The Deluge or Noah’s Flood are the commonly used terms when referring to the biblical flood of Genesis. It might perhaps be more accurate to use the plural, as there is evidence of several large-scale catastrophic inundations within the human memory. The Noachian deluge has been the subject of continuous debate: was it real or pure fantasy, was it local, regional or global and is the Ark to be found on Mt. Ararat?
Reginald Fessenden controversially noted in his The Deluged Civilization of the Caucasus Isthmus  that “the traditions were collected, tabulated and compared. This developed the fact that there were only five traditions of an inundation of more than local character.”
1. The Greek tradition; of Deucalion; the Aegean, 100 to 250 miles southwest of the Black Sea.
2. The Egyptian-Phoenician; of Atlantis and the Greeks; the western and northeastern shores of the Black Sea.
3. The Cimmerian; of the Crimea; the north shore of the Black Sea.
4. The Hebrew-Babylonian; of Noah and Atra-Hasis; the southeast shore of the Black Sea.
5. The Phrygian; of Noe; the south shore of the Black Sea.
The Flood of Noah is an echo of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic, which in turn has a resonance with the deluge story of Manu in Indian mythology. If all three relate to the same event it would be of great interest to discover if there was a shared origin.
Noah is the hero of the Deluge story in Genesis. He was also an accomplished shipbuilder and viticulturist. According to some he was also an Atlantean! Cosmas Indicopleustes a 6th century AD theologian and geographer from Alexandria wrote of Atlantis as a large island in the western ocean. He also added a twist to the tale by recording an ancient tradition that Noah had resided on Atlantis! More recently, Frank Joseph [108.85] has endorsed this daft idea.
Interestingly, so many of the deluge stories include a scenario where the ’hero’ is warned of impending doom. To me, this would make sense that where a landbridge was threatened by gradually rising waters on one side, simple observation would have provided adequate time to warn those at risk on the other side.
Another identification, by Robert Bowie Johnson Jr., is that Noah is Nereus in Greek mythology and widely depicted in Greek art(c). Confusingly, it has also been suggested(a) that Enoch, usually accepted as the grandfather of Noah, was the same person.
According to Plato, Atlantis was destroyed by the gods as a punishment for their wickedness, while the same reason is given in the Bible for the obliteration of Noah’s people. Coincidentally, both Atlantis and Noah’s homeland, which was probably located in Mesopotamia, were destroyed by water leading to the not unreasonable suggestion that the two stories are related.
While the biblical account of the Deluge does not stand up to detailed scrutiny(j), the global ubiquity of Flood stories is seldom adequately explained. Some possibilities that occur to me are related to the ending of the last Ice Age, which had watery consequences around the world. While the rising sea level took place in fits and starts, there were more dramatic events during this period such as the huge meltwater lake discharges and Heinrich Events that occurred across North America and Eurasia. The effect in the southern hemisphere was less spectacular. Survivors would have been forced to migrate in all directions, bringing their account of these floods with them. Another explanation, but in my view, a more likely cause of global floods would have been a close encounter with a large extraterrestrial body, an idea promoted by various researchers such as Emilio Spedicato.
Apart from the story of the actual flood, global or otherwise, the detailed biblical account of the building of the Ark along with the gathering of the animals and the voyage itself does not hold water (sorry)(y). Some decades ago, Roger A. Moore offered a forensic study of the account, which, is still impressive(x).
In March 2019, a paper by Roger M. Pearlman put forward another radical idea, namely, that Göbekli Tepe had been founded by Noah (Noach) and his sons(u).
A more light-hearted look at the story of Noah is also worth a read(n).
Every aspect of Noah’s Deluge story in the Bible has been a source of controversy for centuries. From the nature and cause of the Flood itself, as well as the building of the Ark and its final resting place and of course the date of the event.
Some years ago, Pastor Bertrand L. Comparet (1901-1983), a staunch racist(w), denied that the Flood of Noah had been a global event(v).
2018 began with matters hitting rock-bottom when an English-language newspaper offered the following headline(l) “Turkish academic claims Prophet Noah used a cell phone to call his son before the flood.” Unsurprisingly, Jason Colavito has covered this story with an interesting blog(m).
Plato’s Atlantis story contains a curious reference in Timaeus (23a-c) to a series of floods that occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean(ah) since the Atlantean war, namely, those of Ogyges, Deucalion and Dardanus. If based on historical fact, on its own, the Biblical Flood or the breach of a landbridge cannot explain this succession of inundations but suggests that there could be a much more complex story, still to be revealed, which was spread over millennia.
Anastasios Stamou presented a paper [750.183] to the 2008 Atlantis Conference in which he reviewed the evidence relating to three floods that befell ancient Greece and alluded to by Plato. Drawing on ancient Greek texts including the Parian Marble, he places these events in chronological order beginning with the flood of Ogyges, then Deucalion’s and finally that of Dardanos.
Stamou accepts that conventional wisdom has it that these flood events occurred in the 2nd millennium BC and based his paper on that assumption. However, he expressed serious doubts about this dating suggesting a much earlier date for some inundations and promising a future paper dealing with this revision.
Stephen Oppenheimer mentions  three sudden ice melts, 14,000, 11,500 and 8,000 years ago that would have had a global effect. It should be considered that the second date is close to Plato’s apparent date for the destruction of Atlantis.
Since writing, as we know it, did not develop until long after de-glaciation, it is virtually impossible to precisely identify the date, location or extent of any of the early myths relating to these possible de-glaciation inundations.
