(Investigator 190, 2020 January)

Atlantis was the name of a continent with a civilization and great cities which all sank into the ocean amidst great earthquakes about 9000 BC.

For centuries obsessive amateurs, sometimes called Atlantologists, have tried to find Atlantis or prove it existed, seeking clues in ancient texts, archaeological and oceanographic discoveries, and complex mathematical calculations.

To simplify a never-ending story I'll state the conclusion right now before continuing:

The conclusion is that the legend has no scientific support. The original source of the story, Greek philosopher Plato, did not intend Atlantis to be taken literally and no archaeological or geological remains, monuments, or artefacts, pointing to Atlantis have ever been discovered. The painstaking, scientific work and research of genuine geologists, oceanographers, archaeologists and palaeontologists over the past two centuries have not identified any place, location or ancient ruins that support the Atlantis legend.

There were cities in the past that sank beneath the waves, or were destroyed by volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes or even asteroid impacts — but nothing is confirmed that corresponds to the Atlantic legend.

Origin of The Legend

The origin of the Atlantis legend is Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 BCE). We do not have an earlier reference or source.

In Plato's books of dialogues titled Timaeus and Critias (the latter unfinished) Critias describes the visit of Solon, an Athenian politician, to Egypt. Critias in the Timaeus says he heard the story of Atlantis as a child from a 90-year-old relative who got the story from Solon.

In Egypt religious leaders told Solon about Atlantis. They portrayed Atlantis as a vast island beyond Gibraltar in the Atlantic Ocean with a technologically advanced civilization. The Atlanteans conquered all the lands of the Western Mediterranean. Their power ended 9000 years earlier, in a mere one day and one night, when earthquakes destroyed the cities, and the island sank beneath the waves, and the people including the military forces perished.

In the 19th and 20th centuries a lot of Ancient Egyptian history and myths were deciphered and translated from hieroglyphics — but nothing about Atlantis.

Plato made up the story of the priestly history lesson about Atlantis, to use the idea of Atlantis to portray an ideal society. Aristotle (384-382 BC), a student of Plato at Plato's academy, does not support belief in a literal Atlantis.

Some Proposed Locations

Many locations of Atlantis have been proposed, getting more incredulous as obvious possibilities west of the Mediterranean were ruled out.

Locations suggested or defended by different writers include:

Swedish professor/anatomist/linguist Olaus Rudbeck (1630-1702) wrote 3000 pages in four volumes titled Atlantica to prove Sweden is Atlantis.

The Arctic/Spitzbergen
Suggested by French astronomer/mathematician J.S. Bailly (1736-1793).

West of Spain and Morocco
10,000 years ago sea levels were 100 metres lower than now and an island of 8000 square miles which is now submerged was then above sea level. Since Atlantis was supposed to be a continent, this submerged island seems too small to qualify. Furthermore, no remains of a civilization have been discovered there.

The Azores
The Azores islands 1300km west of Portugal are a popular guess for Atlantis due to their mid-Atlantic location. The miracle healer and prophet Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), for example, "found" Atlantis in this area by seeing visions: "While oceanographers, geologists, and ordinary sea-divers have been fanning out over the Atlantic for centuries in the underwater quest, Edgar Cayce merely went to sleep, and saw visions of a magic continent which went through three periods of breakup, the last some eleven or twelve thousands years ago." (Stean 1968)

A lost bronze-age city named Tantalis supposedly existed in the Kingdom of Lydia (Western Turkey) and sank beneath the surrounding land. Some connect this story with Atlantis because it has the same letters in its name. Peter James' book Trouble with Atlantis: The Sunken Kingdom advocates Tantalis as Atlantis in great detail but gets a negative review in New Scientist (November 18, 1995).

