Sea level changes
Sea Level Changes. Recent years have seen the production of ever more detailed data relating to sea level changes following the last Ice Age. In 2006 researchers discovered that the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska was created around 9000 BC, a thousand years earlier than previously thought.
Such changes could have had a direct bearing on the Atlantis mystery, particularly if Plato’s assertion that its inundation took place 9600 BC is true, as this would place the event at the end of the last Ice Age and the melting of the glaciers with the consequent raising of level of the oceans. Although we are usually given the impression that this deglaciation progressed steadily it would appear that in reality the process continued at different rates and was at times temporarily reversed.
Recent studies(f) have clearly indicated that aboriginal Australians have preserved memories of the rising sea level at the end of the last Ice Age.
A 2000 report(c) from Dr. Robert Baker and Professor Peter G.Flood from the University of New England in New South Wales, suggests that 4,000 years ago sea levels “may have been up to two metres higher than at present, and that sea levels have risen and fallen like a roller coaster over the last 6,000 years.” I would expect that sea levels two metres higher around 2000 BC would have left archaeological evidence on a global scale. Until that is forthcoming, I would treat this claim with caution.
Estimates of the total change in sea levels vary between 300 and 500 ft. The most recent studies have estimated the rate of sea level rise at an average of one metre per century punctuated by occasional increased rates of 2.5 metres per century(a). To complicate the picture further, many areas in northern latitudes that had been depressed by the weight of the enormous ice sheets of the last Ice Age, rose considerably as a result of isostatic rebound when the glaciers melted.
There is general agreement that the raising of the sea levels had dramatic consequences worldwide. Vast landmasses, such as Sundaland, the Celtic Shelf, and in the Caribbean were totally or partially submerged, leaving many of today’s islands as remnants. Communities that had flourished in these regions during the last Ice Age must have been devastated and naturally led to the generation of myths recalling their former glory. Atlantis is assumed to be one such legend with a firm basis in reality.
Other, more controversial effects have also been proposed, such as the breaching of a landbridge that had existed between Spain and North Africa at Gibraltar and/or a similar isthmus between Sicily and Tunisia. James Bramwell reports that in the 1930’s geologists spoke freely of the breaching of a Gibraltar dam around 15,000 years ago. More recently, writers such as Joseph S. Ellul, Sergio Frau and Paulino Zamarro have convincingly based their Atlantis theories on this concept. The Mediterranean sea level is discussed elsewhere.
Other writers have proposed an asteroidal or cometary impact as the cause of catastrophic flooding, but such inundations would have receded fairly rapidly. In the end we are left with the ending of the last Ice Age as the primary cause of profound changes in the topography of our planet that probably included the submergence of one civilisation that we now refer to as Atlantis.
However, Plato introduces another detail into his Atlantis narrative, namely that following the submergence of Atlantis it created a maritime hazard in the form of shoals. Plato wrote that “wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal of mud which the island created as it settled down.” (Timaeus 25d). The implication of this is that the shoals still existed in either Solon’s or Plato’s lifetime. We must also keep in mind that the draft of ships, such as triremes, at that time was about a metre. The attached chart shows how between 5000 BC and the present, the rate of sea level has been relatively slow. Even allowing for any local seismic, tectonic or isostatic activity I would interpret the data to suggest two important facts; first, the flooding of Atlantis could not have taken place before 5000 BC and still be a hazard in the first millennium BC and secondly if it occurred after 5000 BC Atlantis must be still in shallow water.
Kurt Lambeck has demonstrated from a study of Roman fish pens that the sea level along the Italian coast, 2000 years ago, was 1.35 metres below today’s levels. His investigations also included a study of land elevations along the coast that may have been affected by seismic or tectonic processes and found that they had raised the land by 1.22 metres, indicating that global sea levels had risen by just 13cm over the past two millennia, most of which has occurred over the past century(d)! Lambeck’s conclusions have been severely criticised by Izabol Apulia(e).
Furthermore, if the destruction took place before 5000 BC then either Solon or Plato concocted the description of the shoals, which would have no purpose whatsoever!
Sea level changes in the Gulf of Mexico are discussed in an online pdf file(b). In the same region, there is now claimed to be evidence(g) confirming that sea levels were lower during the last Ice Age and that the Yucatan Peninsula was very much larger.
(e) See: Archive 2566
Kurt L. Lambeck (1941- ) is Professor of Geophysics at The Australian National University in Canberra. He has carried out a study in many parts of the world of sea level changes and together with A. Purcell presented a paper to the 2005 Melos Atlantis Conference with the tantalising sub-title of “Was Atlantis on the doorstep of Athens”.
Lambeck particularly charts the reduction of the Cyclades from a landmass of approximately 160 x 85 km (13,600 km2) to the archipelago we know today, which has an area of 2,572 km2.
He suggests that a memory of the break-up of this large landmass may have been the source of Plato’s Atlantis. His findings in the Aegean have been published in Antiquity and maps of sea level changes, based on his investigations, are also available on the Internet. It is interesting to compare Lambeck’s findings with the theory of Paulino Zamarro who firmly places Atlantis in the Aegean.
Lambeck’s sea level data has been harshly criticised by Izabol Apulia(d), who has developed a large series of maps showing the ancient coastlines of most Mediterranean islands at various stages since the Last Glacial Maximum.
Lambeck has also studied the Persian Gulf and concluded that it had been a fertile valley that was inundated after the last Ice Age forcing the inhabitants to move inland and leading to the establishment of the intriguing Mesopotamian civilisations such as the Sumerians. This flooding of the Persian Gulf(b) may have inspired the Epic of Gilgamesh which contains a Deluge story, accepted by many, to be an earlier version of the Biblical flood of Noah. The December 2010 issue of Current Anthropology discusses this subject and suggests that the flooding of both the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea took place around the same time(c).
(d) See: Archive 2566
Cesare Emiliani (1922-1995) was born in Bologna, Italy and is often referred to as the founder of paleoceanography. In 1975, at the University of Miami, Emiliani reported measuring deep-sea cores, taken from the Gulf of Mexico, that demonstrated a shockingly rapid rise of about 325 feet in the world’s sea level — a rate of metres per decade — around 11,600 years ago. When he remarked casually that this was exactly the time Plato had given for the fall of Atlantis his offhand remark was met with severe comments from his peers.
In conversation with Peter Tompkins he suggested that putative Atlantis sites such as the Azores, Spain and locations off the East Coast of the United States could all have been part of the Atlantean empire[802.193].
Emiliani was the translator of Zdenek Kukal’s book Atlantis in the Light of Modern Research (Earth Science Reviews Vol.21).