The Greek philosopher Plato first described an ancient island kingdom buried beneath the sea around 360 BC. Since then, scientists and adventurers have searched for the sunken remains of Atlantis. They?ve combed through Plato?s Dialogues, looking for clues about whether Atlantis actually existed, where it was and how it vanished.
French geologist and prehistorian Jacques Collina-Girard believes Atlantis was a real place?a small mid-channel island sitting in what is now the Strait of Gibraltar that sank 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, when rising seas deluged it along with six other nearby islands.
Today the islands are shoals anywhere from 175 feet to 410 feet below the ocean?s surface along the coasts of Spain and Morocco. Collina-Girard says the legend of Atlantis grew it traveled by word of mouth and finally reached Plato in Athens 9,000 years later. He compares it to the story to Noah?s flood, an idea that he feels arose after the rising Mediterranean overran the Bosporus 7,600 years ago to cascade into what is now the Black Sea basin.
?It is the same thing,? Collina-Girard says. ?Everywhere in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia people have stories that speak of the time when the sea came in. Atlantis is another discrete story of the flood.?
The location of Atlantis has been placed anywhere from waters off the Americas to the South China Sea. The most popular current view among scholars is that Atlantis was probably the Aegean island of Thira, about 70 miles north of Crete, which was destroyed by volcanic eruptions in 1470 BC.
The flaw here, Collina-Girard says, is that the Thira story does not fit Plato?s description. ?The trouble up to now has been that geologists are not generally interested in Atlantis, while the people who are interested in Atlantis are not geologists.?
Collina-Girard has written in the Proceedings of the French Academy of Sciences that Atlantis can probably be found exactly where Plato said it was: ?An island situated in front of the straits which are by you the Athenians called the Pillars of Hercules Gibraltar.?
Oceanography shows that the sea level at the height of the ice age about 20,000 years ago was more than 400 feet lower than it is today. For the next 15,000 years, the sea rose as ice melted as little as 2 feet per century at first and as much as 12 feet per century later on.
When the thaw began, there were seven islands at the western end of the Strait and a bit further west, surrounding a section of the Atlantic in an ?inland sea? described by Plato. Atlantis would have been southwest of modern-day Tarifa, Spain, and 12 miles northwest of Tangier, Morocco.
As time passed, the rising sea consumed the islands one by one, until only Atlantis and one other remained. During its last 300 years, Collina-Girard calculates that the sea level at Atlantis was rose about 8 feet per century. ?A man with a 50-year lifespan would notice it,? he says.
From a geological point of view, Collina-Girard?s theory is ?plausible, depending on the accuracy of sea level measurements,? says marine geophysicist John Diebold, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. ?Of course, you really won't know until you get down there.? Collina-Girard plans to dive in the strait in the summer.
The part of Collina-Girard?s theory that does not fit Plato?s Dialogues is Plato?s estimate that Atlantis was ?larger than Libya and Asia put together,? and his assertion that Atlantis sank due to a volcanic eruption.
To learn more, read ?Atlantis in America? by Ivar Zapp and George Erikson, click here.
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