Similarly, Gérard Gertoux places the Deluge circa 3200 BC in a lengthy paper(z), in which he also controversially touches on subjects such as radiocarbon dating, the age of the patriarchs, the Ice Ages, evolution and more.
China has its own ‘Great Flood’ tradition, which in the August 2016 edition of Science journal had its reality given strong support in a paper(bi) by a mainly Chinese team of researchers, who date the event to 1920 BC.
Recent years have seen the above-mentioned flooding of the Black Sea or even more controversially, the flooding of the desiccated Mediterranean basins, following the breaching of a suggested landbridge at Gibraltar, proposed as possible sources of the story of Noah in the Bible. These inundations are dated to around 5600 BC and their memory should have survived in the traditions and mythologies of the region. In addition to that, the Persian Gulf is also accepted by many to have been dry during the last Ice Age but also began to flood around 5000 BC. In Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea and the Celtic Shelf both suffered post-glacial inundations, while around the same time in the South China Sea the enormous Sunda Shelf suffered extensive flooding.
On a more controversial level, Donald Patten and Samuel Windsor presented evidence  for a series of close encounters between Mars and the Earth during the 1st millennium BC. David Rohl, the Egyptologist, dates Noah’s Flood to 3114 BC  and links it with the climatic consequences of a major catastrophe in the Aleutian Islands.
Alexander and Edith Tollman linked the Noachian Deluge with the consequences of a cometary impact in 7552 BC. On the other hand, G.F. Dodwell the Australian astronomer, after studying ancient gnomons, concluded that it was a worldwide catastrophe in 2345 BC that altered the Earth’s tilt, leading to the Deluge. This is comparable with the 1696 claim by William Whiston that the earth had an encounter with a comet in 2346 BC, which caused the Flood of Noah. Emilio Spedicato advocates 3161 BC as the date of the biblical Deluge(ac), which has also been endorsed by Stuart L. Harris(ad).
When Ryan & Pitman(ae) published their 1997 theory that around 5600 BC, the Black Sea had been flooded by water from the Aegean breaching the Bosporus, it did not take long before it was speculated that the event was reflected in the story of Noah’s Deluge. With little delay, strong objections to the idea were raised by many others(af).
T.R.Holme has an interesting article(ax) on the flooding of the Black Sea and the migration from the region that resulted. He also links that event with the work of the late Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994).
Nick Thom, an engineering lecturer at Nottingham University has written The Great Flood  which gives an overview of many Flood myths, but more importantly, he identifies the emptying of glacial Lake Agassiz around 6250 BC as the mechanism which caused a tilting of the Earth, which in turn generated a global deluge remembered by the survivors in myth and later recorded in scriptures. This is also fully outlined in a lengthy entitled, A Re-interpretation of the 8.2ky BP Event(ag). Also relevant to our subject is his claim that the flow of water was from the Black Sea into the Aegean rather than the other way around!
The most radical date for the Flood of Noah comes from Rich McQuillen who in a 2022 paper “links the flood of Noah to the flood of Ahmose and Atrahasis, and shows it to be a real flood caused by Santorini”!(bv)
Jeffrey Goodman, the controversial author of Psychic Archeology , maintains that “Noah’s Flood was, in reality, a tsunami caused by a comet” and supports this contention with a retranslation of Genesis 7:11 (ar).
Kirk Kirchev in a recent (April 2018) two-part article(bb) “offers a unifying scientific hypothesis that connects diverse ancient flood myths with mainstream scientific fact.” and concluded that “If my calculations and assumptions are correct, an object of around 900 km in diameter passing the earth at an altitude of less than 1000 kilometres (621.37 miles) (of average, rocky density) would be large and heavy enough to create a strong localized tidal uplift in the oceans beneath its flight path (approximately 50 times the current tidal amplitude). That is large enough to destroy most of humankind, and a large portion of the fauna, but small enough to not cause a major extinction event or to disturb earth’s orbital path and rotation.”
Immanuel Velikovsky’s controversial cosmological ideas suggest that our Earth had at one point been a satellite of Saturn! In his unpublished book, In the Beginning (bk), he proposed that “The conflict between the larger planets resulted in long-stretched filaments ejected by a disturbed Saturn to cross the Earth’s orbit. The hydrogen of the planet combined with the oxygen of the terrestrial atmosphere in electrical discharges and turned into water” and so generated the Deluge!
In 1993, Alexander Tollman and his wife Edith published, Und die Sintflut gab es doch. Vom Mythos zur historischen Wahrheit, “which claimed that Noah’s flood was the consequence of a bolide impact about 9500 years ago, and supported the claim through geology (impact craters, iridium, shatter cones, stress lamination of minerals, radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, a peak of acid in the Greenland ice) and legends and folk traditions.”(bj) Christian O’Brien has endorsed the Tollmans’ ideas(bl).
Aloys Eiling (1952- ) a German researcher has offered a variation on the close encounter theory, suggesting that the Deluge was one of the consequences of the capture of our Moon that took place when our planet was already populated – somewhere between 40,000 and 13,000 BC. He notes(bn) that “the capture of the Moon caused worse than a flood; it changed the geography of the world. Earth’s surface was devastated, millions died, and life in total was brought to the brink of extinction. In the collective memory of mankind, the event indelibly remained in the myths about a Deluge.”
Nevertheless, there is one rather disturbing element to be found alongside some of the flood myths, namely that the deluge event was concurrent with the sun seemingly standing still and in some cases, it is recorded that the Moon also appeared to stop(o)(av)! One explanation on offer is that it is a reference to an eclipse(aw). This might be acceptable if it was compatible with other myths from different parts of the world, which does not appear to be the case. Furthermore, it does not explain the association of the stopping of the sun with the global deluge. A very close encounter between the Earth and another large celestial body might.
