The Mid-Atlantic Ridge – Atlantis revisited

Even today several contrasting theories exist concerning the geographical position of Atlantis, the continent – or perhaps we should say, the island – that disappeared approximately 14,000 years ago. Some researchers try to locate Atlantis in the Mediterranean Sea, believing that the Greek island of Santorini is in reality what is left of Atlantis, while others search for the mythical place off the coasts of Cornwall, England. Some even think that Atlantis may be found near Antarctis.
     Plato's text concerning Atlantis is known to most people interested in the origins of the Atlantis myth, so we will not quote them here. However, one piece of information that Plato seems to be very certain about, is Atlantis' location "beyond the pillars of Hercules" – the ancient definition of Gibraltar. Thus, Plato sustains that Atlantis is to be found somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, probably not too far from Gibraltar – and in the light of this information, it is logical to conclude that the name of the lost island is not casual.
     If we presume that the Atlantic Ocean is the place where we may find traces of Atlantis even today, an important point must be stressed: if Atlantis was actually located in the Atlantic Ocean it could not have been a "continent", considering the morphology of the Earth's crust. The well-documented mechanism of continental drift seems to sustain this conclusion. In fact, if we compare the costal lines of the African and European continents with those of the American continent, we find that there is not sufficient land "left" to justify the presence of an actual "continent", not even in past geological ages.
     Also the sudden disappearance of Atlantis is a mystery. In geological terms, a few years or months represent a very short period of time, which is why the theory that Atlantis may have sunk "in a few hours" is rather weak – especially if we accept the theory of Atlantis being a continent. We may presume that this story is the result of the usual evolution of legends: more probably, the disappearance of Atlantis would have taken place in the course of a period of several months or at least, weeks. However, given the island´s geological background of several years of developing sub-crustal pressure, the scenario of the island´s sudden and disastrous sinking becomes more realistic.
     Following the destruction of Atlantis, when humankind began to record the history of their ancestors, the stories e.g. from Atlantis had been passed on from generation to generation of survivors and their off-spring with varying degrees of accuracy. What would eventually be written down would probably become a tale very different from actual events. The very first historical notions that we possess concerning Atlantis are those gained by Solon from the priests of Ancient Egypt – and another 200 years passed, before Plato wrote the texts where Atlantis is mentioned. Obviously, the story of the lost country has greatly changed through time.

Some researchers have sought the solution of the sudden disappearance of an entire continent in the theory of the inversion of the Earth's magnetic poles – a real phenomenon which, however, does not represent a threat to the survival of continents, and only in rare cases to that of more contained areas such as islands.
     Below, a geologist's condensed explanation of the concepts of the inversion of the magnetic field of the planet and continental drift. Writes dr. Mauro Carta who collaborates with the Italian website www.vialattea.net/esperti/geologia.html :

"The phenomenon of the inversion of the Earth's magnetic field is not connected with any particular glaciation, e.g. the Riss. We are concerned with a phenomenon that is strictly connected with the theory of the movements caused by plate tectonics, and with the expansion of the ocean floor. At the centre of the Atlantic Ocean there is a gigantic ridge which expands for thousands of kilometres in N-S direction, from Iceland in the north to the Bouvet Island in the south. In correspondence with this ridge (named 'mid-Atlantic' because it divides the ocean in two parts), we find submarine volcanic activity, with an incessant production of basaltic crust. In the '60s the theories of H. Hess and D.H. Matthews introduced Plate Tectonics, which repeated the conclusions that German researcher Alfred Wegener had drawn in the 1920s. A very substantial piece of evidence for the expansion of the oceanic crust was the discovery of the magnetic inversion. Practically, it has been discovered that the Earth's two magnetic poles are periodically inverted. The reason for this inversion is yet to be discovered, but the inversion is registered at a microscopic level in basaltic rocks, whose magnetic minerals solidify along the lines of the magnetic field at work during their period of consolidation. The ocean floor of the Atlantic Ocean presents a 'stripe' structure, meaning that moving away from the ridge, the magnetism of the basaltic rocks display positive polarity in one place, and negative polarity in another (the iron-magnetic minerals of an oblong shape display position variations of 180° between each other). As the Atlantic basalts are of an age ranging from 180 million years to very recent structures, this means that at least since the Jurassic until today the two magnetic poles have inverted their position a great many times. (The magnetic poles are not identical to the geographic poles that correspond to those points where the Earth's rotation axis intersects its surface – the magnetic poles are somewhat dislocated; they have their northern point in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago – and the southern one in the D'Urville Sea in Antarctis.)"
(cit. Mauro Carta, Italian geologist)

mid alt ridge

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge – MAR – as it can be seen in NASA's official map
(URL: http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/text/ridge.html)


