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Home Terra Australis Incognita Proof of Theory - 1.0.2 Terra Australis, the continent which drowned before it sank
Proof of Theory - 1.0.2 Terra Australis, the continent which drowned before it sank PDF 
Article Index
Proof of Theory
1.0.1 Terra Australis Incognita on medieval maps
1.0.2 Terra Australis, the continent which drowned before it sank
1.0.3 Myths and legends linking Terra Australis to Atlantis
1.0.4 Atlantis on the ocean floor
1.0.5 Abraham (Ra), father of the Hebrews
1.06 Terra Australis, Antarctica and the ice core data
1.07 The mythical island of Frisland
1.08 The pre-Hudson mapping of Hudson Bay
1.09 Mercator’s submarine islands off Brazil and in the Caribbean
1.10 Atlantis and the Pillars of Hercules – a new translation and location
All Pages

I have recently added a section on ancient enigmas and anomalies, in which I showed the Cosquer caves in France along with a graph of the rise in sea level over the past 20 000 years (Figure 3a).  According to Plato, Atlantis had a plain in the centre of the island – could it be that this plain had systematically become flooded over thousands of years? Figures 5 and 6 would then show the low-lying plain of the continent in two distinct stages of flooding – initially sea water entering through the outer ring and later submerging parts of this ring as well. Plato related that the metropolis of Atlantis had been surrounded by rings of water across which bridges had to be built, and that the plain actually comprised zones of land and sea. This would be an accurate description of a low-lying area systematically being flooded by the sea. For the sake of comparison the outlines of the Schöner and Vatican maps were plotted in azimuthal polar projection (Figure 1.7 below). Not only the central plateau was flooded, but also the ‘Patalis’ region shown in Figure 1.2. The flooding of the latter is illustrated clearly by a direct overlay of Schöner’s 1515 and 1520 maps (Figure 1.8).


Atlantis Flooding
Figure 1.7 Schöner 1520 map (left), Vatican 1530 map (centre) Schöner 1515 map (right).

Download a high resolution image here.

Schoner overlay
Figure 1.8. Overlay of Schöner’s 1515 and 1520 maps, suggesting a flooding of the central plateau and the ‘Patalis’ region


What really caught my attention in Figure 1.6, though, is the similarity between the land ends of the C-shaped continent and the ocean floor on a NASA bathymetry map of the world (Figure 1.9 below).  Even the area demarcated as ‘Regio Patalis’ in Figure 1.2 seems to be presented by the submerged land mass to the east of Australia (compare to Figure 1.8). The correlation is simply too good to be no more than coincidence.  


NASA Topo Australia
Figure 1.9. Schöner 1515 map of Terra Australis compared to ocean floor on NASA bathymetry map

Download a high resolution image here.

In order to assess whether the "horse's head" shape of the New Zealand shelf on the Schoner map would have appeared as such at a lower sea level, I gradually filled up the ocean from below as far as NASA's colour scale index would allow. The result is shown in Figure 1.9b, which clearly indicates that the at least the north-western boundary agrees with the Schoner map. Please keep in mind though that in terms of my theory some areas of the South Pole region had been forced below the water by the impact of a comet or asteroid and that the relative orientation of specific areas most likely would have changed. In other words, Schoner's 1515 map would represent  the shape of the continent before the impact.

Figure-1.9b-NASA-bathymetry-map-with-lowered-sea-level

Figure 1.9b NASA bathymetry map with lowered sea level

The next question which springs to mind is whether any of the other details that appear on these maps may be true. Schöner included mountain ranges on both of his maps, along with two lakes on the 1515 map. The so-called Green Globe (Figure 1.10) presents a more or less similar picture, except that Terra Australis here stretches al the way to Madagascar and the lake below Madagascar opens into the sea. On Schöner’s 1515 map there appears to be a river connecting the two lakes, but on the Green Globe this may be interpreted as either a river or a mountain range. As it is highly unlikely that a river could have been running that far between two lakes, the line is assumed to represent a mountain range instead.


The Green Globe
Figure 1.10 The 1515 ‘Green Globe’ in the BnF, Paris

The mountain ranges on the 1520 and 1515 maps by Schöner more or less encircle the central plateau (Figures 1.11 and 1.12, respectively), but it is instructive to see how closely it resembles the mountain ranges on what has remained above water today, specifically Australia and its central lake.


Schoner map with Mountains
Figure 1.11. Schöner’s 1520 map of Terra Australis, with mountain ranges


Schoner
Figure 1.12. Schöner’s 1515 map of Terra Australis, with mountain ranges


Figure 1.13 shows a hand sketch of the mountain ranges of Schöner’s 1515 map superimposed upon a NASA digital elevation map of Australia.  The lowest altitudes are coloured dark green, changing to white for the highest altitudes. Schöner’s mountain ranges appear to match reality rather well, except for the mountain range drawn in the ocean along the southern coast - more on this later. The crucial question is whether the encircled area in Figure 1.13 could once have been the location of a vast inland lake. Schöner named this lake “the lake between the mountains”. The lake may actually have been known as the “Shining Water” lake (discussed later).