As I see it, we are left with the two popular explanations for the global flood myths, either a close encounter with an extraterrestrial body that created a megatsunami that was on such a scale that it swept around the globe, perhaps many times before dissipating or the melting of the Ice Age glaciers produced the cyclical bursting of ice-dams and landbridges and the inundation of vast areas of low-lying land. I’m inclined to believe that the balance of probabilities favours the latter explanation, although I find it difficult to accept that gradual deglaciation would or could have generated floods that ‘covered mountains’ (Gen. vii.19)!
Other floods may have been caused by tsunamis resulting from underwater earthquakes and/or storegga. Quite recently it was discovered(bh) that around 6000 BC, a calamitous tsunami was generated in the Mediterranean when Mt. Etna in Sicily sent approximately 6 cubic miles of rock and rubble crashing into the sea. One could be forgiven for speculating that this event may have triggered the flooding of the Black Sea, which is dated to this same period.
GLOBAL or LOCAL
The scientific case against a global deluge is presented in a paper by Lorence G. Collins.(bt)
An interesting overview of traditional as well as modern thinking regarding the possible historical reality behind the Deluge of Genesis is presented(ai) by Robert Squillace on the New York University website.
On January 1st 2010 it was revealed(b) that a 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet which, unlike the biblical record, describes an ark made of reeds, 70 metres in width and round in shape(aj)(ak). This would have been recorded a thousand years before the Genesis story was written down. Understandably, this has caused the knickers of some fundamentalist Christians to become seriously twisted! The discovery has now been expanded on by a cuneiform specialist at the British Museum, Irving Finkel, in The Ark before Noah . Jason Colavito offers an interesting review of the book(d).
Even more radical is the result of a high-tech study of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls which suggest that Noah’s Ark was pyramidal in shape(al)! Commenting on this report, Jason Colavito has pointed out that the concept of a pyramid-shaped ark is not new(am).
There is an unexpectedly large number of books written over the last century on the subject of Noah’s Ark that is listed on a specialist website(e). One such offering, resurrected by Jason Colavito(f), provides some comic relief with the claim in 1922 by C. E. Getsinger, who wrote that Noah’s Ark was the Great Pyramid!(g) Even earlier, John Taylor (1781-1864) claimed  that Noah had built the Great Pyramid! Nevertheless, a recently deciphered fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls has suggested that the Ark was shaped like a pyramid!(h)(i)
Barry Warmkessel also entered the fray with the suggestion that aliens had been involved in the design and construction of the Ark(r)! Nevertheless, that idea certainly competes with the suggestion of Xavier Séguin that the ‘Ark’ of Noah had been an Earth satellite(aa)!
Even more radical is the claim by Hebrew scholar Richard Seary that the Ark never actually existed, but that conventionally accepted understanding of the Genesis text is the result of some incorrect translations(aq). One example is that there is no such material as gopher wood and that the word ‘gofer’ means lava!
A life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark was due to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Holland in the summer of 2016(an). It was built over four years by a carpenter, Johan Huibers, completing it in 2012. It is 410 feet long, 95 feet wide and 75 feet tall. It weighs 2,500 tons and is said to hold more than 5,000 people at any one time. However, there is no provision for live animals! The replica was sold to Aad Peters, a Dutch artist, who in 2019 brought it to Ipswich in Britain. Unfortunately, it has been impounded by the authorities there as it lacks the appropriate paperwork to permit it to leave. There are also serious concerns regarding its seaworthiness and it is also clocking up port fees of £500 a day(ao)(ap).
UBIQUITY OF FLOOD MYTHS
Flood myths are found throughout the world and for centuries were seen as confirmation of the reality and universality of the Biblical Flood of Noah. However, when it was discovered that the Earth had endured a series of Ice Ages and that following each of these, the melting ice caps led to worldwide inundations with consequent immortalisation of these events through locally developed myths, it led to speculation that Noah’s Flood may have been just a regional but a catastrophic event. It is also probable that separate regional inundations would have occurred as deglaciation continued at the end of the last ice age, so when recounted through mythology many centuries later they may appear to refer to a single global event.
The competing concepts of global deluge versus local inundations are discussed in a brief paper(bc) by L. James Gibson, who concluded that “these local floods do not explain important features of the biblical flood.”
Nevertheless, megafloods are not necessarily only caused by tsunamis and melting glaciers. “A 43-day storm that began in December 1861 put central and southern California underwater for up to six months” a catastrophic event that is now generally forgotten. An extensive 2013 article(bd) in Scientific American has full details.
These ancient flood stories are to be found to contain content with a remarkable similarity of detail. It is worth pointing out that none of these legends ever recount the ‘hero’ of their particular tale returning to his former home. One simple explanation for this might be that the original homelands no longer existed. This would not normally be the case if the floods in question were tidal, storm-driven or even giant tsunamis. However, if the inundations were the result of rising sea levels, resulting from the melting of Ice Age glaciers, we could expect two principal effects. The first would have been the gradual submergence of all low-lying flood plains that are now identified as continental shelves. Two of the best known of these would be the Sunda Shelf (Sundaland) and the area stretching from the west coast of mainland Europe across the North Sea encompassing the British Isles and into the Atlantic beyond Ireland. The second effect would have been the dramatic inundation of valleys and basins protected by low landbridges or dams. Again, we have examples, some debatable, such as the Baltic, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and perhaps the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Sea of Japan.
