One Rock doesn't an Atlantis make...
Aug 07, 1996 08:38 PM
by Paul M.M. Kieniewicz
Regarding our discussion on Atlantis, Daniel Caldwell wrote:
>I copy below a message from "Blavatsky Net" about their
>new web site. I think Theos-l subscribers who have
>been following with interest the Atlantis discussion will
>find some very interesting material at Blavatsky Net.
>Daniel H. Caldwell
>Blavatsky Net's posting is as follows:
>>"Blavatsky Net" is pleased to join this conversation and announce a new web
>>site devoted to researching the writings of, and vindicating, H. P.
>>Blavatsky. The URL is
>>As a contribution to the current discussion, Blavatsky Net has put online a
>>page on the subject of Atlantis. It can be found under the "Evidence
>>supportive of Theosophy" choice on the homepage.
>>Blavatsky Net will continue to add more information vindicating H. P.
>>Best wishes to All - Scribe
I urge any reader with an interest in this issue to take a look at the page
on Blavatsky web, and the article posted there on Atlantis.
I offer here a reply to that article which, I believe, does not vindicate
the writings of HPB - or offer convincing evidence for the existence of
I summarize the salient points presented on Blavatsky web:
1. HPB hailed the discovery (in her lifetime) of the mid-Atlantic ridge as a
discovery of Atlantis - or its remains. The argument here is that the
mid-Atlantic ridge or a significant portion of it was once above water.
2. The discovery of Cretaceous limestones and quartzitic siltstones
recently in the area of the Vema fracture zone (actually the writers are
probably referring to the Romanche fracture zone in the central Atlantic) is
evidence for a sunken continent in the area.
3. Various seamounts that are visible in the new gravity map of the worlds
oceans (featured recently in Discover magazine) are possible sites for the
4. Discussion was presented on a "horseshoe shape " in the south Atlantic
and of its connection to Lemuria.
RE THE MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE AND "HORSESHOE"
There is really no evidence that a significant portion of this ridge was
ever above water. HPB was dead wrong in welcoming its discovery as evidence
The evidence from geophysics is overwhelming that this is the site of a
tectonic plate boundary that was active since the late Cretaceous, and that
oceanic crust has been forming these since that time. The upwelling magma
attaches itself to either plate, so that the youngest crust is at that site
while the oldest crust is near the eastern and western continental margins.
As the oceanic crust cools - it becomes denser and sinks. This is why you
can predict the Atlantic bathymetry to a high degree of accuracy (excepting
seamounts) according to the age of the crust. The idea that the mid-Atlantic
ridge can (while spreading is going on) just rise out of the ocean and then
decide to sink again - without leaving a trace in the gravity field - is
preposterous. There is no mechanism for this - and no evidence. The well
behaved bathymetry - just as prediced by theory argues against such an event
having ever taken place.
It is true that limestones have been found near the mid Atlantic ridge. But
so what? These can be formed in water of depths typical of the mid-Atlantic
ridge. There are other explanations for these - offered below.
The fact that a major fracture zone in the Atlantic is identified with the
Lemurian Atlantic ridge mentioned by HPB - doesn't tell us anything, except
that "seek and ye shall find". There are many such similar zones, and is
each one supposed to have its own mega-continent associated with it?
RE THE ROMANCHE FRACTURE ZONE
E. Bonatti of Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory reported finding
Cretaceous limestones whose ages are older than the opening of the Atlantic
ocean - an seismic data showing some thick sedimentary sequences in the
Romache fracture zone . This has been hailed by the writer on Blavatsky web,
and by others as evidence for a significant mass of continental material -
and thus Atlantis. I believe it is nothing of the sort, and would like to
summarize Bonatti's argument here:
The structure of transform faults that offset the mid-Atlantic ridge is
complex as one can see from the gravity map. Such a structure is composed of
many strands that over the past 50 mill. years have had movement in many
directions. It is quite plausible that a sliver of continental crust could
have been rafted by such movements from a continental margin and find itself
in the Romanche fracture zone.
It takes more than one rock to make a continent the size of Atlantis.
There are by the way other significant pieces of obducted continental
material in the Atlantic - the most significant in the North Atlantic being
the Jan Mayen block near Jan Mayen Island. But this one has almost certainly
been submerged in the early stage of the opening of the North Atlantic when
it was fragmented and severely thinned. And it is hardly large enough to
make a continent - such as suggested by HPB.
These form in varous ways - most remain below the water line though some do
form islands. They can be formed as a result of a hot spot in the Earth's
mantle (the Hawaian chain, or Iceland). Sure - you can have a seamount
formed that later in time as the crust cools is submerged. But this is
nothing new discovered today. Of course if you want to place Atlantis on a
seamount go ahead. And - as on the fabled Atlantis seamount, limestones may
even form. But space is limited! These are small islands, not vast
continents. Iceland - is a special case, formed as a result of a rather
unique circumstance - probably an early Tertiary volcanic plume. There are
no other candidates that approach that size.
In summary - I see nothing in the evidence so far presented that vindicates
HPB's statements on Atlantis. Quite the contrary, the verdict of today's
science is that there was no such continent. Quite apart from the fact
(evident from the gravity map mentioned) that there is no space in the
Atlantic to put such a continent, it is very difficult to make a continent
sink. Continental crust is of a lower density material, thick (> 30 km ) and
floats high supported by the higher density mantle.
ATLANTIS WAS A POPULAR 19th CEN HYPOTHESIS. It offered many explanations for
geological similarities observed on both sides of the Atlantic, similarities
in flora and fauna -- etc. - all of which are now better axplained by the
fact that 100 mill years ago - the Atlantic was closed. But not by Atlantis!
It's time that Theosophists recognized that fact and joined the 20th
century. So what if HPB was echoing the popular thought of her time. It's
not surprising. But Theosophists would do better to recognize that the grand
old lady was wrong, and close the book on that issue, rather than constantly
trying to vindicate her mistaken notions.
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