ATLANTIS AND THE WASHINGTON POST
Andrew Collins on Monday 14th October 2002.
The following story on the underwater discoveries off Cuba appeared
in the WASHINGTON POST on Thursday, 10 October, and other regional papers
the following day. My own comments on the article are pasted below together
with a response from George Erikson made on Tuesday 15th October.
`In Cuban Depths, Atlantis or Anomaly?: Images of Massive Stones 2,000
Feet Below Surface Fuel Scientific Speculation' by Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign
10, 2002; Page A25
HAVANA -- The images
appear slowly on the video screen, like ghosts from the ocean floor.
The videotape, made by an unmanned submarine, shows massive stones in
oddly symmetrical square and pyramid shapes in the deep-sea darkness.
Sonar images taken from a research ship 2,000 feet above are even more
puzzling. They show that the smooth, white stones are laid out in a
geometric pattern. The images look like fragments of a city, in a place
where nothing man-made should exist, spanning nearly eight square miles
of a deep-ocean plain off Cuba's western tip.
"What we have here is a mystery," said Paul Weinzweig, of
Advanced Digital Communications (ADC), a Canadian company that is mapping
the ocean bottom of Cuba's territorial waters under contract with the
government of President Fidel Castro.
"Nature couldn't have built anything so symmetrical," Weinzweig
said, running his finger over sonar printouts aboard his ship, tied
up at a wharf in Havana harbor. "This isn't natural, but we don't
know what it is."
The company's main mission is to hunt for shipwrecks filled with gold
and jewels, and to locate potentially lucrative oil and natural gas
reserves in deep water that Cuba does not have the means to explore.
Treasure hunting has become a growth industry in recent years as technology
has improved, allowing more precise exploration and easier recovery
from deeper ocean sites. Advanced Digital operates from the Ulises,
a 260-foot trawler that was converted to a research vessel for Castro's
government by the late French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Since they began exploration three years ago with sophisticated side-scan
sonar and computerized global-positioning equipment, Weinzweig said
they have mapped several large oil and gas deposits and about 20 shipwrecks
sitting beneath ancient shipping lanes where hundreds of old wrecks
are believed to be resting. The most historically important so far has
been the USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana harbor in 1898,
an event that ignited the Spanish-American War.
In 1912, the ship was raised from the harbor floor by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers and towed out into deeper water four miles from the
Cuban shore, where it was scuttled. Strong currents carried the Maine
away from the site, and its precise location remained unknown until
Ulises's sonar spotted it two years ago.
Then, by sheer serendipity, on a summer day in 2000, as the Ulises was
towing its sonar back and forth across the ocean like someone mowing
a lawn, the unexpected rock formations appeared on the sonar readouts.
That startled Weinzweig and his partner and wife, Paulina Zelitsky,
a Russian-born engineer who has designed submarine bases for the Soviet
"We have looked at enormous amounts of ocean bottom, and we have
never seen anything like this," Weinzweig said.
The discovery immediately sparked speculation about Atlantis, the fabled
lost city first described by Plato in 360 B.C.. Weinzweig and Zelitsky
were careful not to use the A word and said that much more study was
needed before such a conclusion could be reached.
But that has not stopped a boomlet of speculation, most of it on the
Internet. Atlantis-hunters have long argued their competing theories
that the lost city was off Cuba, off the Greek island of Crete, off
Gibraltar or elsewhere. Several Web sites have touted the ADC images
as a possible first sighting.
Among those who suspect the site may be Atlantis is George Erikson,
a California anthropologist who co-authored a book in which he predicted
that the lost city would be found offshore in the tropical Americas.
"I have always disagreed with all the archaeologists who dismiss
myth," said Erikson, who said he had been shunned by many scientists
since publishing his book about Atlantis. He said the story has too
many historical roots to be dismissed as sheer fantasy and that if the
Cuban site proves to be Atlantis, he hopes "to be the first to
say, 'I told you so.'"
Manuel Iturralde, one of Cuba's leading geologists, said it was too
soon to know what the images prove. He has examined the evidence and
concluded that, "It's strange, it's weird; we've never seen something
like this before, and we don't have an explanation for it."
Iturralde said volcanic rocks recovered at the site strongly suggest
that the undersea plain was once above water, despite its extreme depth.
