Just prior to Blavatsky writing Isis Unveiled, an international task force, led by the British ship Challenger and the U.S. Dolphin, obtained the first map of the ocean floor. They lowered buckets on ropes until they contacted the bottom. In the twentieth century, sonar was invented to locate enemy submarines and later it acquired the peace-time use of mapping more accurately the ocean floor. Now satellites have obtained the same information. An article in Discover Magazine March 1996, displays this ocean feature with colored maps obtained indirectly - a satellite detected gravity that implied ocean bottom features.
Blavatsky uses the then recently obtained information on the floor of the Atlantic to justify her position on Atlantis. She says the mid-atlantic ridge is a remnant of that continent.
No more striking confirmation of our position could be given, than the fact that the ELEVATED RIDGE in the Atlantic basin, 9,000 feet in height, which runs for some two or three thousand miles southwards from a point near the British Islands, first slopes towards South America, then shifts almost at right angles to proceed in a SOUTH-EASTERLY line toward the African coast, whence it runs on southward to Tristan d'Acunha. This ridge is a remnant of an Atlantic continent. (SDii333)
Ignatius Donnelly's seminal work, Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, published in 1882, has a map showing this ridge and what was known of it in his day. Blavatsky, however, claims to have knowledge beyond that provided by the research of the good ship Challenger.
and, could it [the ridge] be traced further [past the island of Tristan d'Acunha], [it] would establish the reality of a submarine horse-shoe junction with a former continent in the Indian Ocean. (Cf. chart adapted from the "Challenger" and "Dolphin" soundings in Mr. Donnelly's, "Atlantis, the Antediluvian World," p. 47) [The map on page 47 that she references, was omitted in later printings of Donnelly's book but is rescued from a 1900 edition and made available by the hot-link above.]
Before examining 20th century knowledge on this point, we should note her exact words. We may think casually that she is making a prediction. But then she might have said "the ridge will be found and it will go along this path ..." - as though she were visualizing the future scene with clairvoyance. Instead she said "could it be traced further ...". Her language suggests she has no specific knowledge on whether or not it will be possible to trace it further. Rather, she simply has knowledge of the subject matter.
And why would Blavatsky have any use for knowledge of some detail of the ocean bottom - a seemingly totally irrelevant item of knowledge? Because it is a remnant of the above-water "horse-shoe" connection to the continent of Lemuria that forms another important element of her presentation of the most ancient prehistory.
This "horse-shoe" shape becomes relevant in observing the 20th century evidence, so two more quotes are offered. They show that in the teaching of Secret Doctrine, Lemuria is the Eastern side of the horse-shoe and Atlantis is the Western part of the horse-shoe. (After Atlantis rises, Lemuria sinks, roughly speaking.)
No confusion need arise as regards the postulation of a Northern "Lemuria." The prolongation of that great continent into the North Atlantic Ocean is in no way subversive of the opinions so widely held as to the site of the lost Atlantis, and one corroborates the other. It must be noted that the Lemuria, which served as the cradle of the Third Root-Race, not only embraced a vast area in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but extended in the shape of a horse-shoe past Madagascar, round "South Africa" (then a mere fragment in process of formation), through the Atlantic up to Norway. ... thus corroborating the whole "horse-shoe" doctrine already enuciated. (SDii333)
Undoubtedly a fact and a confirmation of the esoteric conception of the Lemuria which originally not only embraced great areas in the Indian and Pacific oceans, but projected round South Africa into the North Atlantic. Its Atlantic portion subsequently become the geological basis of the future home of the Fourth Race Atlanteans. (SDii781)
Twentieth century oceanographic results
So what does 20th century science say? It totally confirms her claimed knowledge about the continuation of the mid-atlantic ridge.
