There was a bit of a buzz late last week about a Google Earth image that some said might show the location of the mythical city Atlantis off the coast of Africa. Reportedly a British aeronautical engineer was playing around with the new Google Earth 5.0, which includes undersea data, and noticed an interesting pattern about 600 miles west of the Canary Islands, that resembled a street grid. Even an excited geologist was quoted as saying this deserved a better look. But Google verified the pattern is just an artifact of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor. The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.
Sorry to dash everyone’s myth-seeking hopes!
“It’s true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa,” a Google spokesperson said. “In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process.
“The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data,” she said. “The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world’s oceans.”
The legend of Atlantis has excited public imagination for centuries. In recent years “evidence” of the lost kingdom has been found off the coast of Cyprus and in southern Spain.
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in the writings of Plato, as a great city that sank into the sea.
In Plato’s account, Atlantis was a naval power lying “in front of the Pillars of Hercules” that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or approximately 9600 BC. After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune”.
Scholars dispute whether and how much Plato’s story or account was inspired by traditional stories of the time.
If you want to see the image yourself, go to Google Earth at this location: 31 15’15.53N 24 15’30.53W.