He said the existence of those rocks was difficult to explain, especially
because there are no volcanoes in Cuba.He also said that if the symmetrical
stones are determined to be the ruins of buildings, it could have taken
50,000 years or more for tectonic shifting to carry them so deep into
the ocean. The ancient Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is only about
5,000 years old, which means the Cuba site "wouldn't fit with what
we know about human architectural evolution," he said.
"It's an amazing question that we would like to solve," he
But Iturralde stressed that the evidence is inconclusive. He said that
no first-hand exploration in a mini-submarine had been conducted, which
would provide a much more comprehensive assessment. He said a remote-operated
video camera provides only a limited perspective, like someone looking
at a close-up image of an elephant's toe and trying to describe the
The National Geographic Society has expressed interest and is considering
an expedition in manned submarines next summer, according to Sylvia
Earl, a famed American oceanographer and explorer-in-residence at the
"It's intriguing," Earl said in an interview from her Oakland,
Calif., home. "It is so compelling that I think we need to go check
Earl said a planned expedition this past summer was canceled because
of funding problems. But she said National Geographic hopes to explore
the site next summer as part of its Sustainable Seas research program.
Earl has visited Cuba and described the preliminary evidence as "fantastic"
and "extraordinary." But she stressed that as a "skeptical
scientist," she would assume that the unusual stones were formed
naturally until scientific evidence proved otherwise.
"There is so much speculation about ancient civilizations,"
she said. "I'm in tune with the reality and the science, not the
myths or stories or fantasies."
As they search for answers, Weinzweig and Zelitsky have suddenly become
involved in a new mystery -- the discovery of a potential blockbuster
shipwreck. They said that on Aug. 15, their remotely operated vehicle
came across what appears to be a 500-year-old Spanish galleon that they
had been searching for.
They declined to name the ship, fearful of other treasure hunters, but
they said it carried a priceless cargo of emeralds, diamonds and ancient
artifacts. By contract, they said they can keep 40 percent of the value
of whatever they recover. They said the value of findings at the newly
discovered wreck could far exceed the nearly $4 million that their private
backers have so far invested in their operations.
Weinzweig said a closer examination is needed to prove the ship's identity.
He said that in treasure hunting, as in the search for Atlantis, there
is no substitute for science.
"One thing is legend," he said, sitting on Ulises's bridge.
"Another is the hard evidence you find on the ocean floor."
(c) 2002 The Washington Post Company
So, nothing new out
of Cuba, other than mounting speculation that National Geographic are
considering a manned submarine expedition to the underwater site off
western Cuba as part of its Sustainable Seas research programme. Thus
finally the meagre evidence obtained from the sea bottom by ADC, using
a remote operating video, could be superceded by the results of a more
hi-tech exploration next summer. This we all look forward to with bated
However, I was intrigued by the statements offered by George Erikson,
a California `anthropologist,' whom the article says is among `those
who suspect the site may be Atlantis.' The WASHINGTON POST goes on to
say he `predicted that the lost city would be found offshore in the
tropical Americas. Moreover, `that if the Cuban site proves to be Atlantis,
he hopes "to be the first to say, `I told you so.'"'
Writer/self-publisher George Erikson is the co-author with Professor
Ivar Zapp of a book entitled ATLANTIS IN AMERICA, published by Adventures
Unlimited Press in 1998. I read the book thoroughly during the preparation
of GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS, and was moved to contribute a favourable review
for Amazon.com. However, I am perplexed by Erikson's claim to have predicted
that Atlantis would be found `offshore in the tropical Americas'.
ATLANTIS IN AMERICA makes a clear case for the Atlantean `continent'
being the Americas, something which I find completely untenable from
the clues presented by Plato in his works the `Timaeus' and `Critias'.
Zapp and Erikson speculate that the various cultures and civilisations
which rose in Central and South America in prehistoric times were the
product of Atlantis's legacy, and suggest that the site of `the Atleanten
city of Poseidon may lay off either coast of Costa Rica or off the Caribbean
coast of Hundouras, Belize, or the Yucatan Peninsula.'(p. 368) Had they
stayed with these words then Erikson's claim to have predicted that
Atlantis would be found in this region might have held water, but Zapp
and Erikson, on the very same page of their book, go on to ask:
Was Ometepe in Lake
Nicaragua Poseidon, the ruling city of Atlantis? Or was it a few hundred
miles south in the midst of the great spheres that grace the Diquis
Delta? Or was it several hunded miles to the north among the thousands
of sites in present day Belize, Guatemala's Peten, and Mexico's Yucatan
In short, if you
fire enough bullets one of them is going to hit the target. The Caribbean
was simply one of the regions Erikson and Zapp proposed in their book
for the site of the Atlantean city. Furthermore, the authors were hardly
the first to make this prediction. If anyone can be given credit for
having proposed that Atlantis would be found in the Caribbean then it
was Guatemalan doctor Paul Felix Cabrera in his book TEATRO CRITICO
AMERICANO; OR, A CRITICAL INVESTIGATION AND RESEACH INTO THE HISTORY
OF THE AMERICANS, published in 1822. He saw Atlantis as the island of
Hispaniola, not neighbouring Cuba.