Tristan Da Cunha is a small island complex in the South Atlantic between Buenos Aires Argentina and the southern tip of Africa. Donnelly describes the ridge as terminating at this island group.
reaching from a point on the coast of the British Islands southwardly to the coast of South America, at Cape Orange, thence south-eastwardly to the coast of Africa, and thence southwardly to Tristan d'Acunha. (Ignatius Donnelly, Atlantis the Antediluvian World p 47-49)
The satellite map from Discover Magazine is available. (It is a 153KB file that takes a moment to expand and requires available disk space to do so.) (HELPFUL HINT: In order to have sufficient resolution to show the relevant details on a computer screen it was necessary to use a zoomed in version. The land masses on the map are shown in solid black. To see the eastern portion of the horse-shoe, position the vertical scroll box on the map about 3/4's of the way down and the horizontal scroll box completely to the right. The Cape of Good Hope, Africa will then be in the upper right hand corner and the Atlanto-Lemurian ridge can be seen snaking across the screen.)
If other maps are consulted they will show the ridge (then called the mid-ocean ridge) extending exactly as Blavatsky claimed. Its horse-shoe shape is quite evident. (BN will later obtain such a map and make it available here.) The mid-ocean ridge can also be clearly seen on globes that are readily availble - and in such a way as to again clearly vindicate her claim of knowledge.
Though not wholly satisfying, in lieu of a good map, the following description is offered from the Discover issue.
The midocean ridges themselves, where seafloor geology begins, are visible on the map, too. The Midatlantic Ridge snakes down the center of that ocean from Jan Mayen off Greenland to the latitude of Cape Horn; near Iceland, where its volcanic effusions are so prodigious that it becomes land, it coincides with the most fiery of gravity highs. Under South Africa, the Southwest Indian Ridge shoots into the Indian Ocean like a fizzling rocket, or perhaps like the trail of some giant and cartoonish deep-sea mole. (Discover Magazine March 1996, p 63)The horse-shoe shape she is describing, is discovered in this century to be the fracture zone along the boundary between tectonic plates.
Since the importance to Blavatsky of this underwater feature is its relation to the prehistory of human life as presented by Theosophy, the confirmation of her assertion should lead to some degree of additional credence to her view of prehistory.
The Theosophical version of Atlantis - when it sunk
Blavatsky comments on Atlantis many times in the SD - far too many to accumulate here. Briefly, there was a major continent in the Pacific. It had been called Lemuria by a scientist proposing it, so that name was adopted by Blavatsky. Lemuria included present day Australia. Later a land mass arose in the North and South Atlantic, and is called Atlantis in deference to exiting historical traditions. Lemuria then sunk. Atlantis then sunk and other lands rose.
The large continent in the Atlantic did not sink all at once. Blavatsky tells us that the first signs of sinking began more than 4 million years ago. The major sinking occurred 869,000 years ago. Finally the last small remnant of an island, called Poseidonis, sunk some 12,000 years ago.
A quote on the sinking of the "main Atlantis" millions of years ago is:
This event, the destruction of the famous island of Ruta and the smaller one Daitya, which occurred 850,000 years ago in the later Pliocene times, must not be confounded with the submersion of the main continent of Atlantis during the Miocene period. Geologists cannot place the Miocene only so short a way back as 850,000 years; whatever they do, it is several million years ago that the main Atlantis perished. (SDii314 footnote)
We should note that these claims of Theosophy for an inhabited land mass in the Atlantic do not involve major vertical movements of the ocean bottom in recent times. The "main Atlantis" is claimed above to have sunk several millions of years ago. A more "recent" sinking of 850,000 years ago still gives significant time between then and now. The final sinking of 12,000 years ago does not need to be of much magnitude. And mid-atlantic seamounts are now found, relatively close to the water surface. (see below)
Blavatsky's most precise dating for the next notable sinking is:
The very commencement of the latter witnesses, during the Dvapara Yuga, the destruction of the accursed sorcerers; "of the island (Plato speaking only of its last island) beyond the Pillars of Hercules, in the Atlantic Ocean, from which there was an easy transition to other islands in the neighbourhood of another large Continent" (America). It is this "Atlantic" land which was connected with the "White Island" ... it is just 869,000 [years] since that destruction took place. (SDii147)
In other places she more commonly uses a figure of 850,000 years ago for the sinking.
We may see the evidence of the "numerous islands" in the numerous seamounts evident today on the ocean bottom.
Next she comments on the last and final sinking some 12,000 years ago.
An impenetrable veil of secrecy was thrown over the occult and religous mysteries taught, after the submersion of the last remnant of the Atlantean race, some 12,000 years ago, lest they should be shared by the unworthy, and so desecrated. (SDii124)
Blavatsky adds that Plato purposely combined the story of the last little sinking 12,000 years ago with the older sinking of the larger area.
