The Importance of Oceanography
The geological aspect of Atlantis is the most important facet of the whole issue of Atlantis. If the geological story of this planet does not support the existence of a large island in the midst of the North Atlantic, then, to make a long story short, Atlantis is down the tube. Therefore, establishing the feasibility of such a landmass geologically is of paramount importance. In the case of Atlantis, geology and oceanography are closely entwined.
Science confidently asserts that "geologists find no traces of sunken continents in either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans" (Davies, 1979). This in spite of the glaring fact that an extremely large mid-oceanic plateau (known as the Azore Plateau) exists in the North Atlantic, which at a depth of 1600 meters (approximately one mile) is roughly 500 X 600 miles in extentrepresenting a total area of 300,000 square miles.
The Azore Plateau as Atlantis (Capital City: red dot near southern coast). Notice the
level plain in the south and the mountains in the north as described in Plato's Critias.
Equally misleading statements are made, such as the following: "No scientist believes that the sea level rose by anything like five thousand feet [roughly one mile], although much smaller changes are known to have occurred during the Ice Ages." (ibid.) No Atlantologist to my knowledge has suggested a rise in sea level of this magnitude; but sea-floor upheaval and subsidence is a totally different matter, as will be seen in the data given belowall from scientific sources.
The center of the geological story of Atlantis is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Other related aspects are confined to the ocean bottom in the vicinity of the Ridge; therefore these areas, including the Azore Plateau, will be the focal points of this study. I've noticed that the Azore (also called the Dolphin) Plateau is mysteriously all but invisible in the most recent maps of the Atlantic Ocean floor. However, I did locate one beautiful, color-coded bathymetric chart which conveys a reasonably clear idea of its location and extent.
Since I am not an oceanographer, I will rely on the special reports and scientific papers of oceanographers and geologists who have done work in these areas in the past. The data presented below include those of the prestigious Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory at New York's Columbia University, as well as those of other well-known marine research institutions.
For the last hundred years official geology has declared that continents cannot rise or sink. But what do geologists now say about recent evidence of a sunken Pacific continent? "In crustal terms, New Zealand and New Caledonia are continental islands. They are the biggest remnants of a much larger tract of continental crust that is below sea level. They are emergent parts of a largely submerged eighth continent, Zealandia . . . The implication is that Zealandia was a continent that has subsequently sunk, and indeed the geological record strongly supports this idea."International Geological Congress, August 6-14th, 2008.
They now speak of a submerged "plateau" about half the size of Australia made of continental material, much as the Azore Plateau in the North Atlantic. The entire area was upheaved and then later submerged due to tectonic forces, again much as the Azore Plateau: the main difference being that this all happened over a period of millions of years (Campbell, 2008). Evidently large landmasses can rise and sink as long as it is by "tectonic" action, and it happens over long periods of time. But geologically the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is known to be the most intensely active area in our equation, and things tend to happen faster in that segment of the earth's crust.
Objections have been raised as to the placement of Atlantis: why is it that with sea-floor spreading constantly taking place, Atlantis could remain in mid-ocean? A good question, but not one that can't be answered. Actually Atlantis was mainly east of mid-ocean; and if one drops the idea that it was a fragment of Pangaea that broke off from the Euro-African continent, it ceases to be a problem. Plate tectonics is an exceedingly slow process. In geological terms 10,000 years is the blink of an eye. Atlantis was not just sitting there "all created" and at ease: it was periodically wreaked by seimic turmoil, appearing and disappearing more than once.
The forces working against the normal spreading of the ocean floor at the point of the triple junction of the Afro-Euro-American crustal plates involved subduction, obstruction, rotation of plates, and vulcanism, all contributing to uplift (and eventually subsidence) at that point. It should not be forgotten that in spite of the crustal movements attributed to continental drift, the Azore Plateau (which contains loads of continental material) remains near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
The modern theory of plate tectonics (involving "continental drift") does not disprove Atlantis in any way. I've heard professionals in the field make statements like, "This doesn't leave any room for Atlantis!", or "the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is made of basaltic material, it can't be part of a continent!" We will let you decide after you have looked at the evidence presented below.