It is possible to observe that exactly along the ridge in a certain point some higher reliefs are present below sea level, as indicated by the lighter blue colour.
From the geologist Mauro Carta's explanations it results that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) is very active – the dislocations of the reliefs are frequent and vivacious.
However – if we do not find sufficient space for an entire continent to have been present in the centre area of the Atlantic Ocean, how would the original topology of Atlantis have been?
The topographic relief maps that we have at our disposal today speak clearly. In the below image the colour indicates the age of the rocks. The brown and red zones are the most recent ones; they go back to a minimum of 0 years to a maximum of 9.6 million years ago. All the other areas are even older (older than 9.6 million years). Once again, the area that captures our interest is outlined by the white rectangle:

crustalevid

(Detail from the world topografic map at http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov.)

The last expedition in the mentioned area of the Atlantic Ocean saw an American team searching the MAR in the period November 14 – December 14, 2000. Responsible for the team were the professors Donna Blackman (Scripps Institute of Oceanography), Jeff Karson (University of Washington), Deborah Kelley (Duke University) and other experts from a total of eight different American universities participated in the project. The "R/V Atlantis" was the research ship provided by the US Academic Navy – and the aim of the expedition was to study the mineralogical composition as well as the topographical evolution of the so-called "Atlantis Massif".

alvin2

The instrument that would allow the experts to study the ridge at close quarters was "Alvin", a small bathyscaphe capable of diving to great depths and equipped with a mechanical arm for the removal of rock samples. Furthermore, sophisticated sonar and video instruments on the "R/V Atlantis" would contribute to illuminating the results of the research from other angles.
The choice of the area where the research would be concentrated was not casual. Probably previous cartographic studies of images elaborated by satellites have helped the experts select an area where they might obtain the results they were aiming at.

MARexp field

 

This research area, however, does not correspond entirely with the area indicated in the above NASA map (fig. 1), except, perhaps, for the extreme north-eastern area of the chosen spot. The geographical location of the area is c. 30 degrees north. The MAR expedition's web-site, http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/mar/ , explains the purpose of the expedition:

"The unusual thing about the area under study is a large mountain, called the Atlantis Massif, just west of the Mid-Atlantic spreading center at 30°N. The peak of the mountain is 1,700 m (5,000') higher than the usual spreading ridge crest. The width of the mountain is 4-6 times greater than that of most abyssal hills. It is clear that this mountain is a new addition to Earth's crust since it is part of very young and newly created seafloor. The mission is to find out why and how it formed. What forces are responsible for the great height to which rock has been uplifted at this site? What caused a change in the usual style of oceanic crustal formation? When might this area return to its normal state? These are the many questions the scientists seek to answer."
     If the American research team had decided to concentrate their studies in an area located more north-easternly of the Atlantis Massif, they might have discovered other things – perhaps also of an archaeological nature – but the mentioned scientific expedition of course clearly states that their main interests concerned the geological features of the MAR. From the maps of the "National Geophysical Data Center" (NGDC: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov ) it is possible to observe very clearly that a little further towards north-east, a much more interesting relief is located, from an archaeological point of view – it is in fact an area where the attempted recovery of objects might offer evidence of a submerged civilization. Let us observe the maps which are available on the Internet at the NGDC-site (the images are small details of much larger maps, which have not been manipulated in any way. The maps have been developed by the NGDC for didactic and scientific purposes.)

dettsat

 

In the right (eastern) part of this image we find the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar, and part of the north-west African coast. The Spanish and Portuguese islands off the African coast may be observed – and further to the left we see a section of the mid-Atlantic ridge. The area outlined by the while oval corresponds to an area which probably represents the reliefs of a huge island which now lies below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. This area also includes the Azores.
The reliefs which are so clearly observed in the above image are even clearer in a splendid image of the entire planet, where the factor of the Earth's curvature logically improves the visual prospective ( http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/relief_slides2.html ):