An extensive and more general collection of Flood myths can be found on the internet(be). A USGS list of the world’s greatest floods, ancient and recent, is available as a pdf file(bf). Similarly, a website by Mark Isaak offers an extensive overview of flood myths around the world, although the site does not appear to have been updated for some years(bg).
Despite the existence of these huge collections of worldwide flood myths(ay) there appears to be one glaring omission, from all such databases, namely a contribution from Egypt where, inexplicably, there is no such deluge tradition apart from the predictable annual flooding of the Nile. However, there is the Egyptian story of Hathor/Sekhmet(az)(ba) who flooded the land with blood, which some may interpret as a mythological code for water!
The flooding of all these worldwide locations would have occurred quite slowly over an extended period following the last Ice Age, possibly providing the basis for the widespread existence of these flood myths. However, it could not explain the biblical claim that the flood covered mountains.
Dhani Irwanto, author of Atlantis: The Lost City in the Java Sea , offers a number of interesting articles on his website including an extensive overview of the ubiquity of Deluge stories, concluding with the following comment “Thus, Noah and the waters of the great Flood are not only recalled in the ancient traditions of all nations, but their names have also become incorporated in many and varied ways into the very languages of his descendants. The trails are tenuous and often almost obliterated so that some of the inferred connections are speculative and possibly mistaken, but the correlations are too numerous to be only coincidental, thus adding yet one more evidence for the historicity of the Great Flood.(bs)“
Many Atlantologists have sought to link the Deluge with the inundation of Atlantis. Egerton Sykes was a keen supporter of the idea. Joseph S. Ellul has interpreted the biblical story to support the idea of a landbridge at Gibraltar, which eventually collapsed when the waters of the Atlantic rose after the last Ice Age. Ellul maintains that Genesis 7:11 ‘All the springs of the Great Deep broke through’ is a reference to the percolation of the Atlantic waters, through the Gibraltar dam, which eventually led to its collapse as the sea level rose or was shattered by seismic or tectonic movements. I find it hard to accept this, because the pressure that is exerted by the Atlantic, would have rapidly changed any such seepage into a major breach and the subsequent collapse of the dam. Gerhard F. Hasel, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology offers a more conventional interpretation of “the fountains of the great deep” in a paper with the same name(ab).
Nevertheless, 2017 finished with renewed interest in Noah’s Ark being generated by media reports(k) of statements emanating from The Geoscience Research Institute, which is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which claims that a 2010 expedition to Mount Ararat in Turkey, carbon-dated timbers found there to 4,800 years ago.
A sceptical 2019 article has looked critically at many aspects of the story of the Ark, including the most commonly offered Turkish site as the resting place of the Ark – “One of the most famous supposedly-Noah’s-ark sites is the admittedly very boat-looking Durupinar site in the Mount Tendurek area in Turkey. According to Atlas Obscura, the site was exposed in the late 1940s after a series of earthquakes and storms.”(an)
The late David Allen Deal was another investigator to propose the Ararat region as the landing place of the Ark, with Mt. Judi (Judi Dagh) as the specific location(o). A more recent article supports his ideas(p).>David Rohl has also been drawn to Mt. Judi as a probable contender(bu).<The precise location of the biblical Ararat is a matter of continuing and intense debate(q).
The UK’s Daily Mail added that talking after the initial claims in 2010, Mike Pitt, a British archaeologist, said the evangelical explorers had yet to produce compelling evidence. He said: ‘If there had been a flood capable of lifting a huge ship 2.5 miles [4km] up the side of a mountain 4,800 years ago, I think there would be substantial geological evidence for this flood around the world. And there isn’t.’
In his 2020 book, Apocalypse , Dr Sean Welsh agreed that Noah’s Ark finally rested on Mt. Ararat, but took everyone by surprise by claiming that it was not Ararat in Turkey but Ararat mountain on Crimea’s Kerch Peninsula! Welsh does not explain where Shinar was in relation to his Ararat. Conventional wisdom locates it in southern Mesopotamia, placing them around 2,500 km apart.
Angelo Palego was an Italian researcher who spent 35 years seeking Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat (Mount Agiri) on the Turkish-Iranian border(bq). Unfortunately, in 2021 he fell ill while in Turkey and died on August 15th, aged 86, and in accordance with his wishes was buried on the slopes of Mt. Ararat(bp).
However, a more valuable offering was a paper(ab) delivered in 2008 to the Sixth International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, PA by Anne Habermehl. She finished her contribution, Review of the Search for Noah’s Ark, with the following conclusions;
“(1) It would appear that the Ark cannot have landed on Mount Ararat, because scientists have shown that this mountain did not exist until some time after the Flood had ended. (Also, the area that Mount Ararat occupies was probably not yet included in Urartu at that time.)
(2) In light of historical and geographical considerations, Mount Cudi near Cizre, Turkey, is the most likely place where the Ark landed.
(3) It seems doubtful that anyone has actually seen the Ark anywhere in modern times. The alleged sightings all seem to evaporate on careful examination.
(4) It is unlikely that very much of the Ark exists today; it is probable that over the millennia it has decayed, and various scavengers have taken most of it away.
(5) Because of 14C dating problems, it may not be possible to prove that any given samples are or are not the right age to have come from the Ark.
(6) More archaeological work needs to be done if we are ever to reasonably prove the Ark’s landing spot anywhere.
(7) It is probable that no matter what is found in any location, there are those who will remain unconvinced.
(8) Interest in finding the Ark is unabated, and the Ark search will go on.
At the end of the day, we have to face the reality that it may be difficult, or even impossible, ever to prove where the Ark landed. This author would have liked to end on an optimistic note for the soon recovery of a largely intact, proven Ark, but this seems unlikely; and this paper therefore ends, in the words of T. S. Eliot (1925): “Not with a bang but a whimper.”
