As I explained in my last Minecraft diary entry, trying to keep a day-by-day account of my adventures in blockyland didn’t really pan out. Now I’ve spent so much time in my game world that I’ve started thinking of it more as a series of projects than as a simulated day-to-day existence. My latest project is a Rapture-style underwater arboretum that I’ve cleverly named “Atlantis Arboretum.”

If the Flintstones designed a boat…Surveying by Boat

I’ve already built my first underwater reverse-fishbowl, but this is much too small to host an entire tree farm, so it’ll have to be expanded. I’ve learned that there’s no real easy way to do this; you basically have to build your whole structure out of dirt , coat the oustide in glass, and then dig out the dirt piece by piece.

[caption id=”attachment_379” align=”aligncenter” width=”600” caption=”The best part is using jack-o-lanterns for underwater light sources. Just like in real life!”]Reverse fishbowl[/caption]

Minepedia tells me that I need at least 8 empty spaces above a planted sapling to ensure that my trees can grow to full height. Surveying the bay in which I’m building, I decide on a plot of around 20 by 10 blocks. I’ll stack maybe 5 layers of glass at the top and then just dig out the rest to save some time. But that’s still 1000 blocks of dirt I have to place in order to create a base. I try to figure out if there’s some clever way to avoid this, but in Minecraft there’s no way to actually drain water from a structure - water blocks will just stay where they are forever unless you fill the space with something solid, or carry it away in a bucket (and I’m definitely not trying to do that with 1000 blocks). So my only option is to gather up a mighty dirt supply, hold my breath, and get to work.


I start out by building four posts to mark the borders of the structure (now scaled down a bit), and also to give me something to stand on, since you sink unless you hold down on the spacebar constantly. The water here is pretty deep and it doesn’t take long to figure out that diving down, placing a couple of dirt blocks, and then having to swim right back to the surface is not exactly a very efficient method. I don’t know if Notch is planning to add scuba gear to the game (although he’s a PADI certified diver, so I wouldn’t put it past him). So I try to think of an alternate method. Then I remember that sand and gravel don’t have the antigravity properties that effect things like dirt and cobblestone in this world; if you place them without a supporting block below them, they’ll fall until they hit one, right through air, lava or water. Now I have a new plan.


I use the posts I built to create an entire frame around my planned base. Then, I walk along it and place gravel and sand blocks against it, which keep falling until they’ve filled all the space below. It’s a lot quicker and I get to stay in the sweet, sweet air while I do it. But when I experimentally start chipping away at the parts of the frame I’ve already used, I end up punching a hole in the ocean.

[caption id=”attachment_382” align=”aligncenter” width=”600” caption=”That's a sheep swimming in there.”]Hole in the Ocean[/caption]

Minecraft’s water physics are mysterious to me, so it takes a lot of placing dirt, removing dirt, placing water in buckets, and praying for rain before I’m able to fix this craziness. In the process I do manage to fill up my entire arboretum frame, but so much of that involves just diving down and placing blocks manually that I’m forced to declare my brilliant gravity-assisted plan a failure.

[caption id=”attachment_383” align=”aligncenter” width=”600” caption=”Finally.”]Finally![/caption]

So now I just need about a million blocks of glass to coat this thing with. There’s an island nearby that I don’t care about very much, so I head over and plunder it of its precious sand until all my shovels break. Take that, natural resources!


Placing glass

Placing the glass is slow going. I end up working well into the night. Monsters don’t seem to spawn on the ice, which is helpful, but I need a way to get into my underwater passage without having to swim to shore and risk arrows and creepers on the way to an entrance. So I build this little underwater airlock. Or waterlock. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s cool and useful.


A few in-game days pass as I place glass blocks as fast as my furnaces can produce them from the sand. Eventually I have a nice, solid glass coating and a whole bunch of dirt to dig back out. Plus some water blocks here and there that I somehow missed, which put out all my torches a few times. Fighting a current in pitch blackness really makes you regret a rush job.

Hidden water

Once I’ve dealt with those few surprise floods, though, I’m able to cruise through the digging and I finally have something that looks like a greenhouse!

[caption id=”attachment_389” align=”aligncenter” width=”600” caption=”Woohoo!”]Beginnings of an arboretum[/caption]

I do wish that Minecraft’s engine did a slightly better job with underwater glass. For some reason the water is constantly running down the glass, even if the blocks around it are stationary, so you always have the sound of a flowing stream when you’re down here. Also, it just doesn’t look like you’re underwater; the whole blurry blue look that you get when you swim underwater doesn’t affect a view through glass, and the shoreline appears so clearly that it might as well just be raining outside. Oh well, it looks cool from the surface.

Arboretum from above

[caption id=”attachment_398” align=”aligncenter” width=”600” caption=”Hovercow!”]Bouyant cow[/caption]

I finish my digging and start planting. I don’t need wood that desperately, so I don’t plant in a fully efficient pattern. I figure I’ll be using this arboretum as much for the coolness of a stroll through an underwater forest as I will for the actual wood blocks.

First planting

And it doesn’t take very long for the trees to start growing. A few of them spring up literally while my back is turned. Just like in real life!

First trees

I quickly discover that the trees grow so densely that a stroll isn’t as easy as it sounds. But I’m pleased with my work and I decide it’s time to declare Atlantis Arboretum officially open for business. I celebrate by hacking down all the trees and replanting the saplings they drop. I end up with tons of wood - getting wood blocks, especially if I need them at night, should no longer be a problem.Atlantis at night

Atlantis underwater

So where do I go from here? Intoxicated by success, I briefly consider expanding Atlantis into a full underwater city (or a big underwater house, at least), but then I remember how annoying it is to place all those dirt blocks. I decide to approach a more practical issue: Atlantis is located in a bay about halfway between Castle Quinn and my mountaintop villa. It’s connected to the castle through a long series of tunnels, but not the villa. If I want to get here from the villa quickly - and you should always have a plan for emergency midnight arboretum visits - I’ll need to build the route. Next time: I start laying down some rails.