| 8:00 AM local time, Friday, May 31 (0500 May 31 UTC)
36 10 N 029 39 E.
Temp. 74, Humidity 69%, Cloud Cover 5%. Anchored with a stern line to shore
in Bayindir Bay, near Kas, Turkey.
All of the talk about subduction and volcanic eruption last time brings
us, of course, to the topic of Atlantis. There have been well over a thousand
books, perhaps as many as 5,000, written on this subject and, admittedly, the
Captain has read only a small percentage of these, a number not statistically
distinguishable from zero. Nevertheless, we soldier on.
The first written mention of Atlantis in history occurs, as the reader
well knows, in Plato's dialogues, the Timaeus and Critias, among the last
Plato composed. Plato was neither the empiricist that his student, Aristotle,
was, nor had he traveled widely, like Herodotus. It would be quite out of
character for Plato to be attempting a serious rehearsal of historical fact,
which is nowhere else his purpose. This reporter believes he had other goals
in mind that are more akin to his customary attempt to describe the ideal as
he envisions it, with little emphasis on the real as he observes it.
Plato treats the story with a few mythological flourishes. In addition,
he introduces it with an elaborately complex tale of how the story of
Atlantis came to be known by Critias, the character in the Timaeus who tells
the tale, and it is thereby shrouded in a bit of writerly mystery. Plato
doesn't do this often, usually setting the stage and then diving right into
the argument, but does use the same device of convoluted introduction earlier
in his "Symposium," where another hazy topic, love, is under discussion.
Plato was not a careless writer, and it is hard not to conclude that in using
this method of introduction, he was trying to accomplish what we used to call
"deniability" back in the twentieth century. For these and other reasons, it
is best to take Plato's story, our fundamental source for the Atlantis myth,
with a grain of salt.
In any case there are only two possibilities: (1) Plato made the whole
Atlantis thing up out of whole cloth, or (2) He didn't. I tend to believe the
latter, which is to say I think there was some similar legend he was familiar
with that had basis in historical fact.
Plato places Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean. (The name Atlantic comes
from Atlas, not from Atlantis.) This is impossible, as the Atlantic has been
far too deep since long before the evolution of anything like human beings.
Since the story as Plato tells it comes originally from an Egyptian priest,
and most of the Med lies to the east of Egypt, and there were no satellite
photos of earth, I'm thinking this is just wrong and a mistake of early
geography, nowhere very accurate by today's standards, which themselves, the
crew of Maverick knows, are not impeccable.
Plato also says, or has Critias relate, that the destruction of
Atlantis occurred 9,000 years before the time of the dialogue. But
coincidentally, about 900 years before Plato's time an island in the
Mediterranean called Thera, in antiquity also named Calliste, or "most
beautiful," exploded. The remnant still exists as the island of Santorini.
OK, it is believed to have been about 1500 BC that Thera erupted, or more
like 1100 years before Plato; but who had radio carbon dating? The Greeks had
no zero in their number system, nor decimal point, making this kind of
ten-fold mistake pretty understandable. The Greeks also had no continuous
written chronology from an event that early. At any rate, the blast was
bigger by a considerable margin than that of Krakatoa and caused a whole
suite of disasters, including, undoubtedly, a tsunami and a huge cloud of ash
that fell as far away as Israel. At the time of the explosion the closest
major country, however, was the Minoan civilization of Crete, with which
Thera was closely associated. Shortly after this volcanic eruption, there was
a significant decline in Minoan Crete, although opinions differ on how soon
after the explosion this decline occurred. But undeniably, much damage was
caused there, and Thera was utterly destroyed. All things considered, it is
remarkable that we don't have many more references in ancient literature
recalling an event that significant.
It's good enough for me that some vague legend inherited by friends of
Plato is loosely corroborated by archaeological and geological evidence,
because I, personally, am not looking for a magic kingdom. The destruction of
Atlantis is as good a story as the Biblical flood, which according to recent
discoveries also seems to have been linked to a real geological event that
caused the Black Sea to rise at a very fast rate. The Atlantis tale was told,
as was the story of the flood, as a moral parable, and the truth of its
message, whatever that may be, really isn't affected one way or the other by
archaeological and geological speculation.
PS to Mark Wiltz: We use a Monitor and it is one of the few pieces of gear
that has given us no trouble at all.
PS to Mike and Janice: The Captain has no qualifications whatever for
spreading the kind of information you read here. We do have some reference
materials aboard, but they're too boring so I make up my own facts. Please
keep this to yourself.
PS to all the rest who've written with words of encouragement: We sure
appreciate everything you send. Keep those cards and letters coming to