In 2021, author S.H. Scholar in a short book entitled Heavenly Flood  modestly claimed to have “uncovered history’s greatest secret – the influence of ancient astrology on the development of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood Tale.” John McHugh has also offered a comparable zodiacal link with the biblical Deluge story in The Celestial Code of Scripture  which has been critiqued by Gary D. Thompson(bm).
Eugenio Ralbadisole who advocates India as the home of Atlantis also locates the landing place of Noah’s Ark in the same region. Based on texts in the Vedas where “we read that a man after a catastrophic flood arrived with his ship full of animals in a village called Naubandhana. A location with similar names can be found near “Barda Hills” in Gujarat.” (bo)
(g) The Thomson Review, Thomson, Illinois, July 19th, 1922 – p.3,
(r) Archive 3514
(aq) Fortean Times, April 2014, p.55
* See Atlantis Vol.6, Nos.1,2&3, May, July & September 1953
The Patriarchs referred to in Genesis and their seemingly exaggerated longevity have been a source of continuous debate ever since biblical criticism developed in the 18th century. Cornelius de Pauw referred to the apparently exaggerated life spans of the biblical patriarchs explaining that it was widespread in the Middle East and further afield to name a dynasty or family after its founder and attribute the total years of its reign to that founder. [1756.258]
Emilio Spedicato in a paper(f) entitled Large Numbers in Asian Chronology Decrypted includes some radical ideas on how to resolve the mystery of the ages of the patriarchs recorded in the Bible.
A paper(a) by an unnamed and apparently deceased author was published by Duane L. Christensen. It approaches the ages of the patriarchs from a numerological standpoint with some curious conclusions. I’m wary of all such occult claims but will leave it to readers to decide.
Another paper by Dean Talboys, entitled Methuselah Debunked(b)(c)(d) offers a convoluted explanation for the ages based on Babylonian astronomy/astrology.
>Philip Coppens has also touched on a possible astronomical explanation for the patriarchal numbers(g).<
(e) https://www.academia.edu/17026643/Noah_and_the_Deluge_Chronological_Historical_and_Archaeological_Evidence (around one-third of the page down)
Klimasturz(e) is a word, coined by Rutger Sernander (1866-1944) a Swedish botanist and archaeologist, meaning a ‘plunge’ in climate that leads to major or minor ice ages. It is a term used by some writers to describe a rapid climate deterioration such as the Younger Dryas.
Immanuel Velikovsky entitled chapter 11 of his Earth in Upheaval ‘Klimasturz’ as it is concerned with evidence of rapid climate changes resulting from the global catastrophes that he claims occurred in both the 15th and 8th centuries BC.
Asteroids, Comets and Meteoroids are all relatively small objects that inhabit our Solar System. When any of them have orbits that intersect with that of the Earth they are known as Near Earth Objects or NEOs. Asteroids (a word coined by William Herschel [1738-1822]) used to be known as minor planets, while meteoroids is the name applied to asteroids that are less than 50 metres in diameter, although some use 10 metres as the classification threshold.
Meteorites have had a history of being considered divine in origin, leading to different levels of veneration in various cultures(v). In the 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria is said to have concluded that “the worship of such stones to have been the first, and earliest idolatry, in the world.”
What is probably the first recorded death from a meteorite strike took place in India in February 2016(z).
Comets, until recently, were generally thought to be composed of just dust and ice, ‘dirty snowballs’, which have orbits that periodically bring them close to the sun at which stage the interaction of the comet’s dust trail with the solar wind produces a highly visible coma or tail. The nucleus can have a diameter of a couple of kilometres.
The chemical composition of comets is now known to be varied and much more complex than previously believed. In 2015, Comet Lovejoy was ejecting the equivalent of “500 bottles of wine every second” when it was closest to the sun, in the form of ethyl alcohol(w). A close encounter with the Earth would have been interesting!
In 1883 a large comet is estimated to have come within a few hundred miles of Earth. It was photographed and some years later the image was hailed as the first image of a UFO!
In recent years comets have come to be seen as potentially more dangerous than asteroids in the event of a collision. This view was graphically demonstrated when the Levy-Shoemaker comet crashed spectacularly into Jupiter in 1994, after breaking up into as many as 21 large pieces before impacting. This comet was originally about 20 km in diameter. However, the distinction between comets and asteroids has been blurred by asteroids sometimes displaying the features of comets, such as asteroid P2013/P5, which in 2013 produced six cometary-like tails.
In 2022, a report offered evidence that major cometary or asteroidal impacts or airbursts have been more frequent than previously thought. University of Cincinnati’s Professor Kenneth Tankersley and his colleagues have listed many such events that are known to have occurred since one apparently wiped out the dinosaurs. The most disturbing fact is the number of encounters experienced within historical times, for example – “Archaeologists have found meteorites, microspherules, iridium and platinum anomalies, and burned charcoal-rich habitation surfaces at 11 archaeological sites of the Hopewell culture in three states stretching across the Ohio River Valley. While Hopewell people survived the catastrophic event, which occurred between 252 and 383 CE, it likely contributed to their cultural decline.” (as) Jason Colavito is critical of this claim“because the Hopewell did not enter a terminal decline after their proposed impact date of c. 255-300 CE but flourished for another 200 years.”(at)
In 1752, the French astronomer, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, expressed the view that “However dangerous might be the shock of a comet, it might be so slight, that it would only do damage at the part of the Earth where it actually struck” and with coincidental foresight added “ Perhaps we should be very surprised to find that the debris of these masses that we despised were formed of gold and diamonds” considering how Richard Firestone and his associates more recently used the existence of nanodiamonds to confirm the cometary impact of 11,000 BC over North America.