Crete is a favourite contender as Atlantis. In the 17th century BC the Minoan civilization on Crete, possibly the most advanced civilization of that era, perished when a volcano exploded and unleashed a massive tsunami. This much is history, but the identification with Atlantis doesn't wash because Plato's Atlantis was submerged 9000 years before Plato lived not 1200 years. Proponents for Crete have to argue that Plato exaggerated various numbers by nine or ten times.

American Robert Samast in 2004 claimed Atlantis lies on the sea floor in the eastern Mediterranean.

Scilly Islands — Celtic Sea
This is west of Land's End (the most south-westerly point of England) and about 120 to 140 metres below today's sea-surface. Another location, proposed by Soviet searchers in 1997, is 100km north-west of the Scilly Islands where the depth of the sea is 35 metres. (Mark F.A. Furze, Fortean Times, No. 132, p. 52)

The Antarctica hypothesis imagines that the slow drift of Earth's continents by a few centimetres per year occasionally speeds up into violent convulsions. One such violent episode 11,000 years ago pushed Atlantis thousands of miles south to Antarctica.

Southern Spain
This was announced in 2011 in a film documentary. Atlantis is supposedly located in wetlands north of Cadiz (on Spain's south coast) and was swamped by a giant tsunami which swept inland.

Almost anywhere
Atlantis existed almost anywhere. Some other proposed locations and/or announcements of discovery include Malta (1854); Heligoland (1953); Finland (1985); Bolivia (1998); Troy (1992); Cyprus (2004); Ireland (2004); Canary Islands (2009).

Other Mythical Kingdoms

Atlantis is merely one mythical kingdom among many. Some others are:

Avalon is a supposed lost kingdom in south-west England inhabited by fairies and Druids to where King Arthur was taken to die after being fatally wounded in his final battle. Avalon is commonly linked to Glastonbury.

An area, now submerged, that once connected the coast of Cornwall at Land's End with the Scilly Islands in the Atlantic.

Tir na n'Og
An ancient city off the Bay of Galway on the west coast of Ireland now beneath the sea.

A lost continent now at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean — mentioned by Colin Wilson in From Atlantis to the Sphinx.

El Dorado
A city of gold in northern South America. In the 16th century native Indians observed that the Spanish conquistadors were after gold and may have invented El Dorado to get the Spanish to move on.

A paradise-like valley in northern Tibet, shielded by high mountain ranges, where people live exceptionally long and healthy lives.

An ancient continent that sank beneath the Indian Ocean. Biologists used to interpret similar fauna and flora near the coasts of India and East Africa as evidence for a one-time land-bridge. Around 1970, however, the evidence for slow continental drift became decisive — there is no sunken continent or land bridge in the Indian Ocean.

Prester John
Prester John was the king of a Christian kingdom in Africa, a haven surrounded by Muslim kingdoms. Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) encouraged the story to promote exploration and navigation by Portuguese sailors. East Africa did have Christian areas that resisted Muslim inroads for a thousand years, most obviously Ethiopia, but a "Prester John" is unconfirmed.

Elysium Fields
These are an area which includes the Canary Islands said by Homer (8th century BC Greek poet/story-teller) to be a temperate and lush paradise where the souls of the dead go.


Stephen Kershaw's A Brief History of Atlantis Plato's Ideal State (2018) discusses Plato's writings and finds that Plato was trying to formulate a philosophy of politics and invented Atlantis for that purpose. Plato then gave up the idea of Atlantis, leaving the Critias unfinished and did not even start an intended third dialogue titled Hermocrates. 

Apparently Plato found the fable of Atlantis unsuitable for his political philosophy and instead went on to write Republic and Laws.

The ancients did not know what lay beyond the Strait of Gibraltar. There was trade with Britain and coastal shipping along north and north-west Africa but ships stayed close to the coasts. The Atlantic was therefore an ideal space for Plato to position an imaginary continent since no one could refute it. 20th century oceanographers of course have shown that there was no continent in the Atlantic.

The story, however, so caught the imagination, besides being a reminder of real empires and cities that did exist and perished, that people just wanted to believe. The Atlantis saga was retold and retold and often embellished through the centuries.

