Tolleson, DL. “The Secret of Atlantis: An Examination.”
Tolleson, DL. “The Secret of Atlantis: An Examination.”
An American politician, scholar of sorts and author, Donnelly was a man of many hats: Minnesota land speculator, farmer, lawyer, politician of various parties and very much a man of opportunity and capitalism. He stood up and fought for unpopular principles (like for the rights of blacks and against corruption in the government’s Federal Indian Agency) and yet turned around and was party to bribes. His personal story is as interesting as his foray into fiction was interesting—particularly in regard to modern issues.
While he was never a household name, his most popular novel (Caesar’s Column, 1889) sold nearly a quarter of a million copies and concerned a negative utopia in the New York of 1980. It was a world of family dynasties and monopolies thriving at the expense of the public. A third, but less popular novel (The Golden Bottle 1892) promoted the abandonment of metal standards. His answer to a failing economy was the controlled issue of paper money which would hold in check the excesses of wealth. While reality differs from some of his projections, the Gold Standard was indeed abolished by President Nixon in 1971 (due in no small measure to the cost of President Johnson’s Great Society and the Vietnam War). While abolishing the Gold Standard did allow for better control of the monetary system, some legitimately argue that this has greatly contributed to the modern foolishness of printing and throwing money at problems that should be allowed to run their natural course within the free enterprise system. And there does seem to be a trend toward large U.S. corporations that can be expected to thrive upon tax dollars (which is a soapbox issue entirely all its own). Whatever the case, in the late 1800s Donnelly foresaw a version of our reality.
But it was “non-fiction” at which Donnelly excelled. His first and most important work (in terms of success by all measures) was Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882). It remained the standard account of Atlantis throughout the nineteenth century. While not as successful, the second of his three non-fiction titles was Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883). In this second book he argued for catastrophic events associated with a great comet dispersing massive amounts of gravel during a near orbital pass of earth. Just as Otto Muck was later dismissed for theorizing the civilization-changing impact of an asteroid, so too was Donnelly first dismissed. Science has since recanted by recognizing that the earth has been significantly altered due to the impact of celestial material. While Donnelly didn’t get it just right, he should be noted for having been on the right track. However, in this regard both Otto Muck and I have been entirely vindicated: Muck for proposing the history-changing asteroid impact and me for arguing he was right with a disbelieving college Geology instructor in 1987. My paper’s grade hinged upon Muck’s asteroid and I’m still miffed about receiving a “B” in lieu of an “A.”
But back to Donnelly’s Atlantis: his rhetoric and writing style aside, Donnelly took Plato’s account of Atlantis (the first record of the island) at face value. At some point in the 20th century, most—if not all—scholars rejected this thesis. To this very day there is speculation as to why Plato offered the account, and it is generally thought that he was attempting to describe a utopian society. Along those lines, there are a number of theories that attribute Plato’s story to a folklore that might have evolved out of a struggle between Persia and Greece somewhere around 9600 BC. The theory has also been attributed to other culture clashes, as well.
But I’m standing with Donnelly in part, and with Muck in near totality. Just as the early speculation of a celestial cataclysm was at first accepted, then rejected, and has now been re-accepted, so too may Atlantis rise again (so to speak). Working with the information available to him, Donnelly expended a tremendous amount of research in fields of science that were in their infancy during the 1800s. It was well after his publication that archeology revealed pre-Columbian cultures in the United States, that the Maya civilization became widely known, and that findings in the Yucatan revealed distinct cultures there, as well (and where, coincidentally, was found one of the world's largest impact craters that “verifies” our planet has been mightily struck from above).
At the time Donnelly wrote his Atlantis, there was little to be gleaned from the fields of geology, anthropology, linguistics, archeology, paleontology and of course, mythology (in the sense that these fields of study were so underdeveloped). Given what little he had to work with his results were nothing short of monumental. In light of the scant scientific record, he made a number of reasonable comparative observations that lent to an endorsement of Atlantis as a supreme influence in the ancient world. While he was wrong on many—if not most—things, science has still not completely settled a number of the inexplicable similarities about which Donnelly studied and wrote. The end result of Donnelly’s assessment was the description of an amazing ancient world where the birthplace of civilization was more akin to an Eden-like Atlantis far exceeding the modern reader’s expectation of history. That most of his work has been contradicted by science has not lead to any suffering in the realm of fiction or those who follow the metaphysical without regard to the facts.
