Hunt for Lost City of Atlantis

Sources: The Moscow Times (28 October 2003), BBC News (30 October 2003)

One team of experts believes Atlantis lies under the seas west of Gibraltar, while an American researcher believes the Lost City was in Cyprus.

The team heading to Gibraltar is led by pre-historian Professor Jacques Collina-Girard, aided by the two men who led the expeditions to the Titanic. They believe that using a combination of literary pointers and geological evidence they have pinned the lost city's location to just west of the Straits of Gibraltar, on a submerged mud shoal now known as Spartel Island.

The story of Atlantis, a fabled utopia destroyed in ancient times, has captured the imagination of scholars ever since it was first described by the philosopher Plato more than 2,000 years ago. His depiction of a land of fabulous wealth, advanced civilisation and natural beauty has spurred many adventurers to seek out its location. Debate rages over where it may lie, with it being placed variously near Cuba, off the coast of Devon, near The Azores or slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic.

Professor Collina-Girard says that whilst researching patterns of human migration from Europe to North Africa 19,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, he became convinced that in pre-historic times a land bridge linked the two continents. He says that by making a map of the ocean floor as it would have appeared at that time, when the sea levels were much lower, he discovered an archipelago just in front of the Straits of Gibraltar. The professor believes that about 11,000 years ago the rapidly rising seas submerged the archipelago - not in one day as Plato describes, but nonetheless at a rapid rate in geological terms - some 2 metres per century.

On the first two-week mission, set to take place next July, a two-man submersible will be sent down to investigate areas of the island most likely to be inhabited. The $250,000 to $500,000 estimated cost of the first expedition is being covered through a combination of private collections and sponsorship.

On the other hand, according to Robert Sarmast Atlantis was in Cyprus. "The island of Cyprus was, or is, part of Atlantis -- a mountaintop," Sarmast said. Geologists say the land mass of Cyprus's central mountain range once formed the ocean floor. Sarmast says the mountainous island was the tip of the civilization submerged in a devastating earthquake and flood thousands of years ago.

Using deep-sea imagery, simulations of the seabed, and following some 50 clues found in Plato's "Critias" and "Timaeus" dialogues, Sarmast says he has discovered a sunken rectangular land mass stretching northeast from Cyprus, toward Syria. "Everything matches the descriptions in the dialogues of Atlantis to an uncanny degree," Sarmast said. Using scientific data collected a decade ago, Sarmast says he came up with detailed three-dimensional maps and simulated models of the eastern Mediterranean basin. "We lowered the sea level by 1,600 meters and an island popped up," he said.

However, this theory has been challenged by archaeologists, who say the Atlantis story is a myth and Sarmast ideas are not supported by tangible evidence. Also Cypriot scholars are skeptical of Sarmast's conclusions.