A NORTH Dorset explorer has discovered evidence of an ancient water route connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Col John Blashford-Snell made the breakthrough on his recent trip to the Central American country of Nicaragua.

It is believed the route, which encompasses rivers, a lake and flood plains, would be more ancient than the Panama Canal.

The research focused on the strip of west-coast land separating Lake Nicaragua from the Pacific. A local fisherman told how he managed to cross the strip on a temporary lake created during wet season floods.

“It seems likely that even if early cartographers did not see this lake, they were told about it by the indigenous people and thus drew a channel on their maps,” said Col Blashford-Snell.

“I’m sure this is how the story of a legendary route between the oceans started.”

Clear evidence of flooding was found at the site of the supposed lake by the expedition team.

Col Blashford-Snell is now considering a waterborne crossing of Nicaragua, from ocean to ocean, to establish the ancient route.

The waterway research taps into a wider theory proposed by writer Gavin Menzies, who asked the celebrated explorer to undertake the expedition.

Ancient maps indicate a channel crossing Central America, and Chinese DNA and artefacts have also been found in the region.

Local history also tells of a Chinese presence and European explorers recorded Chinese wrecks.

Several areas were found by the team where rivers flowing east to Lake Nicaragua and west to the Pacific rose within a few hundred yards of each other.

One site between two rivers indicated possible walls of an in-filled canal.