Did legend of Atlantis inspire real tsunami?

ATHENS: The volcanic explosion that obliterated much of the island that might have inspired the legend of Atlantis apparently triggered a tsunami that travelled hundreds of miles to reach as far as present-day Israel, scientists now suggest. The new findings about this past tsunami could shed light on the destructive potential of future disasters, researchers added.

The islands that make up the small circular archipelago of Santorini, roughly 200 km southeast of Greece, are what remain of what once was a single island, before one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human antiquity shattered it in the Bronze Age some time between 1630 BC to 1550 BC.

Speculation has abounded as to whether the Santorini eruption inspired the legend of Atlantis, which Plato said drowned in the ocean. Although the isle is often regarded as just an invention, the explosion might have given rise to the story of a lost empire by helping to wipe out the real-life Minoan civilisation that once dominated the Mediterranean, from which the myth of the bull-headed ‘minotaur’ comes. The primary means by which the eruption potentially wreaked havoc on the Minoan civilisation by the giant tsunami it would have triggered. However, the precise effects of this eruption and killer wave have been a mystery for decades.

Now scientists find the tsunami may have been powerful enough to race some 1,000 km from Santorini to reach the farthest eastern shores of the Mediterranean, leaving behind a layer of debris more than a foot thick by the coast of Israel.

Researchers dove as far as 65 feet deep off the coast of Caesarea in Israel to collect tubes of sediment, or cores, more than 6 feet long from the seabed.

“The work resembles a construction site with pneumatic hammers, heavy weights, floats to counter-weight equipment, hoses - Each time we took the system down it took hours of surface preparation, planning, and discussion,” said researcher Beverly Goodman. Within the cores, they found evidence of up to nearly 16 inches of sediment deposited roughly about the date of the Santorini eruption. The range of sizes of the particles making up this deposit is the kind one might find laid down by a tsunami - storms, in comparison, cannot kick up the seafloor as much, and as such the range of particle sizes they generate is more limited.