Otto Muck, on the other hand, doesn’t go to the extreme that Donnelly did and thus Muck’s Atlantis comes across as more plausible in light of discoveries since the book was published. But Muck, too, asserts that Atlantis was a major world power. His evidence is not unlike Donnelly’s. But as my “B” on a geology paper succinctly illustrates, future evidence may validate that Muck’s Secret of Atlantis deserves an “A.”
Thus, what you are about to read was originally a book report entitled, The Secret of Atlantis: Critical Book Review. I purchased The Secret of Atlantis in the late 70s, at the downtown bookstore where I held a summer job. At the time the only exposure I had to the subject was the usual claptrap of popular fiction and a recently purchased copy of Donnelly’s Atlantis as discussed above (both books of which I still own). The research of Otto Muck (a physicist, engineer and inventor who had held over 2000 patents at the time of his death in 1965) was new to me. While I could not find an endorsement or detraction of his work, the fact of the matter is it just made sense. Even then I was aware of a number of historical and natural phenomena that Muck put into the context of Atlantis—and without the usual mumbo-jumbo. This is not a garden-variety, astrology-loving, crystal-wearing, space-cadet book. I remember reading the book and saying, “Oh, yes! Of course!”
Flash forward a number years and college Geology. Nothing in the intervening years had contradicted Muck’s work and so the report was a natural for geology. There was that one prickly problem of the asteroid smacking our planet, but other than that my geology instructor was receptive to my short report.
Now, flash forward another ten years or so—roughly 20 years since having read the book—and Time Magazine published a front cover story of an asteroid plunging to earth and utterly altering the world. As soon as I saw that cover, I thought of Muck’s book (and my having unsuccessfully squared off with my geology instructor, of course). As far as I know, Otto Muck’s thesis and supporting research has stood the test of time but I have not followed the matter closely in years. None-the-less, there is so much more in this book than the relatively short review/analysis you are about to read.
The island of Atlantis is so ingrained into the fabric of literature and popular culture that it is easy to overlook that the scant evidence of its having existed is at best, circumstantial and indirect. Throughout history proponents of the island’s existence have either ignored or grossly re-interpreted the first, “legitimate,” source of evidence (or acknowledgement) concerning Atlantis. In so doing, those same proponents have placed the site of the legendary Atlantis all over the globe while engaging in all manner of fanciful speculation. Stripped of these speculations and removed from the realm of the metaphysical, the case for the existence of Atlantis is not a simple matter to argue.
Returning to the source story for the account of Atlantis, the late Otto Heinrich Muck, a German physicist, engineer and inventor of the World War II U-boat snorkel, establishes as solid a case as is possible in his book, The Secret of Atlantis. Delving into ancient literature, geological history and scientific observation, Muck’s step-by-step argument culminates in a preponderance of hard to ignore evidence. Muck’s case has not only withstood the test of time, but also strengthened since publication due to scientific consensuses on matters both orbital and central to his thesis.
Originally written in German and translated by Fred Bradley, The Secret of Atlantis is divided into six parts. It ends with Muck’s conclusions and begins with the first known reference to Atlantis via an extensive account attributed to Plato (427 – 347 B.C.). The major question regarding Plato’s account has always been whether the famous writer of Greek tragedies and eight-year student of philosophy under Socrates, invented Atlantis as an example of a utopia or merely related a factual story. Otto Muck sides with the latter.
Muck indicates that this earliest account of Atlantis is contained in Plato’s two discussions (dialogues) named after the explorer/astrologer Timaeus and Plato’s maternal uncle, Critas the Younger. The two dialogues, according to Muck, “are a direct continuation of Plato’s ten political volumes, The Republic.” During a religious festival discussions between Socrates and others concerning a concept of the ideal state gradually turned toward, “‘a story, strange but perfectly true,’” Muck quotes Plato’s, “re-telling,” of Atlantis.