In the 18th century Plato's writings became widely known and speculation went wild. A. Antonello writes: "In the second half of the 18th century Atlantis was considered the cradle of the civilization."

Perhaps the great Lisbon (Portugal) earthquake and tsunami of 1755 which killed about 50,000 people demonstrated the possibility of an Atlantis-type event. Many writers also linked Atlantis to the biblical flood story of Noah.

Scientists, occultists, story tellers and attention seekers began to argue for Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean and then almost anywhere from the Arctic to Antarctic.

Foundations of 20th Century Atlantology

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German philosopher, considered Tibet the birth place of civilization founded by the Aryan master race.

Others took this up and connected Atlantis people with Tibetans via migrations after Atlantis sank.

Charles-Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814-1874) was a French historian, traveller and archaeologist who specialized in Mesoamerican studies particularly the Mayas and Aztecs. However, in two books published in 1862 and 1868 he went from science to imagination by arguing that Atlantis was the common centre that linked the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations and provided communication between them. The 1868 book gave a history of Atlantis based on interpretations of Mayan myths. Few if any contemporary scholars accepted his hypotheses.

Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901), US congressman and amateur scientist, relied for evidence on Bourbourg and authored Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882). Donnelly believed Atlantis lay under the Atlantic Ocean and argued that Atlantean-Aryan migrations established some of the great, ancient civilizations.

Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), founder of the Theosophical Society, published an imaginative, pseudo-scientific work of two volumes titled The Secret Doctrine (1888). Blavatsky claimed humans are descended from seven original races one of which originated on Atlantis. She created a migration myth in which survivors of Atlantis settled in Tibet, and established a kingdom called Shangri-La. Here the Aryan race emerged and spread westward to Europe and became the Germanic people.

Lewis Spence (1874-1955), Scottish journalist and occult scholar, wrote five books on Atlantis in the 1920s based on the writings of Donnelly.

And there were many others.

Nazi Expedition 1938-1939

The Atlantis myth contributed to the Nazi ideology that certain "races" are inferior and worthy of extermination.

In 1938 a scientific expedition of five German scientists, members of Germany's SS (security organization), was sent by Heinrich Himmler — chief of police and one of the main Nazi leaders after Adolf Hitler — to Tibet.

Himmler believed Tibet to be the origin of the Aryan race, the tall, superior, blue-eyed, fair-haired Nordic people of northern Europe but wanted scientific confirmation.

The five scientists were also members of Nazi Germany's Ahnenerbe or Ancestral Heritage Organization. This was founded by Himmler in 1935 to discover scientific support for Nazi racial theories. The aim of Ahnenerbe researchers was to investigate the origin of the Aryan race via archaeology and anthropology.

Besides Kant and Blavatsky there were other authors both English and German who embellished the supposed connection of the Nordic people to the racially superior Atlanteans. Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946), a Nazi Party ideologue, added and promoted the premise that inferior races such as the Jews had constantly opposed the efforts of Atlantis survivors and their descendants to spread civilization.

These ideas became popular in Germany and were accepted by Heinrich Himmler who was a member of the German extension of Helena Blavatsky's Theosophical Society.

Himmler sent the 1938 expedition to Tibet to find scientific support for the racist beliefs and racial policies that the Nazis already had. This, the expedition failed to find, certainly nothing about Atlantis or Atlantean migrations.

However, the mere occurrence of an investigative expedition composed of qualified scientists gave Nazi racist theories some respectability and plausibility, at least in Germany.

From Solon to Plato

Critias in the Timaeus says he heard about Atlantis as a child from a 90-year-old relative who got the story from Solon. The only Critias mentioned in biographical dictionaries lived 460-403 BC. He was an Athenian lawyer and politician. If we assume Critias was a child when his 90-year-old relative told him the Atlantis story then the old relative was born about 540 BCE. Solon lived 640-559 BC. He was an Athenian lawmaker who reformed the constitution, set free all people who had been enslaved for debt, reformed the currency, and laid the foundation for Athenian democracy. This historical Solon also spent 10 years in exile including time in Egypt.

