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For centuries, historians, archaeologists and scuba divers have sought — and failed over and over again — to find Atlantis, the glorious ancient metropolis that was lost beneath the waves.
But what if the wave was lost beneath the city? That is, what if the “sunken” metropolis was, in fact, only sunken briefly by a tsunami wave, which wreaked colossal destruction before receding back to the sea.
“Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City” by Mark Adams (Dutton)
That’s the hypothesis of German computer whiz Michael Hubner. He believed what remains of the ruins of the ancient city are, in fact, sitting in plain sight above the Atlantic on the dry, crumbly coastline of Morocco.
Atlantis is not Shangri-La or the Fountain of Youth or the Loch Ness Monster. It is considered likely to have existed — if for no other reason than it was described with great precision by the Greek philosopher Plato himself. Sure, its grandeur was likely embellished, but why would Plato write in detail of a city if it didn’t even exist? And if we accept that it existed, well, where was it?
Hubner’s above-the-waves hypothesis is what author Mark Adams calls “the most convincing on paper” of the handful of theories he chased down in his new book “Meet Me in Atlantis.”
Unlike others “Atlantologists” that led Adams to Malta, the Greek Isle of Santorini and Andalusia, Spain, Hubner supports his belief with data analysis. A ponytailed computer programmer from Bonn, Hubner had compiled a set of geographical traits of Atlantis culled from Plato’s “Timaeus” and “Critias,” the two writings in which the philosopher describes the majestic city. Hubner then used those attributes — 51 in total — for statistical analysis in a mapping program.
Using 51 clues from Plato, Hubner said the legendary city of Atlantis was on the coastline of Morocco.
Plato’s 51 clues included a location near the sea; a location outside the “Pillars of Heracles,” which many believe to be Gibraltar; the presence of elephants; mountains to its north; a ring-like structure of the city; and most importantly it had to be within roughly 3,100 miles from Athens. (This distance Hubner chose using the yardstick of Alexander the Great’s farthest military campaigns.) This circle with Athens at its center covered most of Europe, Africa above the equator and the Middle East.
Hubner applied these 51 variables into a computer program utilizing a map overlaid with a grid of 400 subareas. The more variables that matched any one set of geographic coordinates, the more likely that particular mini-square revealed the location of Atlantis. When the points were tallied, one of Hubner’s 400 squares stood out: a spot on the Morocco coastline about 100 miles south of Marrakesh known as the Souss-Massa plain.
Unlike other would-be discoverers of Atlantis, Hubner didn’t chose a location first and fit his evidence to the theory. He let the computer come up with the GPS coordinates. And then he bought a plane ticket and some hiking boots and went to take a look.
Cresting a ridge in the Atlas Mountains, the computer programmer discovered he stood on the lip of a natural inland depression, a desert basin just seven miles from the sea and nearly enclosed by foothills. At the center was a small mound, similar to the one Plato had described as the center of Atlantis’ capital, surrounded by three concentric wadis, or dry riverbeds. That matched Plato’s descriptions of a city with a circular shape, an island at its center surrounded by alternating rings of land and water.
Plato described Atlantis in two writings, “Timaeus” and “Critias.”Photo: Getty Images (2)
“The measurements for the diameter of his outermost ring and distance of his capital from the Atlantic Ocean varied by only about 10 percent from Plato’s numbers,” writes Adams of Hubner’s findings. “On paper, at least, he made a compelling case.”
Of course, the biggest supposition in Hubner’s theory is that of a tidal wave massive enough to level a city and decimate a population. Yet, once again, the science seems to support the theory. Tsunamis result from earthquakes, and the Souss-Massa was indeed prone to seismic disasters. An earthquake in 1960 had flattened the regional capital of Agadir and left 15,000 dead.
Historically, virtually no archaeology had been done in that part of Morocco. The monarchy “owns all land in Morocco and hadn’t shown much interest in preserving pre-Islamic ruins.”
It’s not an easy sell claiming you’ve discovered Atlantis. Ultimately author Adams finds flaws in all the proposed locations, including Hubner’s, and concludes that maybe Plato’s accounts were a blend of fact and fiction.
Since presenting his discovery in 2008, Hubner also admitted difficulty getting archaeologists involved in examining his findings — as searching for Atlantis doesn’t exactly bring great esteem from the scientific community.
“I tried to get some German experts involved, but in my experience,” Hubner, who died in 2013, told the author, “it’s very hard to get scientists to look at this place. I think I made a mistake by mentioning Atlantis.