THE ATLANTIC LANDMASS
Professional geologists have endeavored to make plate tectonicsthe backbone of modern geologyan enemy of Atlantis (Speicher, 1972). Nothing could be further from the truth. Plate tectonics is what created and what destroyed Atlantis. It is also what has made it such an unreliable dwelling place for plants or animals; and the landmass Plato called Atlantis may have gone in and out of existence several times over a period of several millions of years. It was not always the same size or the same shape, and it doubtless had different categories of flora and fauna during these different periods of time. In geological terms it doesn't take long for a landmass to develop some sort of collection of flora and fauna. In a mere thousand years, all kinds of grasses, weeds, bushes and trees will cover any landmass making its appearence in a temperate or tropical zone. Such growth couldn't care less whether the land was made of continental (sial) or basaltic (sima) material. Or whether it was officially a "continent" or not. Greenland is an island. Plato called Atlantis "a large island". So if it was as large as Greenland (a pretty big place), it would still be an "island".
Hydrographic map of Azore Plateau and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Did North America and Europe fit together so perfectly that there was no body of water in between? Evidence indicates that there was a "proto-Atlantic Ocean" even before the continents began to spread apart. This evidence was obtained during a series of core drillings by the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory's Deep-Sea Project. During this expedition it was found that sediments off the coasts of North Africa and North America differed in age some 45 million years. Had the continents been joined the sediments would have been the same age (Hayes & Pimm, 1971). The nature of the samples resulted in Dr. Hayes postulating a 400-mile-wide "proto-Atlantic Ocean" extending from Newfoundland down to at least the Bermuda area.
Moreover the phenomenon known as "continental drift," which is due to the action of plate tectonics, is an extremely slow process. The breakup which left the Americas and Euro-Africa drifting apart began near the beginning of the Mesozoic Era some 200 million years ago. There has been sufficient room for Atlantis in the North Atlantic Ocean for the last 60 million yearsand there is definitive oceanographic data to support this (Ewing, 1948).
Some biologists and zoologists have postulated the existence of a large landmass in the North Atlantic during Miocene times, 12-26 million years ago. Atlantis may have "surfaced" several times during the long geological history of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. But at the moment we are more concerned about the last 2-3 million years, i.e., the Pleistocene Epoch, which ended only 12,000 years ago.
Seismic activity has been somewhat concentrated near the Azore Plateau, roughly 25-30°N Latitude. (Tolstoy & Ewing, 1949) "In the final phase activity was renewed, with volcanism on the crest and faulting on the flanks . . . This last phase may have occurred as recently as the Quaternary." (Cifelli, 1970) Sediments were dated by submarine paleontology.
And the Quaternary does include the Pleistocene Epoch. (Longwell, Flint & Sanders, 1969)
"Climatic catastrophes, which piled thousand of feet of ice on the higher latitudes of the continents, also covered the oceans with icebergs and ice fields at lower latitudes and chilled the ocean waters even down to the equator. Volcanic catastrophes cast rains of ash over the sea." (Pettersson, 1950) There is no question that the geological record of our planet presents "evidence of great catastrophes that have altered the face of the earth." (Ibid.) The question that pertains to our study here is when and where.
But what of the objections concerning the light granitic continental material known as sial (silicon-aluminum)? As stated above, a landmass does not have to be made of sial in order to be above ocean levels long enough to acquire vegetation and animal populations. Granted, if consisting predominately of sima (silicon-magnesium) it will be heavier and therefore unstable, but forces powerful enough to lift ocean bottoms for short periods of time (geologically speaking) certainly exist along the geologically turbulent Mid-Atlantis Ridge. The Ridge is the most active area on the face of the earth, and we will examine the evidence that a central Atlantic landmass has indeed existed several times in the geologic past.
But, in spite of what various geologists have said, there is good oceanographic data showing that much of this area along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is composed of sial, disavowing the scientific objections (Leonard, 1979). Dr. W. Maurice Ewing of Columbia University headed up several oceanographic expeditions along the famous Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
THE OCEANOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS
Prof. Hans Pettersson, leader of the Swedish Albatross expeditions, which extracted hundreds of samples from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean throughout the 1930's, stated that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was mainly above water as recently as 15,000 years ago. A similar conclusion had been reached earlier by the German Gauss expedition, which sounded the Romanche Deep in 1901.
