Google Earth can do many things: gaze into the cosmos, track the flu, and even stalk your friends. What it doesn’t do—or hasn’t yet, anyway—is discover the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.
A British tabloid, The Sun, claimed Friday that an image captured by users of Google Ocean “could show” Atlantis, a gigantic island described by Plato as a utopian society that “was swallowed up by the sea and vanished” after a great war with Athens. Plato was vague about the island’s location (and whether it was merely a parable or an actual place is hotly debated online), but the Sun claimed that a “host of crisscrossing lines, looking like a map of a vast metropolis” 620 miles off of Africa’s western coast, near the Canary Islands, “seem too vast and organized to be caused naturally.”
Alas, Google had to go and spoil all the fun. In a statement, the company explained that the software had actually spotted “an artifact of the data collection process.”
“Bathymetric (or seafloor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor," the statement said. "The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data. The fact there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world's oceans."
This is hardly the first time Atlantis has been “discovered.” Explorers have previously claimed to have located it in the Canary Islands, as well as off the Spanish coast, in the Mediterranean Sea, the Azores, the Caribbean, Tunisia, Sweden, Iceland and South America, we noted in this 2004 piece in Scientific American.
Bust of Plato, Museo Pio-Clementino/Marie-Lan Nguyen via Wikimedia Commons