Plato, while repeating the story as narrated to Solon by the priests of Egypt, intentionally confuses (as every Initiate would) the two continents, and assigns to the small island which sunk last all the events pertaining to the two enormous continents, the prehistoric and traditional. (SDii266)
In a rather elaborate explanation, Blavatsky shows how Plato intentionally combined the sinking 9,000 years prior (for him) with the 850,000 year sinking in veiled language. 1,000 years was held symbolic of 100,000 years - so 9,000 years ago also meant 900,000 years ago - which is close enough.
Now if we compare the 9,000 years mentioned by the Persian tales with the 9,000 years, which Plato declared had passed since the submersion of the last Atlantis, a very strange fact is made apparent. ... "first of all," we read in "Critias" that "one must remember that 9,000 years have elapsed since the war of the nations, which lived above and outside the Pillars of Hercules, and those which peopled the lands on this side." ... In "Timaeus" Plato says the same. The Secret Doctrine declaring that most of the later islander Atlanteans perished in the interval between 850,000 and 700,000 years ago, and that the Aryans were 200,000 years old when the first great "island"or continent was submerged, there hardly seems any reconciliation possible between the figures. But there is, in truth. Plato, being an Initiate, had to use the veiled lanuage of the Sanctuary, ... They of Plato's day, the initiated writers, at any rate, meant by a millennium, not a thousand but 100,000 years; ... Thus when saying 9,000 years, the Initiates will read 900,000 years, during which space of time -i.e. from the first appearance of the Aryan race, when the Pliocene portions of the once great Atlantis began graduallly sinking and other continents to appear on the surface, down to the final disappearance of Plato's small island of Atlantis... (SDii394-5)
Science in Blavatsky's day
Geology of the 19th century did not accept the idea of a major continent in the Atlantic because it held to a doctrine of gradualism, according to Bellamy.
The immediate success of Donnelly's work was naturally tremendous and world-wide. However, though it effectively stopped further fanciful speculation it did not evoke new research along the lines suggested. The reason was that Donnelly's time was not ripe for the unreserved acceptance of the hypothesis of an island, or minor continent, which was suddenly lost in the Atlantic, chiefly because the geophysical theories going at the time were unable to supply the physical presuppositions for such a loss. Donnelly championed Plato's statement that the end of Atlantis was due to a sudden terrestrial convulsion - and this was the era of gradualism in geology which admitted only of almost imperceptibly slow changes in the features of the earth's surface. (Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, by Ignatius Donnelly, 1949 edition, p. xiii-xiv)
By the turn of the century Blavatsky's Atlantis still could not receive scientific study. Bellamy continues,
Current evidence from the floor of the ocean
In a 1954 issue of Geological Society of America, Bulletin, Bruce Heezen and others reported on a seamount - an underwater mountain - that has been named Atlantis by geologists and is in the Atlantic Ocean. It has been found to have been an island about 12,000 years ago - exactly the time specified by Blavatsky! This abstract is given:
In later studies, evidence was found for the remnants of a "sunken block of continent" in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. An article in New Scientist 1975 summarizes the result. (Anonymous, New Scientist, 66:540, 1975)
The article describes the first report of "shallow-water limestone fragments" from the Vema Fracture in the Atlantic:
Then the recent researchers are noted:
Now, with C. Emiliani of Miami, Paul Bronniman of the University of Geneva, M.A. Furrer of Esso Production Research, Begles, and A.A. Meyerhof, a consulting geologist from Tulsa, USA, they have carried out a more searching analysis of the dredge samples (Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 26, p.8)
Finally he notes the evidence for activity in less than 30 meters of water, and even some evidence for activity in soil.
(The above information is from Protogonos Spring 1990, #9 which obtained it from Unknown Earth: A Handbook of Geological Enigmas by William R. Corliss.)