In 1936, Charles S. Piggot's famous U.S. Geological Survey of deep core soundings indicated that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge reached above the surface of the ocean 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Different sediment deposits on each side of the Ridge showed that the Ridge once separated two currents moving in opposite directions. Heavy deposits of volcanic ash on both slopes were dated at 12,000 years ago. (Piggot, 1937)
Commenting on this oceanographic study, Swedish oceanographer Hans Pettersson (1944) wrote: "The topmost of the two volcanic strata is found above the topmost glacial stratum, which indicates that this volcanic catastrophe or catastrophes occurred in postglacial times . . . It can therefore not be entirely ruled out that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the sample originated, was above sea level up to about ten thousand years ago and did not subside to its present depth until later."
Still later, after obtaining sea-bottom cores near the Romanche Deep, Pettersson stated: "One is led to assume that the sea bottom in the Romanche Deep area must, in a remote past, have risen by at least 1000m., and then, after an interval of many thousand years, suddenly subsided to its present great depth, sinking by more than 6000m. This particular part of the Atlantic Ocean is known to have frequent volcanic and seismic disturbances." (Pettersson, 1947)
In 1948 Dr. Ewing, one of the bitter opponents of Atlantis, sailed up and down the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the Woods Hole Oceanographic Expeditions to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Numerous samples of tremolite asbestos were brought up. Ewing made this significant comment: "Such rock is generally considered typical of continents and not of ocean basins." (Ewing, 1948)
Important also was the discovery of "beachlike terraces" beneath two miles of ocean water. Ewing cautiously observed: "It is, of course, extremely radical speculation to identify these level stretches more than two miles below the sea surface as former beaches. Such a theory would require the obvious but almost incredible conclusion that the land has subsided two miles or else the sea has risen by that amount" (Ewing, 1948). However, subsequent expeditions only strengthened the "incredible".
According to Ewing, long flat stretches were detected 2 to 20 miles wide and hundreds of miles long. These beach-like areas were always covered with thick sediments, indicating a long period of deposition, although occasionally separated by mountainous "higher ground" exhibiting no such sediments. (The Central Highland of the Ridge occasionally approaches four-fifths of a mile from the sea surface.) Ewing observed that deep ocean basins never have thick sedimentswhich are the result of surf action and river depositionit is actually shorelines that display thick sediments. More evidence of just how recently such a landmass existed turned up during an expedition the following year.
The follow-up expedition in 1949 turned up numerous core samples from these terraces. These cores contained two different strata of beach sand: the older estimated to be 225,000-325,000 years of age, and the younger 20,000-100,000 years old (Ewing, 1949). Another significant fact is that the deposits were found to be well-sorted by surf action into the usual pattern of shoreline beaches familiar to geologists (Miller & Scholten, 1966). His conclusion was that: "Sometime in the distant past this sand found deep beneath the ocean must have been located on a beach, at or near the surface of the sea" (Ewing, 1949).
During this second Woods Hole Mid-Atlantic Ridge Expedition Dr. Ewing once again dredged up continental type rocks. Sample after sample containing large masses of sial were brought up all along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It became obvious that granite and sedimentary rocks "which originally must have been part of a continent" were abundant (Ewing, 1949). Dr. Bruce Heezen, oceanographer with the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, observed that this type of rock indicates "possible sunken land masses". (Heezen, Tharp & Ewing, 1959)
Geologists have short memories when it comes to Atlantis. A geologist reviewed the Woods Hole expeditions of 1948-1949 barely ten years later and wrote a report on the findings (Cifelli, 1970). I read his report, word for word and cover to cover: not a word was written concerning the numerous findings of continental material (sial) along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Dr. Ewing was puzzled, even dismayed, by these particular discoveries; yet he was honest enough to report them. Why were these astounding facts not included in Richard Cifelli's review? Can professional geologists be this one-sided?
Still another oceanographic expedition, Swedish Deep-Sea Expedition of 1947-1948, yielded core samples containing sand from the Romanche Deep along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Dr. Otto Mellis did not publish these findings until ten years later (Mellis, 1958). Other geologists have guardedly admitted that the Azore Islands (Central Atlantic) are composed chiefly of continental material, some even conceding that there might be enough continental material (sial) in the mid-Atlantic to make up a landmass the size of Spain (de Camp, 1970). This is not much smaller than the size I have been proposing for the island of Atlantis.
