In the 21st Century, as we try to assess the impact of mass industrialisation on our environment, and as fears grow over climate change, the popularity of the myth of Atlantis, as presented by Plato in his Dialogues is understandable. The story of Atlantis has exerted a powerful hold over the imagination of the Western World for centuries. Since the publication of Atlantis: The antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly in 1882 there have been repeated attempts in the English speaking world to suggest that Atlantis was indeed a real place, and to suggest where that may have been. The attempts have ranged from the scientifically based, for example KT Frost's 1909 theories in The Critias and Minoan Crete, through to the 'new age' occult readings of Edgar Cayce, who fancifully suggested that Atlantis, or a portion of it would re-appear by 1968-69 in the Caribbean. Locations for Plato's Atlantis have been placed from Crete, through to the Azores or off the coast of Cuba, and most recently off the coast of Cyprus. One thing in common with the majority of theories on Atlantis is that the search needs to be conducted underwater. Not so, says Dr, Ulf Erlingsson, geographer, geomorphologist and recognised expert in under-water mapping.
Erlingsson has just published his own hypothesis, to no little amount of controversy. In Atlantis from a Geographer's Perspective he suggests that the Atlantis referred to by Plato could only be in one location, happily above sea level, Ireland.
At the core of his theory are two suggestions. The first is that Plato's description of Atlantis was based upon the geography of Ireland, and the second is that the cataclysmic events described in relation to Atlantis actually refer to the sinking of Dogger Bank, in the North Sea which occurred roughly around 6,100 B.C. Erlingsson's contention then is that the myth of the sunken island is a myth from Atlantis rather than aboutAtlantis. &ldquoI'm arguing that it's a myth from Ireland – says Erlingsson – that it came from the sinking of Dogger Bank. That must have been a tremendous natural disaster, probably the biggest natural disaster since the ice age. I believe that perhaps there was another advanced culture from the North Sea. The original Atlantis may have been Dogger Bank, but then you have the mixing of different layers in the myth”.
His hypothesis rests on certain physical descriptions of the Island of Atlantis, by Plato, that correspond with the physical geography of one Island, that of Ireland. He also suggests that the Empire of Atlantis corresponds with the megalithic culture found in Ireland and from Sweden in the north down to the North coast of Africa.
To put forward any theory on Atlantis, I suggest to Dr. Erlingsson, is to put yourself up for a certain amount of ridicule. For a scientist with a serious reputation (he has previously been awarded the prestigious Linnæus Prize from the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden), there must be a certain risk producing a work such as this? &ldquoIndeed”, says Erlingsson. &ldquoThere is a stigma. A lot of people who have something to contribute in relation to Atlantis, don't want to because they're afraid of being stigmatised”, he explains.
Indeed, several colleagues of Erlingsson's advised him not to go ahead with publication of his book, without even having read it. &ldquoThey advised me not to publish it, not because the contents may be wrong, they hadn't even gone into the arguments of the book, but simply because of the stigma that would be attached – Erlingsson pauses, then continues with a tone that lies half way between self-deprecation, and deadly seriousness – Sometimes a scientist has to do what a scientist has to do. You've got to stand up for something”.