Science: Caligula's Barges

For centuries fishermen on little (one square mile) Lake Nemi, 20 miles from Rome in the Alban Hills, reported mysterious fouling of their nets and shadowy hulks beneath the blue-grey water on clear days, told tall tales of two legendary floating palaces once belonging to monstrous Emperor Caligula, now rotting in the mud. In 1446 curious Cardinal Prospero Colonna made the first attempt to raise the pleasure barges, succeeded only in irreparably damaging their superstructures with the iron grappling hooks.

Ninety years later a military engineer in a primitive diving apparatus descended to...

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