Looks Like Atlantis All Over Again | William Thomas Online | William Thomas

Looks Like Atlantis All Over Again

William Thomas Masterworks Series*



By William Thomas



Go ahead. Key “Atlantis” into your search bot, hit Enter… and prepare for a tidal wave of 101 million results.


Everyone knows that Greek geezer’s story of a fabled civilisation more clever than wise that got too big for its togas… and was deleted overnight by the affronted gods.


"It's a story that captures the imagination," says James Romm, a professor of classics at wonderfully-named Bard College in New York. "It's a great myth.


For die-hard Atlantis aficionados, them’s fightin’ words. So let’s all jump into the Wayback Machine, set the Time Dial to 360 BCE (Before Current Era – or “Error” if you prefer) and hit the gas…



… when we touch down in the grove of Academos just outside Athens, where Plato will found the world’s first university nearly 30 years later, the sun’s just coming up over Western civilization.


Though it’s only 135 miles from Athens to Santorini, it’s not known whether Plato grabbed a cheap flight or simply went to Port Gate Ε7 and boarded a hydrofoil to the same destination. Had he done either, he would have found himself on a gorgeous, sweltering isle surrounded by the Aegean Sea in a distinctive bull’s-eye shape with a ring around its central volcanic peak.


As we disembark from our Wayback Machine, we find that Plato has just returned from Sicily with notes on its layout and defenses. The philosopher of society and mathematics is not only in love with the dodecahedron. He has a story in mind of a mysterious mountainous island with an oblong area of about 920 square-kilometers, complete with the eye-popping one-kilometer-square central isle surrounded by three concentric moats magically formed by Poseidon for his sweetie.


Possibly thinking, “Disney World,” the Atlanteans stock the place with exotic animals, ornate priests, mad scientists and bare-breasted ladies (in the Minoan fashion of the unmarried). Using lasers and diamond-tipped borers (or pick-wielding slaves), they somehow slice offset canals through the three rings. This allows sailing ships to bring trade goods from as far away as Britain directly into the Atlantean capitol through an easily defended maze.


Cycladic-Minoan trading ship, Akrotiri, Santorini

Cycladic-Minoan trading ship hailed from Akrotiri port, Santorini

The fabled Atlanteans were no slouches as sailors, either, ranging widely over the ocean that still bears their nation’s name and causing no end of wild-eyed speculation as to its final resting place. "Pick a spot on the map, and someone has said that Atlantis was there," comments Charles Orser, curator of history at the New York State Museum in Albany.


Perfect! Plato thinks, scribbling fast to keep up with his muse. For that Greek geek’s got the perfect model. On the island of Thera, the mighty Minoans had built palaces and palatial homes – cool in the Mediterranean heat – with running taps, sluicing commodes

Palace of Knossos

... and colourful wall murals depicting frolicking dolphins. Minoan roads were paved, women held equal positions and respect with men, and weapons and warfare were eschewed in favour of friendly foreign relations and bountiful sea-trade. The Minoans were also the first Europeans to use written language, called Linear A.


It’s a fabulous story, long-running, well-known, all true. And a powerful parable indeed. Because at the zenith of their matrilineal influence and peaceful power, the brightly shining Minoan blip suddenly winked off history’s radar.


The widely-read Plato was very much aware that some 1,200 years ago the sleeping super-volcano beneath Thera awoke in bad temper. The resulting blast cratered the Minoan centre. And the resulting tsunami erased everyone on the neighbouring island of Crete.


Thera tsunami by Roger Payne

That eruption “was one of the most significant volcanic eruptions in human history,” explains Eva Panagiotakopulu, a palaeoecologist at the U. of Edinburgh. “The blast is credited for not only ending the Minoan civilization, but also for affecting ancient Egypt and other communities around the eastern



But Plato didn’t need Thera’s dramatic demise to fashion his own take. Just a hundred years before, the first of a swarm of epochal earthquakes had struck rival Sparta, killing more than 20,000 citizens and triggering instant uprisings (just add water) by its oppressed classes.