Otto Muck then quotes the story as Plato told it, which Muck says, placed Atlantis just west of the present day Strait of Gibraltar—in the region of the Azores Islands. Such beliefs, Muck notes, were completely opposite to the religious dogma of the day that proclaimed nothing existed beyond the Eastern world, which was the center of the universe.
Quoting Plato, Mucks says that Atlantis was destroyed, “‘when there came violent earthquakes and floods, the entire valiant generation of your people (Greeks) was swallowed up by the earth and the island of Atlantis was similarly swallowed up by the sea, vanishing in a single dreadful day and in a single dreadful night.’”
Along this line of dialogue, Muck believes the Biblical flood of Noah no more destroyed Atlantis than it did the rest of the world. Rather, a specific and separate cataclysm was the culprit. But this is not meant to alleviate the Biblical flood of complicity. Muck points to a Charles Leonard Wholly, who discovered a layer of alluvial clay, “about 8 feet thick,” and buried beneath 40 feet of desert sand. This layer, Muck believes, substantiates the Biblical flood and is contributory to the secrecy of Atlantis, after the fact.
Placing the presence of Atlantis at the end of the Quaternary epoch, Muck contends that sheets of ice constituted a large portion of the earth’s water and thus sea levels were 330 to 600 feet lower than now. This, coupled with his belief that the sea floor and island platform sank, leads Muck to conclude that Atlantis is buried at least two miles beneath the sea floor. (Some would legitimately take issue with this point, as ice occupies the same mass when in liquid form: The best example of this is easily observed when a glass, filled to the brim with water, does not overflow after ice in the water melts. This tends to discount the rising or falling of sea levels based upon the presence or absence of ice sheets or polar icecaps.)
While quoting various archaeological finds on the Bahamas Plateau and, “‘particularly in the neighborhood of Bemini,’” Muck cites Charles Berlity’s, The Bermuda Triangle, as evidence of artifacts that cannot be associated to any culture extant, thus by process of elimination, belonging to an Atlantis that would have been a thriving island nation with widespread influence. While this is certainly a possibility, this is neither the central crux of his argument nor the most convincing of the circumstantial and indirect evidence.
In a chapter entitled, Mythical History of the Earth?, Muck admits that the theory of Atlantis, “meets with a certain amount of skepticism among most geologist,” due perhaps to the, “swiftness with which this island is said to have sunk beneath the sea. It is this sudden demise that runs counter to the concepts of gradualist geology, to Lyell’s theory that changes in the earth’s surface are caused solely by minute forces.”
Additionally, Muck concedes that Alfred Wagener’s theory of continental drift conflicts with the theory of Atlantis—at least upon first examination. Upon closer scrutiny, Muck says: “The existence of Atlantis would have been simulated only by a pre-tertiary land bridge between the Canadian Shield and the Eurasian platform. When—for whatever reason—the large platforms drifted apart, this direct land connection was broken; this created the myth of the sunken continent.”
While Muck contends that Wagener’s theory holds little importance to the subject of Atlantis, the theory can, nonetheless, accommodate the island’s existence within a reasonable probability. Saying that all of the continents can be fitted back together like a jigsaw puzzle, according to Wegener’s theory, Muck explains the gap in the joint between North American and Europe could account for a landmass that was later the doomed Atlantis.
Turning attention to the Gulf Stream itself, Muck details a series of compelling inter-related factors as evidence for Atlantis that have not been widely considered (at the time of his writing or to any extensive degree since). These factors all arise out of the presence and importance of the Gulf Stream as a warming agent to European shores. Muck poses the question and answer: “What would happen if the Gulf Stream suddenly failed? It would mean the climate of northwest Europe would undergo a radical change. The climate would become the normal one for that latitude.”
In short then, Muck opines that if a large island blocked the Gulf Stream, glaciation would over-take mid and northern Europe—just as it did during the Quaternary age (which, not coincidentally, coincides with the geological period in which Muck places the presence of Atlantis).