Since many readers may have heard of the pangaea theory of science and since that might appear to preclude the view of the SD on Atlantis, we offer the comment of Mark Jaqua in Protogonos:
Modern geology is of the opinion that all present continents were once part of a large super-continent which is labeled "Pangaea". The Pangaea hypothesis was first presented by Alfred Wegener in the 1920's and today is held by most. Whether the hypothesis stands up to further evidence and reasoning only time will tell. When one considers, as modern theory has it, that the Americas, Europe and Africa were initially joined, it seems to leave no room for a possible mid-atlantic continent. The pangaean continent is held to have begun separating some 200 million years ago, which is long enough ago to be consistent with the Theosophical teaching. Additionally it should be held in mind that while still consisting of "continental plates" large portions of the Americas or Europe/Africa may have spent long periods of time submerged. ... Continental drift theory holds that the crust plates that form the continents are initially set in motion by the uprising of a mountain chain. The Atlantic has a submerged mountain chain that runs its entire length, which supports the continental drift theory as well as the claims of Theosophy about Atlantis." (Protogonos Spring 1990, #9 p 24)
To reinforce the Protogonos article: The pangaean view holds that the Western Hemisphere and Europe-Africa began separating some 200 million years ago. Blavatsky claims the Atlantean continent began its first signs of sinking some 4 million years ago. Atlantis, in the Theosophical view, could not have risen above water "too many" millions of years before that, since Lemuria was first above water while Atlantis had not yet risen. This time-line gives plenty of time for the hemispheric separation to start, and, at a relatively much later time, for the Atlantean continent to have risen and sunk. So the Pangaean and Atlantean theories are not in conflict. One does not preclude the other.
There is a time difficulty remaining between science and Theosophy. Theosophy gives a much much longer history to humanity on earth than does science. Theosophy not only has Atlantis above water millions of years ago but also has it peopled by human beings. Darwinism can in no way accommodate such an ancient history for man. Geologists, under the views imposed upon them by another department of science - evolutionary theory - understandably reject the idea of an Atlantean continent millions of years ago peopled by human beings. However they ought to be more forthright in accepting the reasonableness of Plato's small island in the Atlantic in view of the above evidence. In a sense they have, in choosing to name one of the seamounts "Atlantis". (For all we know, they picked the right one.)
We find here the relatedness of the elements of the Theosophical view - a matter that comes up often. Briefly, Theosophy agrees that evolution occured but completely disagrees with Darwinism on the "origin of the species". Scientific evolutionary theory has been forced by the data to take steps that move away from Darwin's view of the origin of the species and in the direction of Theosophy's view. Beyond the standard view, there is weighty evidence accumulating in favor of Theosophy's view. In sum, this is looking like a great vindication for Theosophy in the making and it is occuring during our time. This subject will eventually receive much more fuller analysis at this site. So a person willing to consider all the Theosophical views and their degree of confirmation, not need have this time-line difficulty that constrains traditional science.
The "right" maps
The maps showing the fracture zone between the tectonic plates have some use for these purposes. They show the path of, and the reasonableness of, Theosophy's view of the Atlantean and Lemurian land connection. However, they do not persuasively reveal the information that shows the great reasonableness of Theosophy's assertion of a land mass in mid Atlantic. Without knowing the facts we might think the Atlantic ocean is simply "very deep" all the way between the bordering continents. Not so. What is needed is an east-west cross-sectional map showing the depth of the ocean bottom as one crosses the ocean. Since there are issues of what latitude to chose, seamounts etc, better yet is a topographic map of the ocean with continuous lines indicating points of equal depth.
Here is the cross-sectional map that Donnelly chose for the frontis-piece of his seminal book. (It appears in a 1900 edition but not in a 1949 "modern revised edition".)
This map makes the location and reasonableness of Atlantis glaringly obvious. It shows the clear existence of a large mid-ocean continental mass.(A zoomed-in version is available.)Note that the horizontal axis has been greatly compressed relative to the vertical axis. Otherwise the map would have to be drawn on a very long roll of paper! As a result the slopes of Atlantis look much more "steep" than they are in reality. Then again, this compression of the horizontal axis brings the existence of the central continental land mass to our attention more vividly.
A warning is also due that this map is from 1900. However, even with adjustments that might arise from more detailed accuracy in this century, this map still reveals the basic facts.
CONCLUSION: Information from the ocean floor is clearly supportive of the geologic facts of Atlantis asserted by Theosophy.