EXCLUSIVE: The Secret Story of the US Government's Involvement in the 1973 Pepperdine Atlantis Expedition
I’ve been reading through the State Department’s declassified diplomatic cables, and I’ve turned up some interesting nuggets.
But the most interesting thing of all has to be a series of diplomatic cables sent from the American embassy in Madrid in response to an expedition launched by a group of Americans under the auspices of Pepperdine University to discover Atlantis off the coast of Cadiz. The school offered students 6 credits for participating. The expedition, led by self-proclaimed “psychic” and Pepperdine audio-video specialist Maxine Asher, then 42, received support from members of Congress, who pressured the Nixon administration to lobby the fascist Spanish government of Francisco Franco for unusual access to the waters off Cadiz. The result of the extraordinary intervention of the American ambassador roused the suspicions of the Spanish government, who in turn decided that such high-level interest must have meant that the boatload of New Age hippies was instead a front for a secret spy mission.
Asher claimed on July 22 to have discovered proof of Atlantis in underwater photographs taken 16 miles (20 km) off Cadiz, but other expedition members conceded they “showed nothing,” according to the New York Times. Asher noted publicly that the Spanish government was giving them trouble over their permits.
In fact, the Spanish had revoked the mission’s permits, setting off a diplomatic incident that reached the office of then-National Security Advisor and incoming Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was kept abreast of developments in Spain. Asher appealed directly to President Richard Nixon to intervene in favor of her mission so she and her colleagues could prove the reality of Atlantis. The Nixon Administration, coming under fire for Watergate that summer, wanted to contain the dispute before it became a full-blown international incident. In off-the-record conversations with international media covering the story, the government dropped its efforts to support the mission, and the media stopped covering the story. Asher’s group left Spain and traveled to Ireland for further investigations of ancient civilizations.
Details of the US government’s involvement in the Atlantis expedition were never made public and, to my knowledge, have not been reported until now.
Asher, unaware of the row her attempts to use the US government to pressure Spain had caused, came to believe that the Spanish were attempting to suppress the truth of her discovery of Atlantis, a belief she maintains down to the present day.
The diplomatic cables make fascinating reading, and I have posted them all here.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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