Schoner NASA
Figure 1.13. Mountains on the 515 Schöner map superimposed on a NASA Digital Elevation Map of Australia

To test this theory (i.e., could a lake actually have existed here) a computer program was written to systematically fill up this ‘lake’ from the bottom. This was done by using a grey-scale version of the high resolution map and the ‘flood-fill’ function of MS Paint.  The result is shown in Figure 1.14.

Lake Fill
Figure 1.14. ‘Lake’ being filled up until flow-over occurs.

The flow-over stage is shown expanded in Figure 1.15 (the actual flow down the canyon is guesswork derived by means of the ‘flood-fill’ approach – a much more detail elevation map of the area will be required to simulate the dynamic flow of the water), and the end result on a large scale in Figure 1.16.

Lake Overflow
Figure 1.15. Lake filled up to point of over-flow.

Australia with Lake
Figure 1.16. Schöner’s Shining water (‘Lucach’) lake?

[Click here for hi-res version – 3.6 MB]

The flow-over of the inland lake runs into the present Spencer Gulf and there can be little doubt that this gulf used to be a canyon cut through the rock during millions of years of overflow from the inland lake.

Apart from the lake, Figure 1.16 also shows the ocean floor of coastal Australia as transposed onto the NASA digital elevation map from a Geological map of Australia available online and free of charge from Geoscience Australia.  The latter map was plotted in Lambert conical conformal projection, whereas the above map is in Mercator projection. The dark blue areas in Figure 1.16 are not covered in the original Geoscience map.

The reason for choosing this particular seabed profile is the high resolution in which it is presented, as shown in Figure 1.17 below. The most prominent feature of the graded slope between the Australian continent and the ocean floor 4000m below is the presence of numerous canyons. These canyons could in my opinion only have been carved out over millions of years by water running from the continental shelf down to the plateau 4000m below, meaning that the entire area shown in Figure 1.17 had once been above water. The modern theory is that these canyons were formed through the turbidity currents, which are described in the Encyclopedia Britannica as “underwater density current(s) of abrasive sediments. Such currents appear to be relatively short-lived, transient phenomena that occur at great depths. They are thought to be caused by the slumping of sediment that has piled up at the top of the continental slope, particularly at the heads of submarine canyons. Slumping of large masses of sediment creates a dense slurry, which then flows down the canyon to spread out over the ocean floor and deposit a layer of sand in deep water. Repeated deposition forms submarine fans, analogous to the alluvial fans found at the mouths of river canyons. Sedimentary rocks that are thought to have originated from ancient turbidity currents are called turbidites.” However, few turbidity currents have been recorded from the submarine canyons that have been studied.

This theory appears to have been developed due to the absence of a mechanism other than conventional river flow to explain how these canyons were formed. The process is depicted in Figure 1.17b. More information can be found in [Sandiford et al, “Tectonic framework for the Cenozoic cratonic basins of Australia”, Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (2009) 56, (S5–S18)] and [Hill et al, “Ancestral Murray River on the Lacepede Shelf, southern Australia: Late Quaternary migrations of a major river outlet and strandline development”, Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (2009) 56, (135–157)].  Evidence of the existence of a lake of these proportions apparently does not exist, but it is also true that no one would as yet have searched for such evidence.

The canyons at the mouth of the Spencer Gulf canyon (region A) are more concentrated and significantly deeper than those further away to the sides (regions B and C), suggesting the presence of a sloped waterfall of incredible proportions. The colour altitude scale of the map is somewhat misleading - the slope is about 4 km (drop) over a range of 40km to more than 100 km. Other areas of the continental shelf display similar canyons, as can be seen on the inset in Figure 1.17. Plato described Atlantis as having numerous lakes and rivers in the mountains and that a ditch or canal had to be dug around (parts of) the plain to receive the streams coming down the mountain, to channel the water to the sea.



Ravines
Figure 1.17. Canyons formed by water rushing downward from the central lake to the plateau below

Ravines
Figure 1.17b. Formation of submarine canyons by turbidity currents.

The relative position and size of the inland lake shown in Figure 1.16 corresponds well with those of the lake on Schöner’s 1515 map. Again, the correlation is simply too good to be ascribed to coincidence.  Returning to the southern mountain range sketched on the NASA map in Figure 1.13, it is clear from the above images that the edge of the Australian continental shelf would have appeared as an immense mountain range as seen from the plateau.>

Formation of canyons

Excluding glaciers, inland canyons are usually formed by rivers which cut through the riverbed rock for millions of years. There are numerous agents constantly at work during the formation of a canyon. Mechanical erosion of the river rock is caused mainly by debris or suspended particles flowing down the river or boulders rapidly transported downstream during floods. Chemical erosion of the rock occurs as a result of chemical interactions between water and minerals in the rock, and thermal stress weathering occurs when the rock face experiences constant hot day and cold night swings or temperature shocks when rain pours down on rock heated by the sun.   The key factor however is the flow of water, which is needed to transport the sediment away and thereby deepen the canyon. Should the flow of water permanently cease, the canyon will theoretically be filled up instead by eroded materials from the flanks of the canyon and sand particles deposited by wind.