Asteroids and comets have been blamed for the demise of Atlantis since the end of the 18th century. It was the Italian polymath, Giovanni Rinaldo Carli, who in 1788 declared  that part of a passing comet hit the Earth and was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. A century later in his second book  on Atlantis, Ignatius Donnelly similarly claimed that a comet’s collision with Earth was the cause of Atlantis’ destruction(af). Comets rather than asteroids were initially blamed because of their high visibility. However, as our technology advanced and we gradually became aware of the number of large asteroids that intersect with the Earth’s orbit they replaced comets as the more likely cause of historical impacts.
For some decades, Bob Kobres has been studying the evidence for cometary encounters contained in ancient mythologies and their possible association with known events(ah) such as the creation of the Carolina Bays or the Bronze Age Collapse(ag).
The early part of the 20th century saw the eccentric William Comyns Beaumontand the mysterious Hans Schindler Bellamy both supporting the idea of Atlantis being destroyed by an encounter with an extraterrestrial object. The theory has been adopted by a growing number of popular modern writers such as Otto Muck, Egerton Sykes, Andrew Collins, Paul Dunbavin, Karl Jürgen Hepke(a), Frank Joseph explains[102.108] how a number of scholars encouraged by Muck, came forward to publicly state their belief that Atlantis had been destroyed by an extraterrestrial impact or impacts: “They included the world’s foremost authority on Halley’s Comet, Dr M.M. Kamienski, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences; Professor N. Bonev, one of the 20th century’s leading astronomers at the University of Sofia, in Bulgaria; and Jack Hills, of the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory”.
In 1971, Sykes’ Atlantis magazine devoted an entire issue to the matter of impact craters around the globe(ak),>a subject that he also wrote about a few years earlier(av).<
Emilio Spedicato of the University of Bergamo has written(b) and lectured widely on his hypothesis that the last Ice Age was started by an extraterrestrial impact over a continent and ended with a similar event over an ocean. This second impact was the cause of Atlantis’ destruction and Spedicato specifies Hispaniola as containing the location of its capital.
Spedicato is not alone in believing that impacts by large objects have been responsible for the triggering of past Ice Ages. As we have seen a large number of writers have suggested an impact with the Earth as the primary or at least the secondary cause of the destruction of Atlantis(d). These cosmic collisions have occurred throughout the history of our planet, continuing to this day. Most of the impact material is small and burns up in the atmosphere. Some low-density objects have penetrated the atmosphere but disintegrated before actually impacting, generating powerful shock waves commensurate with their size. Such an event was the well-known Tunguska(i) explosion over that area of Siberia in 1908.
Commenting on the Tunguska event Stephen E. Franklin added that “Less than five hours after the Tunguska object exploded at 7:14 AM local time in Siberia, another fireball was seen over Kagarlyk near Kyiv in what is now Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) at around 7:00 AM local time followed by the impact of a 1.912 kg stony meteorite.”(ad)
In 2001, Dr Luigi Forschini one of the leaders of an Italian expedition to the Tunguska region studied some of the 60,000 fallen trees and for the first time, they also had access to previously untranslated eye-witness accounts. They concluded that the object had arrived from the southeast at about 11 km per second and that an investigation of its likely orbit concluded that it was more likely that the intruder had been an asteroid rather than a comet. They speculated that it was probably not much more than ‘a pile of rubble’ that broke up completely, leaving no crater(aq).
The most recent (April 2020) Tunguska theory is that it could have been caused by an iron asteroid partially entering and then leaving the atmosphere!(aj) The most bizarre Tunguska suggestion is that it was the result of experiments carried out by Nikola Tesla(al). Another claim is that a massive explosion of escaping underground gas was the culprit(am). July 1st 2021 another update on Tunguska theories revealed very little that was new(ao).
Two similar explosions occurred over South America in the 1930s(ar). However, some are large enough to survive the journey to the surface. Depending on the size, density, speed and angle of approach, the consequences of a large impact are difficult for the average person to appreciate. As Austen Atkinson wrote “A single impact by a rock the size of (London’s) Millennium Dome could devastate the surface of the globe with an explosive release of energy five times more powerful than the entire world’s nuclear arsenal. On 19 May 1996, just such an object came within 280,000 miles of Earth: six hours from a collision. Humankind could have been eradicated.”
The most famous impact is probably that which is known as the Chicxulub Event in the Yucatan took place 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. A 2017 update on Chicxulub studies was presented(ap) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.
A more recent (2019) paper(ae) reports that “excavations in North Dakota reveal fossils of fish and trees that were blasted with rocky, glassy fragments that fell from the sky. The deposits show evidence also of having been swamped with water – the consequence of the colossal sea surge that was generated by the impact.”
>The Chicxulub event may have been more complicated than generally thought, as a 2022 report revealed that “researchers have now uncovered another crater off the coast of Guinea that might well be Chicxulub’s cousin. The newly discovered feature, albeit much smaller, is also about 66 million years old. That’s a curious coincidence, and scientists are now wondering whether the two impact structures might be linked. Perhaps Chicxulub and the newly discovered feature—dubbed Nadir crater—formed from the breakup of a parent asteroid or as part of an impact cluster, the team suggested.”(aw)<
The Yucatan impact has a rival claimant in the Indian Ocean as the dinosaur killer, known as the Shiva crater. This is claimed as the largest multi-ringed impact crater in the world(an).
