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Atlantis: Was it Geologically Possible?

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Autolocus
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« on: May 21, 2015, 02:16:20 am »

Atlantis: Geological Hypothesis

Atlantis, if it existed, would have been the result of crustal folding as the Africa plate attempted to subduct underneath the Eurasian in the North Atlantic. The northward movement of the Africa plate created a subduction zone all across its border with the Eurasian plate. Approximately 50 million years ago, something caused damage to the plate boundary in the vicinity of what is now the Azores underwater plateau. This damage created an impediment to subduction locally. All northward movement by the Africa plate, here, was converted into crustal folding.

Several million years later, according to R. Searle (1980, "Earth and Planetary Science Letters," v. 51, p. 415–434), a new divergent boundary was created. The mutual boundary between Africa and Eurasia is largely east-west in direction. This new stretch of boundary, called the Terceira Ridge, is toward the Northwest. Something happened. The Africa plate started moving in a different direction.

This Terceira Ridge in the West is a divergent boundary (also called a "spreading center," like the mid-Atlantic Ridge). Farther east before Gibraltar, the boundary is currently only slightly and intermittently convergent. Beyond Gibraltar, in the Mediterranean, the boundary becomes heavily convergent. The pattern is clear. The Africa plate is rotating away from Eurasia in the West, and toward it in the East. But why?

Approximately 36 million years ago, the Africa plate could no longer push against the area of boundary damage. The mountains created there had poked above the ocean surface, creating an island. With an immovable barrier at the new Atlantis, but with continued subduction farther east, the only result would be one of rotation — deflected around the impediment. With this new pattern of plate movement, the linear support of the new mountains was withdrawn. The new angular motion around the area of boundary damage gradually would have weakened those mountains, causing the island to break up over the next several million years.

There is much more to this geological tale. Much of the evidence cannot be included in this short article. Briefly, the damage was not confined to the area of Atlantis, but created stresses across North Africa, breaking off a portion of the plate, creating the new Arabia plate, and forming the Great Rift Valley, still in the process of formation today. Millions of years after the new rotation had started, the damage had crept along the plate boundary toward Gibraltar and resulted in its eventual closure. For nearly a million years, the Mediterranean was cut off from the oceans of the world and dried up. This was the Messinian Salinity Crisis — 5.9–5.3 million years ago. And for awhile, Atlantis was a peninsula of Europe and Africa.

I had always wondered how Plato's Atlantis got its elephants. For 600,000 years, elephants from Europe and Africa could merely walk across to that fabled land.

Atlantis had its effects on the geology of Earth, and also on its climate. But there are also clues that the children of Atlantis — its refugees — may have been matriarchal (ruled by women). From this we may have gotten the myths of the Amazons and the patterns of many cultures across Eurasia and North America. These, however, are the subject of another article.
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