By contrast, turbidity currents occur only when enough sediment has collected for what is effectively a landslide to begin. The sediment particles are usually very small and the flow of sediment resembles a mudslide of sea sand. There is however no constant flow of mud down the canyon or valley and most of the erosive agents listed above are absent deep below sea level. These infrequent landslides of sea sand are nevertheless accepted to be the main cause of submarine canyons in steep continental shelves.

There is, however, another type of submarine canyon of which the creation is even more difficult to associate with turbidity currents. These canyons typically run extremely long distances along the ocean floor at small slope angles and closely resemble inland rivers.

As an example, the bathymetry map of the Celtic Sea shown in Figure 1.17c reveals what appears to be a river bed immediately south west of Ireland, in the Porcupine Seabight basin. This submarine river bed is about 180 km in length and ends roughly 4 km below sea level, with a slope of 1.3° (at max, 6000 km depth, 1.9°). Could turbidity currents have carved out a canyon that long, over such a small inclination angle, in the presence of ocean cross currents?

Fig 1.17c

Figure 1.17c River bed and submarine canyons submerged by the Celtic Sea  [Encarta Interactive World Atlas]

A second example is the submarine canyon in Monterey Bay (Figure 1.17d). All the submarine canyons in this area appear to have originated from inland rivers (points A to E), but more significantly, the Monterey Canyon makes a sharp bend near its end, which is known as the Shepard Meander. Meanders in rivers are associated with flat plains, suggesting that the area around the Shepard Meander must have been relatively flat when erosion initially began. The Shepard Meander is 112 km offshore and is about 3500m below sea level. Could the sediment carried along by turbidity currents really have eroded a meandering canyon into the ocean bed?

Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon

Figure 1.17d The Monterey Bay submarine canyon and the Shepard Meander [Google Earth, Encarta Interactive World Atlas]

I have argued above that ocean floor from Australia to New Zealand must have been above sea level for millions of years before it was submerged by an impact of a comet or asteroid. The area demarcated by the rectangle in Figure 1.17e is known as the Bounty Trough. It begins at the continental shelf and ends nearly 900km further, at a depth of about 7000m. The average slope is about 0.4°, but is probably significantly less away from the continental shelf. If New Zealand and the surrounding sea floor had been above sea level for millions of years, amid torrential rains, it is easily understood how the Bounty Trough ‘river’ or canyon could have been formed. It is hard to imagine how infrequent turbidity currents could have carved out this canyon, especially when the ocean current flows up the valley (Figure 1.17f).

Bounty Trough

Figure 1.17e. ‘River bed’ running down the Bounty Trough off New Zealand [Google Earth, Encarta Interactive World Atlas, Margins: New Zealand Focus Area]

New Zealand Ocean Currents

Figure 1.17f. Ocean currents around New Zealand [Tasa Clips]

As an extreme example of gradients, sediment flowing down the Agadir canyon off the west coast of Africa has been shown to have ended up in the Madeira abyssal basin, 1800km offshore and about 5500m below sea level (Figure 1.17g). In Figure 1.17g the red curve represents the slope along the of sediment flow route. It is theorized that turbidity currents transported sediment all the way down to the Madeira basin, even along channels that run for approximately 320km at a slope of less than 0.05° (a drop of only 28m over 320 km)! Could a ‘landslide’ occur over such a gentle slope, and continue for more than 300km? One could imagine that a massive flood (the biblical Flood) could have washed sediment that far offshore, and that ocean currents eventually washed away all sediment not trapped in the basins or channels. By contrast, had this entire area been above sea level millions of years ago, water could easily have transported the sediment down to the Madeira basin.

Agadir Canyon

Figure 1.17g. Agadir canyon [Nature]

I do not question the existence of turbidity currents, only whether these infrequent, low impact currents could have formed the submarine canyons not only in steep continental shelves, but more specifically over extremely long stretches of ocean bed, often with almost negligible slope. A much more plausible explanation (in the sense of the formation of the river) would be that these canyons were formed by rivers when those parts of the ocean had been above sea level for millions of years.

If this was indeed the case, then the entire continental shelf must have undergone submersion to its present depth sometime after the formation of the submarine canyons. This would match the submersion of the Antarctic shelf as proposed above and probably happened because of the bulging of the earth. The earth is not perfectly spherical but ellipsoidal instead, with the equatorial radius 21km greater than the polar radius. One can imagine that a massive impact near the polar region would have caused the earth to bulge slightly around the equator, submerging the polar regions by thousands of meters. The continental plates would have moved relative to each other, implying that even regions closer to the equator may have become submerged by the ocean.