11 million years later another impact in the Atlantic is credited with the expansion of the mammals according to a new study by co-author, Dennis Kent from Rutgers University.
An online calculator of impact effects was developed by scientists at Purdue University and Imperial College, London was first published in 2004 and recently updated(g).
By 2009 175 large impact craters have been discovered all over our planet, many more are undiscovered having been destroyed over time by wind and water erosion or hidden by vegetation. In 2006, a crater with a diameter of 30 km was discovered in the Southern Egyptian desert. This discovery may solve a mystery in the same region that has baffled science for over seventy years, namely, the Libyan desert glass that covers an area of 60 x 100 km. However, the largest known impact crater is the Vredefort crater in South Africa with a diameter of 300 km (186 miles). But this may have to take second place to the 300-mile-wide crater identified in Hudson Bay in North America.
The spectacular collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter in July 1994 and how it disintegrated into a number of huge pieces before impacting over seven days, may offer one possible explanation for the mechanism that could produce the apparent clustering of 3rd millennium BC impacts on Earth.
The current estimate is that there are more than 2,000 asteroids exceeding a kilometre in size together with 10,000 over half a kilometre plus millions of smaller items in Earth-crossing orbits; collectively known as ‘Apollo objects‘. The meteor that exploded over central Russia in February 2013 belonged to this Apollo group. Add to this the risk from comets, normally larger than asteroids, and it is obvious that large-scale impacts are inevitable, however infrequent. The good news is that in 2011 it was reported that a NASA space telescope recorded a 40% reduction in their earlier calculation(j) which should be compared with the assessment referred to(f) at the end of the last paragraph of this entry. May 2012 saw further estimates being published(l).
Terminology, definitions and number estimates are constantly changing. Asteroids that are more than 100m across with orbits that come within 7.5 million km of Earth are now referred to as PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids). As of June 2014, the IAU has listed 1,466 PHAs, while NASA estimates put the actual total in excess of 4,700(q).
As recently as 1953 an asteroid impact with the Moon was photographed as a flash and only in 2002 was the resulting 2Km- wide crater identified. The estimated energy released by this 300-metre-wide object on impact would have been half a Megaton of TNT (35 times the Hiroshima bomb). A hit of this magnitude on Earth could have wiped out a large city.
It must be kept in mind that the immediate damage caused by the impact itself is only the beginning of the story; tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes together with worldwide long-term dust veils could trigger climate change leading to ongoing adverse effects on vegetation and animal life. For humans, this meant death, destruction, floods, repeated crop failures and probably a breakdown in any existing civil order.
It was as recent as the 1930s that geologists were being told that Meteor Crater in the Arizona desert was the only known evidence that an impact, with worldwide consequences, had ever taken place. The site is also known as Barringer Crater after the family who owns it. Until recently, it held the record for the largest impact crater less than 100,000 years old; it’s about 49,000 to 50,000 years old and measures 0.75 miles (1.2 km) in diameter. That is, until 2019, when the Yilan crater was discovered in China, which measures about 1.15 miles (1.85 km) across and likely formed about 46,000 to 53,000 years ago, based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal and organic lake sediments from the site, the NASA statement says(au).
It was also in the 1930s that the first of the Apollo objects were identified. Since then, the number of large identifiable impact craters grew to hundreds and the number of Apollo objects, whose impact would have global implications, became thousands. It then became obvious that the Earth as we know it is at serious risk. World authorities are slowly realising that the probability of similar impacts in the future is simply inevitable.
Until recently, statistical analysis indicates a major impact every 10,000 years; with the last such event occurring 12,000 years ago possibly destroying Atlantis, directly or indirectly. However, in 2006, this estimate was revised downward to a major collision every 1,000 years with the last impact having taken place around 2800 BC, in the Indian Ocean, where an 18-mile diameter crater has been discovered at a depth of 12,500 feet.
However, a paper(x) published in October 2015 has suggested that a study of mass extinctions over the past 260 million years appear to have taken place every 26 million years coinciding with major asteroid/comet impacts.
So far 175 large impact craters(e) have been discovered all over our planet and many more are undiscovered having been destroyed over time by wind and water erosion or hidden by vegetation. In 2006, a crater with a diameter of 30km was discovered in the southern Egyptian desert. This discovery may solve a mystery in the same region that has baffled science for over seventy years, namely, the Libyan desert glass that covers an area of 60 x 100 km. However, the largest known impact crater is the Vredefort crater n South Africa with a diameter of 300km (186 miles). But this may have to take second place to the 300-mile-wide crater identified in Hudson Bay in North America. A 2015 report tells of two impact zones that total more than 400 kilometres across, which were identified in the Warburton Basin in Central Australia(t).
Although it appears that similar suggestions have been made since the 1950s, the debate has now reached a new level. The Hudson Bay feature has generated even greater interest since Richard Firestone, a nuclear physicist together with Allen West and Simon Warwick-Smith published their claim that it was created around 11,000 BC and had human witnesses who preserved their memory of it in their local folklore and that may have been responsible for the extermination of the Clovis people(ai). Firestone’s tentative 11,000 BC date for this event is earlier than Plato’s even more questionable 9600 BC date for the destruction of Atlantis might be connected since the event described by Firestone & Co. would have had global consequences and could have affected any suggested Atlantis location. In 2007, at a news conference during the Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union, in Acapulco, Mexico, two archaeologists from the University of Oregon, Douglas J. Kennett and Jon M. Erlandson added geological evidence to support Firestone’s thesis. In 2008 evidence of an exploding comet/asteroid over Canada during the same period was presented(c) by other academics from the University of Cincinnati. However, it must be noted that the Firestone hypothesis has encountered some criticism since the start of 2009 and must therefore be treated with due caution. This criticism appears to be gaining support according to a May 2011 report(h). In June 2012, James Kennett, son of Douglas Kennet mentioned above, was part of a team who announced further evidence of a major impact event 13,000 years ago extending from Pennsylvania and South Carolina as far as Syria(m).
