So did Scripps Institution of Oceanography geophysicist David Sandwell not only help add a new dimension to Google Earth, but also aid in the finding of the lost city of Atlantis? Well, this blog item on The New York Times’ science page certainly raises the question.

On Feb. 2, Google unveiled a new version of the online simulation of the planet that allows users to virtually dive into the ocean. The maps that the underwater simulation is based on were developed by Sandwell, and Walter Smith of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They used a combination of depth measurements recorded by ships and a method they developed based on satellite readings to build a model of the seafloor topography, including shelves, canyons and reefs.

And according to one British aeronautical engineer, they have pointed the way to Atlantis. From the Times blog post:

British aeronautical engineer Bernie Bamford sighted a mysterious grid of undersea lines while browsing through Google Earth’s new underwater search tool. The strange pattern was spotted off the western coast of Africa, apparently near one of the possible sites of the legendary island.

According to CNet, Google waved off claims that the bizarre pattern could be linked to the fabled sunken city, saying the criss-cross pattern of lines were remnants of sonar-equipped boats collecting data from the ocean floor.

“It’s true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth, including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an ancient Roman villa,” a statement from Google read. “In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor. The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.”

Not everyone is buying Google’s explanation: Debates are raging on sites such as Digg and Facebook over the true identity of the watery discovery.

I’ll try to connect with Sandwell to get his take on Atlantis.


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