Then, shortly after the start of an enervating 25-year civil war between Sparta and Athens, the summer of 426 BCE brought one of the biggest tremblors recorded by ancient sources. The resulting seismic sea-wave drowned much of the coast north of Athens – including the suggestively-named island of “Atalante” where an Athenian fort and several warships were wrecked.


Plato was also aware that just 13 years before, another super-quake had birthed a tsunami that destroyed the coastal cities of Helike and Bura, about 150 km west of his Academia Grove. Revered throughout the ancient world as the cult centre for worship of Poseidon (second only to the oracle at nearby Delphi), Helike was the flourishing capital of a confederation of city states,” writes Dr. Iain Stewart for the BBC.

Helike: “Atlantis”?  -Michael Bradley photo

According to the Greek writer Pausanius, “A sudden tremor was sent by the god, and with the earthquake the sea ran back, dragging down Helike into the receding waters with every living person” deep below the Corinthian gulf.


BBC Horizon's “Helike – The Real Atlantis” credits the destruction of this ancient political and religious centre in a single night for the birth of the Atlantis myth that has captivated human speculation ever since – much like the Saviour Superhero story already in wide circulation at the time.


Beset by networked news reports of quakes and tsunamis, Plato was in his mid-50s when Armageddon overtook Poseidon’s sacred city.


“At this time,” Dr. Stewart comments, “earthquakes struck with a frequency and ferociousness” that reshaped Greek culture and political power.


“At the end of a century that had witnessed one of the most violent earthquake storms to have affected the ancient world, ordinary Greeks probably didn't speculate on the origins of the mythical Atlantis; they were too busy surviving its reality.”


Part historical fact, part storyteller’s educational fake news, what was the point of Plato’s “Atlantis”?


"He was dealing with a number of issues, themes that run throughout his work," Romm remarks. In particular, "human nature, ideal societies, the gradual corruption of human society.”



The legend of Atlantis is a parable about a warlike people “who lived in a highly advanced, utopian civilization. But they became greedy, petty, and ‘morally bankrupt’," chimes in Charles Orser, curator of history at the New York State Museum. (Palace of Knossos -Plato’s model? Photo by Janson)


According to the mysteriously-sourced Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria by W. Scott Elliot, this pissed off the gods, who “became angry because the people had lost their way and turned to immoral pursuits."


For ancient “gods” substitute “karma”. And observe that when their mighty military insolently launched an endless series of unprovoked attacks against nation-states across Europe and Asia, another major power became alarmed. And put them down. 


Even before nature’s obliterating revenge, Atlantean society was disintegrating from internal and external strife brought about by their scientist-political-priests’ reckless use of “supernatural” technologies. Remember what Arthur C. Clarke said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

17th-century Jesuit map of Atlantis in Atlantic Ocean -Corbis  

But what if Atlantis exists today? What if the rapidly-imploding, planet-threatening policies and technologies of the USA define the New Atlantis? Are we getting the point of this powerful cautionary tale right now?


“The idea is that we should use the story to examine our ideas of government and power. We have missed the point if instead of thinking about these issues we go off exploring the sea bed,” advises Plato scholar Julia Annas, Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona.


Throne Room with purificaiton bowl, Knossos Palace, 1,500BC

Translating and paraphrasing the original Greek, Dr. Iain Stewart adds, “The allegory of Atlantis is a poetic ideal to which good men should aspire, but from which there is the danger of falling short, with catastrophic results.”


National Geographic cites the naturalist, Jose Maria Galan, who says the real story of Atlantis is that “No matter how big and powerful you get, you can disappear like that.”


Mark Adams, who has unearthed evidence that at least one “Atlantis” was located in Morocco, told National Geo: “One of the main messages Plato was trying to get across: Time is cyclical” – if not cynical – “and even a very powerful, technically advanced civilization like Atlantis is going to get wiped out eventually.”