Cabrera's ideas were picked up again during the second half of the nineteenth
century by the French philiogist Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg and American
historian Hyde Clarke, the latter of whom predicted that `the head seat
of the great king [of Atlantis] was possibly in the Caribbean Sea; it
may be in St Domingo [i.e. Hispaniola].(Clarke, Examination of the Legend
of Atlantis in Reference to Protohistoric Communication with America',
June 1885, Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1886, p. 24).
During the 1930s and 1940s, the idea that the Bahamas and Caribbean
held the key to unlocking the mysteries of Atlantis was fuelled by the
readings of American psychic Edgar Cayce, who said that parts of `Poseidonia',
a remnant of a much larger Atlantic continent, would begin to emerge
to the `south and west' of Bimini in the Bahamas.
Around the same time a popular book entitled ATLANTIS - MOTHER OF EMPIRES
(1939, but republished reently by Adventures Unlimited Press) also proposed
that Atlantis was in the Caribbean, while British Atlantologist Egerton
Sykes was writing about Atlantean connections with the Bahamas, Hispaniola
and Cuba during the 1960s.
Other names which could be mentioned in connection with Atlantis research
in the Bahamas and Caribbean include: J. Manson Valentine, who identified
underwater structures in Bahaman waters north of Cuba; Lewis Spence,
the Scottish mythologist, who also saw the Bahamas and Caribbean as
a remnant of a former Atlantean continent; and Augustus le Plongeon,
the misguided American phsyicist and explorer who believed that he had
found evidence in a Mayan codex of Atlantis's, or Mu's, destruction
in the Caribbean some 10,000 years ago.
All of these people, had they been still alive, could lay claim to having
predicted that remnants of Atlantis would be discovered in the Caribbean.
Only one person has proposed that Cuba was the largest surviving portion
of Atlantis, and that its `city' probably lies in Cuban waters, and
that was me in GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS, first published worldwide in 2000.
I only hope that George Erikson makes public the fact that he was obviously
misquoted by the journalist from the WASHINGTON POST, because his published
claims are very curious indeed.
FROM GEORGE ERIKSON October 15th 2002
Re the Washington
. I must say that
I was not misquoted in any major way. I did say that Ivar Zapp and I
had predicted in Atlantis In America that Atlantis would be found in
up to 420 feet of water off tropical America's shore. I also said that
Ivar had found links between the spheres of Costa Rica and ancient navigation,
and that we believed they were part of Atlantis. I stressed that Zelitsky
& Weinzweig's find appeared to be on an ancient landbridge that
connected Cuba to the Yucatan, and I expressed my hope that the structures
off Cuba would be similar structurally to the underwater pyramids that
I visited last winter. I pointed out that the flora and fauna of Cuba
was identical to that of the Yucatan. I clearly emphasized that our
work was in Central America and the Yucatan, not Cuba.
Kevin Sullivan quoted
me correcly on those things he chose to quote. He chose not to mention:
1, Ivar Zapp and the Spheres of Costa Rica,
2, the title of our book, Atlantis In America: Navigators of the the
3, The possible landbridge to the Yucatan, the pyramids on the Yucatan,
the similar flora and fauna.
Kevin slightly misqouted
me when he wrote, "he hopes to be the first to say, 'I told you
so.'" What I had emailed him was, "Ivar and I hope to be among
the first to say I told you so." When Kevin called to interview
me, he concluded the interview with the question, "Do you still
want to be the first to say, "I told you so.?" I said, "Sure."
Kevin did spell my
name correctly, Erikson.
In a story that was
not principally about my work, but about Zelitsky and Weinzweig's, all
I could do was to try to work in as much as I could about the work of
Ivar Zapp, our book, our possible connection with the structures off
Cuba. But Kevin was not interested in most of what I had to say. However,
he did work me in a minor way. Considering the lack of press we've had,
I am grateful for that.