TESTIMONY OF SEA FAUNA AND FLORA
Strong evidence indicating the rise and fall of the seafloor more than three miles at a time are the fossilized remains of marine plants and animals. This evidence proves that it is not impossible for large areas of mid-ocean seafloor to have been elevated to the point of becoming dry land, before subsequently subsiding to depths of three miles or more. And this can happen almost over night, geological speaking.
For instance, while exploring the Wyville Thomson Ridge (between Iceland and the Orkney Islands), the Norwegian Polar Expedition (1893-1896), led by Fridtjof Nansen, found large quantities of shells and otoliths of sea animals normally inhabiting only shallow waters. They were found in the seabed at about 72°N Latitude at depths approximating one thousand meters (3300 feet), and onward to the south at depths of twenty-five hundred meters (8200 feet). (Nansen, 1900-1903)
His conclusion was that these areas of the North Atlantic must have dropped thousands of feet (almost two miles in some cases) very suddenly, otherwise the shallow-sea animals would have had time to escape to the continental shelf. This did not take place millions of years agothe time-frame for the subsidence was determined to be not more than 12,000 years ago (i.e., the Recent Epoch).
In the early 1900s the newly built German research vessel Gauss was launched on its first expedition to study the South Atlantic seafloor. The expedition made significant discoveries to the south of our proposed location for Atlantis. Cores were obtained containing sand, granite, gneiss and chrystalline schistall continental materials. Layer "b" also contained minerals forming hypersthenic gneiss (i.e., continental rocks). (Zhirkov, 1958)
Subsequent investigation performed by the Swedish oceanographic research vessel Albatross corroborated these earlier finds: the bottom layer included fossilized remains of benthomic foraminiferra that can only live in depths of 100 to 200 metres. Cores taken at "depths between 2000 and 4000m" (1.25 and 2.5 miles respectively) contained shallow-water globigerina ooze! The conclusion was that the area within the Romanche Deep (one of the deepest parts of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge) had first risen 1000m, then subsided a shocking 6000malmost three and a half miles! (Pettersson, 1946)
Red-clay (a light detrital material from the continents) and calcarous ooze (calcium carbonate from the decomposed skeletons of billions of microorganisms) was deposited along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the Quaternary period. The report by Sclater & Tapscott (1979) states that the calcarous ooze is most predominate near the crest of the Ridge.
In 1957, Dr. Rene Malaise of the Riks Museum in Stockholm announced that a colleague, Dr. R. W. Kolbe, had found proof of the geologically recent subsidence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Dr. Kolbe of the Swedish Museum of Natural History had been commissioned to investigate diatoms found in deep-sea cores obtained during the 1947-1948 Swedish Deep-Sea Expedition. Although the expedition included a globe-encircling study, only those cores taken from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge yielded the following: multitudinous shells of fresh-water diatoms (small lake animals) and fossilized remains of terrestrial plants (Kolbe, 1957). Let me repeat that. Land plants and fresh-water animals were found fossilized on the Atlantic Ocean bottom along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. (See also Kolbe, 1958)
Dr. Malaise theorized that parts of the Ridge must have existed as large islands up to the end of the last Ice Age or later: i.e., as recently as 10,000-12,000 years ago. He also theorized that these landmasses must have had fresh-water lakes in order to account for the existence of fresh-water animals (Malaise, 1956).* Commenting on Malaise' theory, Kolbe writes: ". . . it provides a natural explanation of the layer consisting exclusively of fresh-water diatoms, which is otherwise difficult to comprehend" (Kolbe, 1957).
The six levels of terraces discovered by the Woods Hole expeditions suggest that the Atlantic island was constantly changing shapeas well as being reduced in sizebefore it finally disappeared at the end of the Ice Age. Such geological changes would have been catastrophic to any life living on such a landmass: the unhappy result of the constant violence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. If the Atlantic landmass happened to be inhabited by humans, these violent disturbances could well have been the cause of the four Cro-Magnon "invasions" outlined on the Anthropological page of this website. These well documented invasions impacted the western shores of North Africa and Europe (including Great Britain and other Atlantic islands) and occurred during a time frame of 35,000-12,000 years ago (the last invasion corresponding closely to the date given by Plato for the demise of Atlantis).