Thus, argues Muck, the presence of Atlantis in the mid-Atlantic produces four corresponding conditions: European glaciation, climatic conditions consistent with the geological record during the time period theorized for the presence of Atlantis, climatic conditions exactly matching Plato’s description of the island and an explanation for the inexplicable migratory life cycle of the European eel.
The European eel, Muck reports, is a species that paleontologists believe originated in the, “so-called cretaceous age.” According to Muck, “twice in its lifetime the eel crosses the huge basin of the Atlantic; the first time as a colorless lava about the length of a matchstick and the second time as an adult ready to breed.” Muck calls these migratory trips, “senseless,” and states that there had been found, “no plausible reason,” for this, “peculiar behavior.”
Zeroing in on the possible answer, Muck explains that to the west of the Azores is a warm area of water the size of central Europe, called the Sargasso Sea. It is, he writes, “buoyed up by sluggish currents and huge plants up to 1000 feet in length.” In this, “seaweed jungle,” the eels mate—the American eel in the western part of the Sargasso Sea and the European eel in the eastern part of the sea.
“After hatching,” Muck writes, “the larva swim into the Gulf Stream and are carried for three years in the current—eventually arriving at Europe. The females then swim into the European rivers in order to become sexually mature (as they require fresh water instead of salt water).” They then return after a two-year period, Muck notes, at which time—at five years of age—they began their journey back. While making the return trip they are exposed to a number of dangers, including sea birds, dolphins and predatory fish. Once they have returned to the Sargasso Sea, they mate and the cycle begins anew.
Muck questions the cycle by asking why the males accompany the females on the trip when it is only the females that require fresh water. While the West Indies are closer to the Sargasso Sea than Europe, Muck concedes that the eel may make the trip simply because of the ease of using the current of the Gulf Stream. However, he also points out, the males have no biological need to even make such an extensive trip.
It is the absence of Atlantis, Muck contends, which prompts this ingrained and illogical behavior. For at one time, he says, the trip would have been a far shorter and safer distance to the island of Atlantis.
The primary force of Otto Muck’s theory rest upon his version of the Cataclysm: An Asteroid with the total force of, “4x10
Explaining the Atlantic Ridge fracture seam was torn apart, Muck says, “the bottom of the sea burst open to the north and to the south. All the existing volcanoes were activated and new vents formed. Terrestrial fire and ocean water become embroiled in ever-increasing volume. Magma mixed with steam. The chain of fire ran all the way between the two continents, from the Beerenberg Volcano on Jan Mayen in the north to Tristan de Cunha in the south.”
Muck calculates the fracture line opened up at about 50 feet per second and traveled 1,860 miles from the point of impact. Taking a two or three day period to open up from Puerto Rico to Iceland. What followed, according to Muck, is best described as a worldwide catastrophe.
“We can call it a submarine eruption of the most monstrous dimensions,” Muck claims. “We can say with confidence that throughout the entire history of mankind there has been no other fall of meteorites or volcanic eruption comparable in extent to the catastrophe of Atlantis… According to our calculations, 5x10
Muck estimates a volume of 360,000 – 480,000 cubic miles of magma was dispersed into the air, consisting of large boulders, fly ash and fine dust.
“This was quite enough to produce terrible and long lasting disturbances in the whole of life on earth,” Muck continues. “One of the effects was the deluge so familiar in myth. This did not, as might have been supposed, destroy the island of Atlantis by flood. Rather the reverse. The flood was itself a direct consequence of the Atlantic catastrophe and followed the sinking of the island of Atlantis, as Plato relates.”
Muck calculates a total of 2x10
Muck further contends that a, “sea of mud,” was a result of the catastrophe. He underscores the assertion with a comparison to the 1883 eruption of Karakatoa, which filled the surrounding sea with pumice stone (solidified magma interspersed with air bubbles) that caused considerable interference with shipping. This, says Muck, is why Plato said of Atlantis: “‘This is why the sea is no longer navigatable there and cannot be crossed in ships because this is prevented by very deep mud, the remains of the island when it sank.’”
After 2000 years of darkness beneath of ash-laden clouds, a dramatically altered earth emerged. Certainly all that remains of Atlantis are myths and, Otto Muck concludes, the tops of its great mountain range that we now know as the Azores Islands.