Google Ocean marks (unsurprisingly) aren’t Atlantis

Paul Raven @ 25-02-2009

Leading on from one discussion of reporting style to another, did you hear the one about how the new Google Ocean maps of the sea floor revealed a rectangle the size of Wales comprised of straight lines intersecting at right angles? In exactly the place that some ancient writers suggested as the location of Atlantis?*

seabed markings on Google Ocean - not actually Atlantis, OK?

Well, sorry to disappoint, but it turns out that the markings aren’t the work of an ancient civilisation or marauding aquatic aliens after all:

The scientific explanation is a bit less exotic, but we think it’s still pretty interesting: these marks are what we call “ship tracks.” You see, it’s actually quite hard to measure the depth of the ocean. Sunlight, lasers, and other electromagnetic radiation can travel less than 100 feet below the surface, yet the typical depth in the ocean is more than two and a half miles. Sound waves are more effective. By measuring the time it takes for sound to travel from a ship to the sea floor and back, you can get an idea of how far away the sea floor is. Since this process — known as echosounding — only maps a strip of the sea floor under the ship, the maps it produces often show the path the ship took, hence the “ship tracks.” In this case, the soundings produced by a ship are also about 1% deeper than the data we have in surrounding areas — likely an error — making the tracks stand out more.

Of course, Google are probably just feeding us the line their reptilian overlords want us to hear in order to keep the Secret Mysteries out of the hands of the slave races; the truth is down there, kids. Never stop believing.

[ * – Yes, the Telegraph again. Once the fuss has died down over the initial story, we’ll start getting the human interest pieces about how drug-addicted immigrant Polish ship captains – having successfully abducted Princess Diana and Madeline McCann – are now giving hardworking British taxpayers some form of gay Atlantean cancer.]