Glossary of Terms
*It is more than interesting to note that one of Dr. Malaise' papers (listed also in the Bibliography) is entitled Atlantis en Geologisk Verklighet. This Swedish title, when translated into English reads: Atlantis: a Geologic Reality! I wonder how Malaise' professional career went from that point on. We know what happened to Prof. Hapgood's career after his publication of Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings. [Back]
Campbell, Hamish, et al., "To sink a continent: Exploring the implications of Zealandia's fate," GNS Science, New Zealand, 2008.
Cifelli, Richard, "Age relationships of Mid-Atlantic Ridge sediments," Special Paper No. 124, Geological Society of America, 1970.
Davies, Nigel, "Voyages to the New World," William Morrow and Co., Inc., New York, 1979.
de Camp, L. Sprague, "Lost Continents," Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1970.
Ewing, Maurice, "Exploring the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," The National Geographic Magazine, Vol. xciv, No. 3, September 1948.
Ewing, Maurice, "New Discoveries on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," The National Geographic Magazine, Vol. xcvi, No. 5, November 1949.
Ewing, W.M.; Dorman, H.J.; Ericson, J.N. & Heezen, B.C., "Exploration of the northwest Atlantic mid-ocean canyon," Bulletin No. 64 of the Geological Society of America, 1953.
Heezen, B.C., Tharp, M., Ewing, M., The North Atlantic, Washington D.C., 1959.
Kolbe, R. W., "Fresh-Water Diatoms from Atlantic Deep-Sea Sediments," Science, Vol. 126, No. 3282, 22 November, 1957.
Kolbe, R. W., "Turbidity Currents and Displaced Fresh-Water Diatoms," Science, Vol. 127. No. 3313, 27 June 1958.
Leonard, R. Cedric, A Geological Study of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Special Paper No. 1, Cowan Publ., Bethany, 1979.
Leonard, R. Cedric, "Quest for Atlantis," Manor Books Inc., New York, 1979.
Longwell, Flint & Sanders, "Physical Geology," John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, London, Sydney, 1969.
Malaise, Rene, Sjunket l and i Atlanten, Ymer, Stockholm, 1956. (See also his Atlantis en Geologisk Verklighet, Bibliofilupplaga, Stockholm, 1951.)
Mellis, Otto, Zur Sedimentation in Der Romanche-Tiefe (Ein Beitrag zur Erklarung der Enstellung des Tiefseesandes in Atlantischen Ozean), Geologischen Rundschau, Goteborg, 1958.
Miller, J. P. & Scholten, R., "Ocean, Lakes, and Shoreline Features," Labratory Studies in Geology, No. 225, 1966.
Nansen, Fridtjof, "The Norwegian North polar expedition, 1893-1896: scientific results," Longmans, Green & Co., London New York, 1900-1903.
Pettersson, Hans, Atlantis och Atlanten, Albert Bonniers förlag, Stockholm, 1944.
Pettersson, Hans, "A Swedish deep-sea expedition," Communication by Sir John Edgell, F.R.S., received 18 February 1946.
Pettersson, Hans, "A Swedish deep-sea expedition," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Series B), Biological Sciences, Vol. 134, No. 876, 2 Jul 1947.
Pettersson, Hans, "Exploring the Ocean Floor," Scientific American magazine, August 1950.
Piggot, Charles S., "Core samples of the ocean bottom," Carnegie Institution of Washington News Service Bulletin Staff Edition, 4 (no. 9), 6 December 1936.
Piggot, Charles S., "Core samples of the ocean bottom," Smithsonian Report for 1936, No. 944, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, pp. 207-16, 1937.
Sclater, John G., & Tapscott, Christopher, "The History of the Atlantic," Scientific American, Vol. 240, No. 6, June 1979.
Speicher, John, "Plate TectonicsA Startling New View of Our Turbulent Earth," Popular Science, Vol. 200, No. 6, June 1972.
Tolstoy, I. & Ewing, M., "North Atlantic hydrography and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge," Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, Vol. 60, No. 10, October 1949.
Zhirkov, N. H., as he reports in his book "Atlantida" (English edition, p. 282), Moscow, 1958.
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Version 1.9: Updated: 2 Jun 2011