Quick"fire up Google Earth on your PC, and find the following coordinates: 31 15'15.53N, 24 15'30.53W (hint: it's about 600 miles west of Morocco, deep in the Atlantic Ocean). Zoom in, and check out that rectangle on the ocean floor. Could it be … Atlantis?
That's what a squad of "Atlantic experts" are telling the Daily Telegraph, and indeed, the rough rectangle"complete with dozens of shaky grid marks carved into the ocean floor"is a surreal sight, at least to the untrained eye.
Apparently, the oddly shaped box marks "one of the most prominent places for the proposed location of Atlantis, as described by Plato," said New York State University historical archaeology curator Dr. Charles Orser (as reported by the Telegraph).
Amazing"so amazing, in fact, that the story touched off an online firestorm Friday morning, with the search term "Atlantis" ending up as a top trend on Twitter. So ... should we dispatch James Cameron and his team of IMAX-equipped submersibles to investigate?
Well, maybe not, says this party-pooping report from the Daily Mail.
Turns out the odd rectangle doesn't actually exist, according to a Google rep; instead, it's simply an "artifact of the data collection process," representing the criss-cross patterns of sonar-equipped boats scanning the ocean floor.
Uhhhh … "artifact of the data collection process"? Please. I smell a cover up!
February 25, 2009, 6:34 am
Google Explains Watery Mystery of ‘Atlantis’
By Jenna Wortham
The bizarre markings spotted using Google Earth’s new underwater search tool last week unleashed a tsunami of theories and speculation across the Web about the origins of the grid-like pattern.
The most popular theory was that the markings were signs of the lost city of Atlantis. But Bits readers also wondered if the maze of lines could be anything from the mystical island featured on the television show “Lost” to an underwater lair inhabited by former Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to Google, it’s time to shelve those tinfoil hats.
In an interview, Steve Miller, product manager for Ocean in Google Earth, firmly debunked rumors that the crisscross markings were anything other than artificial data remnants left by sonar-equipped boats collecting data from the ocean floor.
While sound waves are considered to be more effective than satellites for mapping strips of the ocean floor, they’re often more expensive and time-consuming to use. “The boats have to go slowly. Otherwise, they make a lot of noise and can wash out the readings,” said Mr. Miller. As a result, boats are used less frequently, leaving fewer grid-like sonar patterns visible on Google Earth’s map of the ocean.
For the patch of ocean that drew so much attention last week, there was a discrepancy in the readings collected from satellites and the higher-resolution echosounding data collected by boats at water level. That caused exaggerated traces to show up on the map. Typically, when data collected by satellites and sonar surveys are blended, the result is much smoother, Mr. Miller said. But here, the “batches of imagery didn’t overlap properly.”
Mr. Miller compared it to the blurry stripes that are occasionally visible in Google Earth’s land maps. “Those patches are from cameras and instruments using different resolutions,” he said. Over time, those uneven patches smooth out as Google puts more images and data into the system.
As for the speculation that the markings off the western coast of Africa were located near one of the possible sites of the fabled sunken city of Atlantis, Mr. Miller said it was a coincidence. “To my knowledge, the researchers weren’t looking for Atlantis. They conducted this survey many years ago.” They very likely sent out a boat to comb for additional readings in this particular area, he said.
Mr. Miller also highlighted several other findings in Google Earth’s new Ocean feature, including a newly formed volcanic island close to Hawaii and an underwater mountain range in the Atlantic Ocean where two tectonic plates are visibly shifting away from one another.
Was the whole “Atlantis” uproar a well-orchestrated publicity stunt for Google’s new ocean maps, which were introduced earlier this month?
Mr. Miller said no. But the reports certainly drew a lot of armchair explorers eager to view the waterlogged pattern. Searches for “google ocean” and “atlantis google ocean” spiked over the last several days.