“Part true. Part false,” is Adams’ verdict on Plato’s yarn. “Socrates says: There are stories that we use to teach children. Some of these stories are true; some of these stories are not true. And then there are stories that have some truth and some falsity. The falsity is put in for teaching purposes.


Significantly, Plato’s pupil had never heard of Atlantis. When Critias introduced the tale of Athens’ upset victory over Atlantis, Socrates responded by saying, “Tell me more. I’m a really smart guy and… I’ve never heard of this Atlantis place.”

(fragment of “Atlantis" by Hellanicus of Lesbos) 

As Alan F. Alford so pithily puts it, “Socrates certainly would have heard of it. Q.E.D.


Michael Wysession, an Earth and planetary scientist at Washington University, notices that an Atlantic Ocean floor extensively surveyed by satellites has not revealed any lost continents. "There's nothing that big that's hidden down there."


A myth he manufactured from A to Z for philosophical purposes,” agrees Bernard Suzanne, referring to Plato’s modus and motives.


“Most of Plato’s philosophical works were cast as stories” – such as his Socratic Dialogues, writes Atlantis sleuth Justin Springs. “Plato was essentially a philosopher who expressed his ideas through stories, and was very skilled at it. If we don’t understand this, we miss the boat…” to Atlantis.


“Plato was not only a great philosopher, he was also a great storyteller,” Springs says. “Storytellers do more than recite facts: they are intent on creating small worlds that will entertain us, instruct us, mystify us, even deceive us in order to get at the root of a complex truth. (Minoan figure, bronze)

“Plato was… intensely concerned with the nature of reality, and on the political side, the declining moral fiber of Athens,” Springs continues. “He was constructing a story – of a once powerful country destroyed by the Gods because of corruption – to illustrate a point: Athens couldn’t continue behaving in such an immoral way.”


The Hopi, along with many other native prophecies, make the same point. Except their warnings – which this writer was privileged to hear first-hand from a Hopi emissary – are contemporary.




Does any society fit the Atlantis template today? Tune into Part 2: “Playdough And The Reporter”. Coming soon…



Capt. William Thomas helming Celerity in the Salish Sea -Will Thomas photo

*Writer’s Notes:

The more I shake my head over stubborningly ignorant politicians and their complicit, comatose followers who are working so diligently together to shipwreck their own civilization and our shared planet, the more I’m convinced that it “Looks Like Atlantis All Over Again”. 

Like many or most of us, I’ve been fascinated by Plato’s story ever since I first came across it. Most likely in a comic book.


Years later, a “gifted” medium (my birthday present) started describing details about my life she could not possibly have known – and did! I sat up straight on my cushion and took another hit of incense.


You’ve always been a sailor,” she breathed, causing the candles to flicker.


Got that right, I thought. I’d taken command of my first sailboat around age 10, and captained a wickedly fast 18-foot C-Scow in close-quarter’s combat against much older yacht club fanatics while still learning how to make out with my sultry shipmate. I later undertook an adventuresome eight-year circumnavigation of the Pacific Ocean under sail aboard my trimaran, Celerity (pictured above). Yup, I told her. Sailing’s definitely in my blood. 


You captained the last ship to carry survivors from Atlantis.


Whoa! How did she know I was into Atlantis? She’d stated my connection with that radioactive “A” name as naturally as I’d mention sailing to Vancouver. (Which, as you approach from seaward, does look like Atlantis rising from the water ahead.)


According to that woo-woo woman, as the captain of a trading ship calling at Atlantis, I ended up taking off the lucky or prescient few who managed to clamber aboard my vessel as the island shook, burned, crumbled and started to submerge.


Years later, just for fun, I looked up the seamen, sailing vessels, portolans and other navigational tools of Plato’s time and started writing a short-story. It concerned a Phoenician sea captain who eludes a Minoan patrol craft seeking to interdict any ship venturing further offshore. With some cunning, much effort and more luck, he and his crew “escape” into trackless off-soundings.


