<p>Cows sit in the shade of grounded ships on the bottom of what was once the Sary Shaganak Gulf in the Aral Sea, in a photo taken in August of 2005.</p><p>In the 1960s, Aral Sea fishing was big business—ships like these brought in 50,000 tons of fish a year. But as the sea dried up, the ships could not get to their harbors, and the fish had to be transported to processing plants via deep canals and eventually by helicopter. As the salinity of the water increased, fish began to die, and most fishermen moved to other, more profitable regions. In some places, rusty abandoned ships remain, grim reminders of how quickly the industry dissolved. Now the ships are being taken apart by scrappers and sent in pieces to China, said Philip Micklin, a University of Michigan geographer and National Geographic grantee who specializes in the Aral Sea region.</p><p><a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100402-aral-sea-story">Read more about the Aral Sea in National Geographic News.</a></p><p><em>--James Robertson</em></p>

Grounded Ships, Aral Sea

Cows sit in the shade of grounded ships on the bottom of what was once the Sary Shaganak Gulf in the Aral Sea, in a photo taken in August of 2005.

In the 1960s, Aral Sea fishing was big business—ships like these brought in 50,000 tons of fish a year. But as the sea dried up, the ships could not get to their harbors, and the fish had to be transported to processing plants via deep canals and eventually by helicopter. As the salinity of the water increased, fish began to die, and most fishermen moved to other, more profitable regions. In some places, rusty abandoned ships remain, grim reminders of how quickly the industry dissolved. Now the ships are being taken apart by scrappers and sent in pieces to China, said Philip Micklin, a University of Michigan geographer and National Geographic grantee who specializes in the Aral Sea region.

Read more about the Aral Sea in National Geographic News.

--James Robertson

Photograph by Philip Micklin

PHOTOS: Dried-up Aral Sea Aftermath

The Aral Sea dried up over several decades, leaving behind grounded ships, crumbling buildings, and starving people. While part of the sea is making a comeback, photos show how bad the damage once was.

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