However, the numbers don't work out. By my arithmetic Solon died before the 90-year-old relative was born. It appears Plato chose Solon as his source for the Atlantis legend because Greek readers would remember the social reformation Solon initiated, and mentally link this with the ideal Atlantean society that Plato intended to describe.  

Even if we assume that the various transfers of the Atlantis-story from Egyptian priests to Solon, Solon to Critias' 90-year-old relative, the old relative to Critias, and later somehow to Plato, actually took place, Atlantis would still be only hearsay based on previous hearsay, based on earlier hearsay, based on older hearsay. Plato offers nothing substantial to back up the onetime existence of a literal Atlantis

Recent Books


Leonard (1979) argues for worldwide catastrophes around 10,000 BC when Atlantis sunk 2 miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean. He claims that Cro-Magnon people, who he says replaced Neanderthals in Europe and led to modern Europeans, "were in reality Atlantean people." (p. 196) Geneticists however reject this idea and find that humans originated in Africa. The map of Atlantis on Leonard's front cover (oriented with south at the top) is from Mundus Subterraneus (1664) authored by German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher.

Berlitz (1981) also argued for a literal Atlantis, and predicted a new Atlantis-type disaster to start in the 20th century.

Wilson (1996) argued that the Sphinx located near the pyramids is 10,000 years older than generally believed and was constructed by a technologically advanced civilization.

These (and other authors), like earlier Atlantis proponents, bring together many disparate facts and ideas in the areas of archaeology, migrations, fossils, natural disaster records, linguistics, ancient civilizations, planetary line-ups, geology and oceanography while claiming that professionals in these studies got things wrong. Some include in their arguments Hindu legends, ancient flood stories, and flying saucers (even claiming Atlantean kings were human/alien hybrids).

Some claim that Plato was not the first to mention Atlantis — they cite Herodotus who wrote: "The sea frequented by the Greeks beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which is called the Atlantic…" They claim "Atlantic" here means Atlantis; but Herodotus refers to the "sea", not to a continent or city. Another argument is based on the name "Atalanta" who was a Greek princess who, according to legend, agreed to marry any man who could beat her in a foot race. This is the general standard of Atlantologists — they connect legends, myths, events and names that have no plausible connection and come up with ideas whose acceptance requires us to reject much of modern science and ancient history.

For a history of charlatans and alternative facts on the topic of Atlantis since the 19th century read Stephen Kershaw's A Brief History of Atlantis Plato's Ideal State (2018).


Atlantis is unmentioned in ancient Greek and Egyptian writings and mythology prior to Plato. Plato is the sole source and he gave no reason to take Atlantis literally. Oceanographers have not found Atlantis nor professional archaeologists any Atlantean artefacts, and "Atlantologists" don't even agree where Atlantis was located. There never was and at present still is no physical evidence of Atlantis.


Adams, M. 2015 Meet Me In Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to find the Sunken City, Text Publishing

Antonello, A.

Beresford, J. The Nazis and the search for Atlantis, Minerva, May/June 2011, pp 46-49

Berlitz, C. 1969 The Mystery of Atlantis, Granada paperback

Furze, Mark F.A., Cornish Atlantis, Fortean Times, No. 132, p. 52

Kershaw. S.P. 2018 A Brief History of Atlantis Plato's Ideal State, Robinson

Leonard, R.C. 1979 Quest For Atlantis, Manor Books

Monk, P. Epic tale fails to hold water, The Weekend Australian Review, April 7-8, 2018, p.22

Stean, J. 1968 Edgar Cayce The Sleeping Prophet, Bantam Books, p. 224

Wilson, C. 1996 From Atlantis to the Sphinx, Virgin Books