Later tonight, In Search Of will air its season finale, a two-hour search for the lost city of Atlantis. I am not overly enthusiastic about their hunt, and I can’t imagine how it is going to differ from all of the other two-hour Atlantis specials that have aired over the past five years. But in preparation for this, I thought it would be worth briefly mentioning a claim about Atlantis that has been cycling around the internet. A YouTube video claiming that Atlantis is located in Mauritania received a big push over the past two weeks after Russian propaganda site Sputnik picked it up, along with the online British tabloids that follow Sputnik’s lead with clockwork regularity. From there, the story spread to prominent “mystery” sites like Mysterious Universe as it continued its upward ascent to the mainstream
The video claims that that Richat Structure, or the Eye of the Sahara, is an eroded set of concentric rings in Mauritania about 40 km in diameter that geologists have concluded is a natural structure, probably a collapsed magma dome. This, of course, does not preclude it from being Atlantis, but a number of facts mitigate against it:
The video also makes a number of errors. For example, it alleges that the structure was first seen in the 1960s, but it had been described as early as the 1930s and was investigated in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The speaker also uses a measurement of 607 American feet for a Greek stadion, despite the length of a stadion varying wildly across the Greek world. This makes it difficult to develop precise modern measurements from imprecise units.
The speaker claims that the proof that Atlantis was in the Sahara is to be found in Plato’s claims that “Atlantis is part of the Atlantic which is no longer accessible by ship.” He mistranslates a line that is better rendered as “This power [i.e., Atlantis] came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable.” As we shall see, this mistake is important for his argument. Similarly, he offers another passage from a few lines later that he misuses. He says, “Atlantis, when sunk by the earthquake, became an impassible barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.” This is more typically rendered as “But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.” He says this means Atlantis became “landlocked,” but he misses the fact that Plato envisioned Atlantis as being a muddy blockage stopping ships from sailing around it, not that Atlantis dried up a chunk of the sea and became mired in a desert. That’s literally the opposite of what Plato said and meant, as noted by the fact that Plato specifies that Atlantis disappeared underwater in the same sentence that the speaker cites but does not quote.
Funny thing that In Search Of had asked me to appear on their show and fly out to West Africa to hunt for the lost continent. How is it that the same claim pops up all over the place at almost the same time?
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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