Dr Reinoud de Jonge has written several articles(d) that drew on petroglyphs in Brittany to support his contention that the Earth had an encounter with a cometary body in 2345 BC. This would appear to complement the work of Mike Baillie and George Dodwell, who echoed William Whiston’s proposed date of 2346 BC, for an encounter with a comet that caused the biblical Deluge.
Since only 30% of our globe’s surface is exposed land, it is reasonable to conclude that 70% of impacts will have landed in water, leaving little lasting evidence. However, at least ten of these identified impact craters occurred after the last Ice Age and at least seven of them date from around the third millennium BC, a period when there were widespread cultural collapses.
In a recent book the renowned dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie, has outlined compelling evidence from his discipline combined with ancient mythologies to support the idea of extraterrestrial impacts in early historical times. May I suggest that the mythologies that possibly relate to multiple impacts are in fact recollections of a comet that had been visible for some time before breaking up under the gravitational influence of our planet before impact? This idea was developed by Baillie in a subsequent book written with Patrick McCafferty that focused on Celtic mythological figures. Comets rather than asteroids are more likely to have contributed to the development of myths since an asteroid would not have been visible long enough for it to develop an identity that would be remembered in legend. Graham Phillips has gone further and proposed that a close encounter with a comet in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC triggered the development of monotheism at that time. Furthermore, he contends that as the Earth passed through this comet’s tail, it introduced large quantities of the amino acid, vasopressin that heightened aggression in humans leading to large-scale conflicts worldwide. This comet, 12P/Pons-Brooks is due for another close encounter with Earth in 2024.
A 2012 paper(o) by Fernando Coimbra investigates the influence of unusual astronomical events, in particular comets, on the subject matter of rock art. An earlier paper(p) by Coimbra looks at the swastika as a specific example of a reflection of such an event.
Mythologies, worldwide, offer evidence of these impacts and have been subsequently reinforced by classical writers who describe in non-scientific terms the effects of these extraterrestrial assaults. Pliny wrote in his Natural History (Book II, sec 91) of ‘A terrible comet was seen by the people of Ethiopia and Egypt, to which Typhon, the king of that period, gave his name; it had a fiery appearance and was twisted like a coil, and it was very grim to behold: it was not really a star so much as what might be called a ball of fire.’
Similarly, the Greek myth of Phaëton has been interpreted as a record of an encounter with a comet. Edith and Alexander Tollmann also identified an 11,000 BC impact with the Köfels region of the Austrian Tyrol as one of the impact zones. The interpretation of ancient legends and myths is a matter of subjective response, but the volume of such evidence is so great that the probability of a number of major impacts being within the memory of man, who relayed the experience down to us through the medium of tradition, is quite high.
The fact that our Earth is continually at risk of a cosmic collision, the physical evidence of recent and past collisions, the recording of impacts on the Moon and Jupiter compounded with stories in ancient mythologies offer strong grounds for accepting the possibility of Atlantis being destroyed as a result of a collision with an extraterrestrial object as a credible working hypothesis.
While an asteroid impact destroying Atlantis is relatively easy to accept, some authors have proposed even more dramatic scenarios where the impact was so great that it caused the Poles to change position and/or the Earth’s outer mantle to move relative to the inner core. There is little doubt that cosmic collisions of all the possible natural catastrophes pose the greatest possible threat to life on earth. There is an interesting website(c) that discusses both catastrophes and Atlantis. Another site(e) has a small collection of images of impact craters as seen from space. 2010 produced a frightening upward reassessment of the asteroid threat(f).
In 2001, NASA(k) identified 1,000 asteroids and comets orbiting close to Earth that are capable of causing catastrophic damage to our planet in the event of a collision. An interesting map was published(n) in February 2013 showing the locations of 34,513 impacts dating back to 2300 BC.
Recent deliberate encounters with comets and asteroids have produced images and data that have raised questions about the traditional description of comets being composed of ice and rock. The lines between asteroids and comets are becoming increasingly blurred and new definitions are required(r). The trend now is to see asteroids and comets as part of a continuum. Evidence is emerging that the H20 previously associated with comets may have been OH radicals(s).
The 2014 landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko would appear to have destroyed the ‘dirty snowball’ description of comets, coined in 1950 by the noted astronomer, Fred Whipple, and should now be abandoned.
Although large asteroids or comets have caused and will again cause global catastrophes on a scale that we can only imagine, they are not the greatest potential threat to our existence. It is estimated that our galaxy, like others, is also home to free-floating giant gas planets untethered to any star, which, if they wandered our way, could not only obliterate our planet but de-stabilise our solar system.(u)
Terry Westerman offers a fascinating overview of possible global impact sites on his fully illustrated website(y).
Fortunately, the death and destruction caused by comets are balanced by the probability that they are also the source of life on our planet. This idea is gaining greater acceptance with a further paper(aa) offering additional supportive evidence published in April 2016.
Nevertheless, improved vigilance is required if we are to believe Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario, whose research in 2014 concluded(ab) that hazardous asteroids are 10 times more likely to hit Earth than previously thought!
(q) BBC Focus Magazine, July 2014, page 67.
(ak) Atlantis, Volume 24, Nos 3/4, April-July, 1971.