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It now appears that at least a great deal of what we now call
continental drift is driven by asteroidal impacts that go
through the Earth's crust to the mantle. Since the basalt of
the Earth's mantle is already hot enough to melt, it does
melt when the surface rocks are removed by such an impact.
But since the density of the basalt goes down on melting, the
molten magma fills the crater.
It is now thought that the North Atlantic seafloor spreading
may have started this way at Iceland, And that the South
Atlantic seafloor spreading may have started at the south end
of Africa some two hundred and fifty million years ago. Now
since the floor of the Atlantic appears to be spreading from
the center, it does not seem likely that there is a continent
sunk under the ocean off the west coast of Europe. And that
makes it very unlikely that the Atlantis legend refers to any
such continent. Also the legend dates from before the time
when the term Atlantic referred to the ocean west of Europe.
Most probably the legend referred originally to the volcanic
explosion north of Crete, on what is now known as the island
of Santorini. Jacques Yves Cousteau has a two-hour television
program on that explosion. The volcano blew up around fifteen
hundred B.C. and brought to an end the domination of the
Mediterranean Basin by the Minoans whose civilization was
centered on Crete. The Mycenaean Greeks used to pay taxes to
the Minoans till after that explosion.
The Minoans on Crete had the best forests and the best boats,
but unfortunately for them, their island was only seventy
miles south of this volcanic explosion. The earthquake waves
would have destroyed most of their buildings. The tsunami
would have destroyed most of their boats, and probably killed
most of their people.