them out to the ruin.
As the dam gates close and the reservoir fills to a normal level, locals expect the church to sink back to its watery grave soon.
Photographer Jack Nelson and his family recently visited the Temple of Quechula to catch one last glimpse at the living time capsule. Nelson shared his photos exclusively with Tech Insider. Here’s what happened on his maritime adventure.
When Jack Nelson and his family reached the village of Embarcadero Apic Pac, they were surprised to find the hill bone-dry. The water usually reaches the house atop.
They rented a boat and a pilot from the local fishing cooperative, and set out for the other side of the lake.
Nelson, a Rhode Island native who moved to Mexico in 1996, formerly ran a tour guide business in the area. He consulted his maps to estimate the church's location.
The Temple of Quechula was built by a group of monks who arrived in the region around the mid-16th century.
Led by Friar Bartolome de la Casas, the Spanish settlers were clearly inspired by the architecture they knew at home.
A small, partially submerged dome possibly covered a baptismal chapel, Nelson says. (He explored a number of old churches during his touring days.)
In front of it, a spiral staircase peeped above the water. Nelson guesses it led to the bell gable, or espadaña.
It's believed the builders had great expectations for the church, considering its proximity to King's Highway.
Plague swept the area between 1773 and 1776, after explorers, settlers, and traders arrived in the New World spreading bacteria and viruses. The church was abandoned.
Later, it was swallowed whole. The state erected a dam in 1966, which flooded the church and neighbouring ghost town.
The Temple of Quechula rose above water once before, in 2002, during an even more severe drought. Water levels were so low, you could walk across the church floor.
It won't be here for long. Nelson suspects the dam gates have been closed, given the reservoir's rapid rise.
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