Ever since the great American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe wrote about
a lost city in Antarctica in his `The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym',
which appeared in 1838, arguments have raged on whether or not this
frozen continent once supported human life.
Although Antarctica is the only major continent that has never produced
any evidence of human occupation, it was Professor Charles Hapgood of
Keene College, New Hampshire, who first drew attention to the fact that
the continent appears on ancient portolans (port to port nautical charts)
that long antedate the discovery of Antarctica by Capt. James Cooke
in 1773-4. More important, some of these maps appear to show the landmass
as it was before the ice obliterated its coastal features. In his opinion,
these nautical charts were constructed from age-old source maps that
had been copied and re-copied across many thousands of years and were
the handiwork originally of a sophisticated sea-faring culture that
existed as early as 7000 BC.
Hapgood pointed out that although most estimates suggest that Antarctica
became icebound as much as 300,000 years ago, core samples from the
Ross Sea area show evidence of pollen spectra from a relatively green
environment as late as 4000 BC. He also proposes that the ice only fully
engulfed the landmass following a polar shift in c. 9500 BC, a date
coinciding with the end of the last Ice Age. All these ideas are outlined
in Hapgood's extraordinary book Maps of the Ancient Seakings, first
published in 1966.
Spurred by Hapgood's theories of a pre-ice Antarctica and a polar shift
at the end of the glacial age, Canadian writers Rose and Rand Flem-ath
proposed in their 1995 book When the Sky Fell that the Antarctic continent
was Plato's Atlantis. They pointed out that this huge landmass matches
Plato's description of the island in both the Timaeus and Critias, which
he asserts was the size of Libya (North Africa) and Asia put together.
Furthermore, Antarctica lies beyond the Pillars of Hercules as also
stated by Plato.
Antarctica as Atlantis is an attractive proposition. However, this theory
has major drawbacks. For example, Plato states that Atlantis was placed
in the Atlantic Ocean which lay opposite the Pillars of Hercules, mythical
rocks which stood either side of the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.
It also seems certain that the legendary island lay in the west since
the name Atlantic is derived from Atlas, the Titan of Greek mythology,
who was granted dominion over the lands of the Far West. This included
the ancient kingdom of Mauritania (modern Morocco, Algeria and the Western
Sahara) where we find Mount Atlas, which legend asserts is the petrified
Titan supporting the heavens on his shoulders. Those who inhabited the
region were known as the Atlantes (after Herodotus) or the Atlantioi
(after Diodorus Siculus), while islands placed in the Atlantic Ocean
were known as Atlantides, `daughters or Atlas'. It was from this tradition
that Plato chose the name Atlantis, `daughter of Atlas', for the utopic
world he describes in the Timaeus and Critias, written c. 350 BC. There
is even a small island called `Atlantis' said by the Roman writer Pliny
to have laid off the West African coast, although this is clearly not
the same one alluded to by Plato hundreds of years beforehand.
Thus we can see that Plato's Atlantis was thought to lie in the direction
of the setting sun, where the various Isles of the Blest, or Fortunate
Isles, were also thought to lie, and not south in the direction of the
In addition to these facts it can be shown that the immense size attributed
by Plato to his Atlantic island empire relates not to its geographical
extent but to the regions of the ocean over which the kings of Atlantis
were considered to hold dominion. This is verified in the knowledge
that the Atlantic Empire consisted of a whole series of islands which
lay in front of an `opposite continent', an allusion most probably to
the Americas, reached via a series of `other' islands. Accommodating
these facts into the Antarctica-Atlantis hypothesis would mean attempting
to prove that the `opposite continent' was either Australia or South
America, with the `other' islands being those of Indonesia, Melanesia
or Micronesia. It just does not make sense (anyway, these are the remnants
of James Churchward's lost continent of Mu, and not Atlantis!).
The biggest argument against Antarctica being Atlantis is the sheer
fact that no reliable evidence of human occupation has ever come to
light, even though the continent really does appear on pre-discovery
maps. We must therefore look elsewhere for the true location of Atlantis.
Hapgood, Charles, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1966, Turnstone Books,
Flem-ath, Rand, and Rose Flem-ath, When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis,
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1995