Not so, retorted Dr. Jurgen Spanuth, who was familiar with
Plato’s account of Atlantis. "Neither Thera nor Crete lies in the Atlantic …
Neither island lies at the mouth of a great river, neither was swallowed up by
the sea and vanished … in fact this great breakthrough in archaeology is a
bubble that burst long ago." Spanuth wasn’t having any nonsense about some
mythical lost continent lying somewhere in the Mediterranean. Absolutely not.
No, as far as he was concerned, Atlantis was to be found on the sunken islands
near Heligoland off the northwest German coast. He attempted to prove his theory in his 1976 book ‘Atlantis
of the North’ but, of course, could not.
History advises us of other submerged archaeological remains in
the European area. Pliny the Elder and Strabo make reference to the Etruscan
city of Spina in the Adriatic, which was once a thriving metropolis of trade and
culture, but now completely submerged. Similarly, Dioscuria, an ancient Greek
port of considerable size is now beneath the surface of the Black Sea. (1) Other nominations for the location of
‘Atlantis’ within the Mediterranean have included a site off the coast of
Morocco where scuba divers chasing fish discovered a well-built 9-mile long
under water wall traversing an underwater mountain. These ruins were investigated by Dr. J
Thorne who also noted the existence of roads going still further down the
mountain into the inky depths of the sea.
However, T C Lethbridge, a Cambridge archaeologist and
psychical researcher, believed that the missing civilisation’s home could have
been located at Tartessos, which lay between two rivers in southern Spain, just
outside the straits of Gibraltar (the Pillars of Hercules.) It is believed that
the Carthaginians conquered this rich and civilised city before being destroyed
by the 6th Century BCE, however it was reported to have written
records that went back to 6000 year before its disappearance (2).
However, despite these romantic notions, there is no real
evidence that Europe or its environs could have been the location of the missing
civilisation. Indeed Plato, who had suggested the idea of an Atlantis, had
actually stated that the alleged colony lay beyond the ‘Pillars of
Hercules’ at Gibraltar.
And there appears to be some evidence that
it may well have done.
The Azores are a group of islands lying ‘beyond Gibraltar’
that have frequently been proposed as a possible location of the lost
civilisation. The first person to make such a proposal was Ignatius Donnelly
(1831-1901). Donnelly (right) was a respected statesman, who served in the US
Congress from 1863 to 1869 and wrote several works, including a treatise on
‘Atlantis, the Antediluvian World’. In that work he stated:
"Deep sea soundings have been made by ships of
different nations; the United States ship Dolphin, the German frigate
Gazelle, and the British ships Hydra, Porcupine and
Challenger have mapped out the bottom of the Atlantic [Challenger map
below], and the result is the revelation of a great elevation, reaching from a
point on the coast of the British Islands southwardly to the coast of South
America, at Cape Orange, thence south-eastwardly to the coast of Africa and
thence southwardly to Tristan d’Acunha. … The submerged land … rises about 9000
feet above the great Atlantic depths around it, and in the Azores, St. Paul’s
Rocks, Ascension, and Tristan d’Acunha it reaches the surface of the ocean."
that this elevation was once dry land is found in the fact that the
‘inequalities, the mountains and valley’s of its surface, could never have been
produced in accordance with any laws for the deposition of sediment, nor by
submarine elevation; but, on the contrary, must have been carved by agencies
acting above the water level." (4) Donnelly concluded that the area was the
probable location of the missing Atlantis.
The then British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, was so
impressed with Donnelly’s finding’s that he sent a letter of appreciation on
publication of the book, and even went so far as to request that the British
Parliament approve the use of the Royal Navy to search the area for evidence of
the lost civilisation. Unfortunately for Donnelly, the fleet was engaged
elsewhere at the time and so the search never took place. (Unfortunately for
Shakespeare, Donnelly also became famous for discovering a cipher in the bard’s
work suggesting that he had not written all that he was credited for, and that
Francis Bacon was the true author of some of the texts.)
themselves, are constantly subject to volcanic activity; the picture, below, was
taken by the Space Shuttle and shows volcanic smoke over Pico Island. Altogether
there are five active volcanoes situated in the Azores area, and it may well be
that such volcanic activity could account for the disappearance of an entire
civilisation just as it had in Crete.