dettglobe

It has been possible to study the underwater mountain ranges only since 1973 – in fact, ever since the beginning of space age various satellites have provided spectacular images which indicate without any doubt hitherto unknown details concerning the Earth's crust and the submarine reliefs. Here, we clearly see a submerged shape similar to a peninsula which points in south-west direction, towards the northern coasts of South America. The same reliefs that we find schematically sketched in the first map of this article, the NASA map, are more clearly visible here.
It seems natural to ask, if archaeologists are in search of a sensational discovery - why have none of them ever gone directly to this place, to study the mid-Atlantic ridge in a place where aerial images show such an evident island/peninsula shape?
In an attempt to explain this lack of interest (or, granted, maybe we should say, lack of funds?), admittedly we only have very few references to point to, in order to feel certain that an expedition with the aim of finding Atlantis would yield the results hoped for. Besides Plato's writings which have already been thoroughly discussed by many persons and organizations on the internet, we have only one alternative source that offers any conclusive material on Atlantis. However, to compensate for its singularity, this source directly states the geographical coordinates of the lost island of Atlantis. Logically, where two different sources are in agreement, the probability of obtaining a result increases. Below, we cite the indications of the ethical-philosophical-scientific work of "Toward the Light!":
"The second empire that perished was a large island in the Atlantic Ocean, the so-called Atlantis. In the remote past this island was connected with the southern part of North America, but through volcanic activity it became separated from the mainland.
The shape of the island can reasonably well be compared to a diagonally elongated, inverted Latin "S" – the upper curve at the right, and the lower at the left. The island's northernmost point extended to about latitude 40° North, longitude 34° West. The island extended south to about latitude 25 ½ ° North, and west to longitude 47° West, latitude 27 ½ ° North, and eastward to about longitude 28° West. ..."
- and the detailed information to establish Atlantis' exact location continue. On the base of this information we may sketch the following map (the shape of the island is only approximate):

Atlantis location

From Carsten Skaarup´s book "Kulturriget Atlantis"

Furthermore, in the book "Toward the Light!" we find the information that if we trace an imaginary line from the English town of Plymouth to the centre of the island of Trinidad close to the South American coast, such a line would intersect the length of the submerged island and touch its easternmost and southernmost points. The largest part of the island would lie west of this line.
Those who have hitherto attempted a reconstruction of Atlantis have probably found difficulty when dealing with the factor of the curvature of our planet. It is in fact difficult to trace a line like the one described without being able to work with the Earth-sphere in three dimensions. If we let ourselves be helped by the most recent satellite map from the NGDC, this new prospective reveals some interesting details:

spacc dors

What would the oceanographers/archaeologists find if they actually decided to research the mentioned area, with bathyscaphs equipped with cameras, sophisticated sonars, etc.? After 14,000 years it would certainly prove difficult to find the ceramic objects described by our source:

"The production of clay utensils was widespread. Basins, bowls and vases were often engraved with ornamental animals and leaves, whose outlines were filled in with brilliant colours." ("Toward the Light!", pages 196-97)

It would probably be easier to find other kinds of objects:

"Gold, copper and to some extent silver were all known and used for jewelry and finer utensils, as well as for inlays in the carved wooden images of the gods. Many such images were hewn in stone or formed out of various metallic alloys. The art of building was especially highly developed." (idem, page 197)
     The site of what was perhaps the most impressive construction of Atlantis has been pointed out to us: Atze's Temple – today identified by the name of one of the last high priests of the island. Even today, we have the possibility of observing this temple, because we possess drawings, based on precise instructions from the authors of "Toward the Light!". In the 1930s the Danish architect Knud Brønnum made a model in scale of the temple – the model still exists today.
     Below, the drawing of the temple's façade:

atzes temple

Drawing by Knud Brønnun as presented in Carsten Skaarup's book, "The Victory of the Light over Darkness".

 

Is it scientifically possible, on the basis of the information we possess of Atlantis, to say that we have at last discovered the lost island's geographical location?
The hitherto most reliable text, Plato's description of Atlantis, has been carefully studied by many archaeologists and amateur researchers. The other text mentioned in the above, "Toward the Light!", is a much more recent text; it was first published in 1920.

Plato left us with what is mostly considered fairytale-like and approximate indications – while "Toward the Light!" describes Atlantis' culture and level of civilization very accurately – besides offering the island´s precise geographical position. The above study based on the maps at our disposal today – which most certainly were not available to those persons who wrote down and published "Toward the Light!" – demonstrates beyond doubt that the mentioned geographical coordinates are to be taken very seriously.

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Other links for those who want to learn more about the geological nature of the ocean floor of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the experts' comments may be found at the following URLs:
• From "Science for Everyone", a 'field study' of the MAR containing interesting data on the eruptive processes and the tectonic movements typical of the area: http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/eosdksmith.html
• Exceptional images at: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/2minrelief.html .
The entire site http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov displays various types of geographical maps. A website well worth visiting.

© QPubl and Ulla S. Qvistgaard 2001-2014 – except for material deriving from other sources, all named and provided with direct links in the text.