Google's Atlantis Discovery Explained

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Google has taken to its official blog to further explain why those funny markings found off the coast of Africa are not the lost city of Atlantis. The company has enlisted two scientists, David Sandwell of Scripps Oceanography and Walter Smith of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who are responsible for the imagery in Google Ocean, to help explain away the Atlantis rumors. And while their explanation is not as exotic as discovering an ancient civilization, it's still worth taking a look at.

First, let's take a look at the image that started it all:

As you can see, we have a rectangular grid that looks like it could be a city, as well as something that looks like a roadway leading up to the pattern.

However, when you take Google's measurement tool and apply it to one of the squares, you discover some of them are about 8 miles long, which, as Sandwell and Smith point out, is about 50 times the size of a regular New York City block.

Applying the tool to the entire grid, gives you a length of just over 100 miles-imagine trying to find your way around that place!

The explanation Google provided for the mysterious lines was that they were ship tracks created by a boat gathering bathymetric data of the ocean floor. What this means is that scientists used sonar to get higher resolution images of the ocean floor. The process, called echosounding, measures the time it takes for sound to go from the ship to the ocean floor and back. This process gives the scientists the most accurate impression of what the ocean floor looks like. The problem is that a boat can only use echosounding directly below its position, and it has to travel at very slow speeds to get an accurate image. Also, the maps created with the echosounding technique often show the path that a boat took to gather the data, and that's exactly what happened with the 'Atlantis' image.

The scientists say there are many track patterns all over Google Earth, and they provided this image of more boat tracks, which they say can be found just north of Hawaii.

Sandwell and Smith also provided a KMZ file to download an overlay onto 'Atlantis' to see the path the imaging boat took.

As for ‘Atlantis,' Sandwell and Smith say the image will disappear in the next version of Google Earth. So once again, Atlantis fades back into the pages of myth, but who knows what else you might found out there, so keep looking!

Right now, only a small portion of the ocean has been mapped using sonar, and the rest of Google Ocean's imaging comes from satellites and other forms of less accurate measurement. A Navy study estimates it would take one ship about 200 years to map the entire ocean floor. That means 100 boats could do it in just 2 years, with an estimated cost of $2 billion.

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