Missing Atlantis by a Mile

Target surrounded by missed arrows

The idea of missing a target has been the topic of much ridicule throughout human history.

“You couldn’t hit the side of a barn!”

“Uff! You missed the target by a mile!”

“Not even close!”

The title refers to a figurative mile, meaning “not even close.” Many of the attempts to identify the location of Atlantis—Plato’s lost island empire—have missed their target by thousands of miles, but also have missed in many other ways equally as important as relative location. It’s almost as if the people who are going to all that effort have not taken the simple and necessary step to read what Plato said on the topic. That’s like baking a cake by changing one or more of the critical ingredients simply because the baker doesn’t understand the ingredients or cannot believe them. Or worse, the baker did not read the recipe or even look for the recipe. This is an interesting study of insanity.

Michael Shermer, self-proclaimed “skeptic,” once infamously wrote in Scientific American magazine, “What if Plato made up the story for mythic purposes? He did.” That’s not science. That’s a logical fallacy—Appeal to the Stone type.

“See? The stone doesn’t disagree with me, so I must be right.”

And this in a magazine which purports to be all about science.

Several researchers who believe Atlantis existed have ignored Plato’s date for Atlantis, because his description of Atlantis sounds like Bronze Age Europe. So, to them, it must have occurred at the same time as Bronze Age Europe. If they can believe some of Plato’s details, why not all of the details that are not subject to “literary license?” They imply that 9600 BC Earth did not contain any civilization capable of working bronze (an alloy of copper and tin). That also is logically fallacious thinking. They would have a hard time proving bronze did not exist at that time.

“Literary license” refers to details that are not important to a story. They are translations for the benefit of Plato’s audience. The Greek philosopher readily admitted that he changed the names of the characters in his story because the original names “hurt” the Greek ear. Much the same happens when we call Deutschland “Germany” or España “Spain.” And the Spanish do the same, calling Germany “Alemania” and England “Inglaterra.” But things like cardinal directions, sizes of land, distances and place names, are not the sort of thing that fall under the purview of “literary license.”

Plato’s use of “triremes” is also understandable. These were the most advanced war ships of his day. These were part of his literary license, for they communicated to his readers the important ideas of “modern” and “powerful.” This is a bit like the use of rocket fins, streamlined shape, vacuum tubes and meter dials in the 1950s science fiction movies to communicate “futuristic.”

Atlantis Everywhere

Map of Celtic Shelf with Ireland, Great Britain and France
Map of Celtic Shelf surrounded by Ireland, Great Britain, France and Spain. One of the many places that are not Atlantis. Map: Eric Gaba (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The mania over Atlantis seems to have grown to insane levels. It’s almost as if someone were paying dozens of crackpots to come up with wildly strange ideas for where Atlantis has been hiding all this time.

One video on YouTube pushes the notion that the Richat Structure in the Sahara is Atlantis. Though the Richat Structure is circular and strange, it is not a sunken island now covered by ocean. It is not the size of Ancient Libya and Asia Minor combined. It does not face Gadira.

If we take the one idea of strange circles, then the Moon could be Atlantis by this sloppy definition. The Moon has plenty of circles in the Mare (seas) and the whole thing sinks into the Atlantic Ocean on a daily basis, as seen from Western Europe. This also misses the real Atlantis by a “mile.”

Atlantis is not Indonesia, the Celtic Shelf, Sweden, Southern Spain, Antarctica, Malta, Thera or any one of dozens of other so-called “candidates.” None of them match Plato’s definition.

Geology of Atlantis

Map of North Atlantic
Map of North Atlantic, showing the locations affected by the geology of Atlantis. Map: Uwe Dedering (CC BY-SA 3.0) cropped.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to follow Plato’s “recipe” for locating Atlantis is the fact that he picked one of the only places that was geologically correct in a number of ways. These are reasons Plato could not have known about. None of these prove Atlantis existed, but they all support the possibility that it did. Islands tend to form along tectonic plate boundaries as a result of subduction and magmatic arcs. The part of the Atlantic Ocean which faces Gadira (modern Cádiz, España) includes a major tectonic plate boundary—the Africa-Eurasia boundary.

Not only that, this boundary is poorly defined as if damaged by one or more disruptive events. The Azores, farther west along this tectonic plate boundary, sit upon an underwater plateau and west of a major bend in the tectonic boundary. That bend is a telltale sign that the Africa plate, some 36 million years ago, changed its direction of movement with regard to the Eurasia. The Africa plate had been moving in a rectilinear direction that was more or less toward the North. Then, roughly 36 million years ago, the Africa plate started rotating counterclockwise. Why this happened is easy enough to understand, if you include the formation of an island from some impediment to subduction.

When two tectonic plates converge, one tends to slide underneath the other, like the Pacific plate sliding underneath the South America plate. At that boundary we see a deep trench next to tall mountains, many of which are volcanic in origin. The Pacific plate slides underneath the South America, moving deeper toward the Earth’s mantle. As the old Pacific material descends, it heats up and gives rise to magma which pushes upward to become volcanoes.

When India slammed into the Eurasia plate several million years ago, the thicker, continental material of India could not slide underneath the Eurasia. The Eurasia choked on the thicker material. The inexorable movement of India caused the continental material of Eurasia to buckle, giving rise to the Himalayas.

Something similar happened in the Atlantic. I suspect there was no continental material on which the Eurasia could choke, but the collision of continental Africa with Eurasia did result in several events starting roughly 50 Ma and up to 35 Ma.

  • What is now the Arabia plate was ripped off from the Africa.
  • The Great Rift Valley was started, along with Dead Sea and Red Sea.
  • Theoretically, this put stress on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which was creating new material for both the Eurasia and the Africa plates.
  • Theoretically, the stress caused a wrinkle in the Africa that the Eurasia could not swallow through subduction.
  • This impediment to subduction grew much as the Himalayas grew.
  • This crustal folding resulted in an island being formed some 40 Ma.
  • By about 36 Ma, the island had grown so large and tall that the Africa plate could no longer move northward locally.
  • This put stress on the entire Africa plate, creating fissures throughout the Sahara, leading to mountains of Ahaggar and Tibesti. Numerous volcanoes sprung into existence.
  • The Africa plate, stopped in the West, but still smoothly subducting along most of its shared boundary with Eurasia, started to rotate counterclockwise.

We have evidence for most of this sequence in the geology of the Northeast Atlantic, North Africa and the Middle East.

The story of Atlantis isn’t over. There is more to come. Currently, I’m nearly 70,000 words into the writing of Mission: Atlantis, a book that has been 60 years in the making. If things were to proceed smoothly, I will be done with the book late this year or early the next. Concurrently, I’m rebuilding a friend’s website—Atlantis Quest. That’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love.

In the end, we may discover that Atlantis was never real—that Plato indeed merely made up the story to prove a philosophical point. But we will have discovered this by investigating the subject the right way—no appeals to the stone as Michael Shermer did, or ad hominem slander as so many others have done.

If, instead, we find out that Atlantis was real, then we will have opened up a new book on human history. I hope we fill its pages as carefully as all science should have been done.

For those who are interested in learning more about what we do know about Atlantis, check out the website, Mission: Atlantis at http://MissionAtlantis.WordPress.com. Or buy the short book, Proof of Atlantis?

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