It’s a hot, empty, turbulent blue desert. All he’s got to go on is the word of an old seadog drunk with fear and ale. His tipsy, paranoid confidant was on the lam from the Minoan Navy, who apparently did not want the secret getting out.


“What secret?” the narrator wants to know. Minoan spies (who also frequent pubs with closed mouths and open ears) be damned.


That crazy old shellback’s not the best source. But then, maybe he is. Muttered in the din of some dim pub, his descriptions of “Atlantis” sound like a sailor’s Shangri-La. While the captain considers making for this rumoured landfall, he overhears Atlantis mentioned in snatches of conversation in several more   “establishments." At least, that’s what he thinks he’s heard. After all this “research", he’s three-sheets-to-the-wind himself.


Oh, it was an exciting yarn, all right. Authentic in the sea-telling. Turns out the captain does find the place that wild-eyed sea-fugitive had insisted existed. Of course, he almost doesn’t. (Did I mention that it’s BIG out there?) Through ominous circumstances, the increasingly desperate seaman eventually comes to sight that telltale central peak.


You couldn’t say his timing is great. He ties up to the innermost wharf and goes exploring on foot a few days before Atlantis blows up and sinks.


It's a hectic time. Keeping writing, I learn whom the captain encounters and what he finds on venturing ashore. All is not well in Atlantis-land. While the priests and politicians squabble and their ill-intentioned tech wobbles out-of-control, the deliberately-oblivious civilians seem mesmerized by their own denial. But a few citizens are picking up their bags along with the vibes and looking for a way off.


Of course, like all sailors since the dawn of sail, the captain immediately falls in with an island girl who can give him the gouge (inside track) on what’s really going on. She’s competent, fearless, all packed and auditioning for mate. Which can’t be good since the current mate of his vessel wants to be his mate as well. 

Somehow, the captain must persuade both feisty seawomen to be allies, while he remains focused on immediately clearing for sea. But before anything can be resolved, a restless surge starts jerking the moored ships and slapping against the nearby rocks. 

Every sailor in port knows it’s time to cast off. Alas, as in any harbour that’s blowing up and about to get snuffed by a tsunami that will scrape it bare and turn an entire nation-state into muddy shoals, complications ensue…



I finally stopped writing because I was making it all up. This was no “channeled" documentary. I was not picking up any indications that I was really there. Zero on the resonance-o-meter.


Still intrigued, over the next few decades, when not dealing with various emergencies onboard the real Atlantis called Earth, I  continued to scarf every book and magazine article I could find dealing with one of the most compelling stores in human lore. (They ranged from the reasonable to the ridiculous, with the most provocative in-between.) Along the way, I amassed an extensive folder of allegedly “Atlantean" notes. 


“Your role is a synthesizer of complex information,” I was also told. Somehow, it’s 2017 and time to put this mashup all together in a two-part series intended to update, distill, entertain and perhaps even contribute to a discussion older than the bible.


 Maybe it’s time to start circulating my bumper sticker:






Work-for-ricebowl-contributions pitch:

Part of my evolving “Masterworks” series, the story of Atlantis and a possible new slant on it have been on my mind for more than three-decades. 

Not that I’m a “master” of anything  the very notion is hilarious. My masterwork is a journalist’s bucket list to consolidate and interpret decades of research and pondering and post some summations and further questions to the ephemeral Internet “that never forgets” (until it crashes) before I croak. Because you never know. And most of us won’t.

I’ve spent several weeks reviewing my notes, writing, revising, photo-researching, posting and preparing to post parts 1 & 2. 


If you have found these writer’s notes, “Looks Like Atlantis All Over Again" and other stories on my website of value, your drachmas (or equivalent) are greatly appreciated by this fixed-income pensioner. (How did that happen?) When you do, you can send me a brief message in the box provided.


Thank you for your interest and support over many years. And for your help in making this scarred and sacred planet a better place for the offspring of all beings who follow us.



In Service,

William Thomas

Part 2:



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