Search for "Lost" Atlantis Centers on Strait of Gibraltar

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Reporting this fall in the Proceedings of the French Academy of Sciences, Collina-Girard instead suggested that Atlantis can probably be found where Plato said it was: "An island situated in front of the straits which are by you the Athenians called the Pillars of Hercules Gibraltar," as Critias tells Socrates.

Oceanography shows that sea level at the height of the ice age about 20,000 years ago was more than 400 feet (122 meters) lower than it is today, Collina-Girard said. For the next 15,000 years, the sea rose as ice melted as little as 2 feet (0.6 meters) per century at first and as much as 12 feet (3.7 meters) per century later on.

When the thaw began, there were seven islands at the western end of the Strait and a bit further west, framing a section of the Atlantic in an "inland sea" described by Plato. Atlantis was in mid-channel, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of modern-day Tarifa, Spain, and 12 miles (19 kilometers) northwest of Tangier, Morocco, according to Collina-Girard.

As time passed, the rising sea consumed the islands one by one, until only Atlantis and one other remained. And for its last 300 years, Collina-Girard calculated that sea level at Atlantis was rising about 8 feet (2.4 meters) per century. "A man with a 50-year lifespan would notice it," he said.

From a geological point of view, the Collina-Girard theory is "plausible, depending on the accuracy of sea level measurements," said marine geophysicist John Diebold, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. "Of course, you really won't know until you get down there." Collina-Girard said he plans to dive in the strait in the summer.

Most of his theory fits comfortably with the Dialogues. What does not is Critias' estimate that Atlantis was "larger than Libya and Asia put together," and his assertion that Atlantis succumbed to volcanic eruption.

Copyright 2001 The Record, Bergen County, New Jersey

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