The Theosophical Forum – August 1938

SCIENCE AND RESEARCH — C. J. Ryan

Atlantis Again

Somehow, interest in the problem of a lost continent in the Atlantic Ocean does not die out although the subject is regarded by many scientists with disfavor. The interest has recently been increased by newspaper articles "featuring" Dr. C. S. Piggot's experiments in the Atlantic, which have recently been explained by Dr. W. H. Bradley of the U. S. Geological Survey. Dr. Piggot shot a hollow tube into the ocean floor in various places between Europe and America and brought up ten-foot long sections which have provided interesting information about conditions prevailing when the superficial layers were deposited. To quote from Science, December 3, 1937:

Dr. Bradley finds that in the sea floor there is definite evidence of four ice ages, which can not yet be definitely correlated with the ice ages on the continents, and of two periods of violent explosive volcanic action, one during the ice ages, and one after the most recent ice age. Changes in the earth's magnetism during the ice ages, as shown by the deep sea sediments collected by Dr. Piggot's sampler, were described by Dr. Fleming, who finds that considerable changes in the earth's magnetic field have occurred in rather recent geologic time. . . .

The cold periods and intervening warm conditions were shown by the remains of the microscopic marine algae called diatoms embedded in the superficial sediments of the ocean floor. Certain diatoms can live only in warm water, others in cold, and these tell-tale deposits contain both kinds in alternating layers. In this way the alternating periods of warm and cold Atlantic water during perhaps a million years of modern geological history are unmistakably shown. Further research may reveal the actual correspondences between the temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and the northern European and northern American continental lands during the fluctuations between genial warmth and intense cold in the Great Ice Age. Perhaps the exact length of the Glacial Period, so greatly disputed, may also be determined by the study of new and deeper sections taken from the bed of the Atlantic. A broad hint is given in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett that many unexpected surprises would be revealed if the rocks buried beneath the oceans could be explored.

The comparatively recent change in the earth's magnetic field, mentioned by Dr. Fleming, may be a significant factor in determining great changes in the contours of the Atlantic.

Dr. Piggot's explorations in the Atlantic have led to statements in the newspapers that final confirmation has been found of the existence of the sunken continent. We have not seen any such claims on the part of the scientists. From their general attitude of disbelief in an Atlantis inhabited by man, and geologically recent, it would seem that Dr. Piggot's proofs that the ocean partook of the tremendous vicissitudes of temperature of the Glacial Period — profoundly interesting as they are — have little or nothing to do with the problem of Atlantis. When evidence is found by scientists themselves which they will accept as conclusive, the existence of a former civilization in the Atlantic will be widely heralded as the greatest sensation of the age, just as Dr. Rhine's successful experiments in telepathy and clairvoyance — a still more "unorthodox" line of research — have been accepted in unexpected scientific quarters and have broken down almost insuperable prejudice against the admission of positive facts.

Unfortunately the acceptance of the mass of evidence in favor of sunken lands in the Atlantic has been seriously handicapped by the quantity of nonsensical and ill-supported arguments offered by enthusiasts and by charlatans. The array of facts and serious arguments presented by H. P. Blavatsky has been almost drowned by the raucous voices of such persons. Qualified Theosophists should study the subject in all its complexities and become acquainted with the crucial points, so as to be able effectively to appreciate and use the new discoveries which are being made in support of their position, and to expose the fallacies of the writers who have done so much harm by their errors.

One of the most impressive of these discoveries is that of the extraordinary depth of the enormous submarine valleys and steep canyons which stretch away from north America far out across the bed of the Atlantic Ocean. These valleys could not have been cut when the region was submerged, but were necessarily eroded when it was dry land. Has the land sunk under the ocean or have the waters risen and drowned it and its great valleys? The theory lately offered is that during the Glacial Age, when vast quantities of water were temporarily locked up in the shape of ice, the level of the sea was greatly lowered, perhaps for two thousand feet, and, as the ocean bed appeared above the waters and became dry land, rivers began to make their way down to the greatly reduced area of ocean, cutting gorges and valleys which have still remained. After many thousands of years the ice melted and the ocean gradually rose to its former height, drowning vast areas of land and, of course, the great submarine canyons.

There are many difficulties in accepting this explanation of the mystery but the most serious one is that the valleys descend far below the lowest level to which the ocean could have sunk by the abstraction of its water in the shape of ice. There was not enough ice. We are, therefore, reduced to the more reasonable explanation that great areas of land, including the valleys, have actually sunk beneath the onrushing waters in some cataclysm which took place in comparatively recent times, geologically speaking. How far this collapse extended across the Atlantic cannot yet be stated, but the evidence of the submerged river valleys is strongly in favor of some kind of an Atlantis, now submerged. Even in this century unexplained changes have taken place in the south Atlantic, portions of the bed having risen more than two miles, and new islands having appeared near South America.


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