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Catastrophic Change

Nearly 2,400 years ago the Greek philosopher Plato described an Atlantean civilization that flourished about 10,000 years ago, but suddenly vanished in a single catastrophifc night of earthquake and flood.

In Timaeus, Plato wrote about his dialogue with an astronomer named Timaeus and the great Socrates, regarding the periodic destruction of the Earth by natural catastrophes and how small numbers of humans had survived in safe places:

The fact is, that wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed -- if there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples. Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon, they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word.

In Plato’s discussion of Atlantis, he told Socrates that he learned of this story through his family, which had preserved it through several generations from the great Athenian statesman Solon. Plato then asked Socrates if he wished to discuss anything else, or hear more about Atlantis.  Socrates replied that he did wish to hear more about Atlantis, because he believed the sources to be very credible and the story to be based on fact, not fiction:

And what other, Critias, can we find that will be better  than this, which is natural and suitable to the festival of the goddess,  and has the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction? How  or where shall we find another if we abandon this? We cannot, and therefore  you must tell the tale, and good luck to you; and I in return for my yesterday's  discourse will now rest and be a listener.

Plato believed the reports about past catastrophes were credible and sought to document  the existance and details the destruciton of Atlantis in Plato's dialogue on Critias:

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was  the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have  taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and  all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants  on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader  and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded  by the kings of Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in  extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake,  became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any  part of the ocean. The progress of the history will unfold the various  nations of barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they  successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all Athenians  of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the respective  powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the precedence  to Athens

Despite the endorsements of Plato and Socrates, two of the most highly respected philosphers of all time, Atlantis became geological heresy in the 1960s,  Back then, scientists were committed to a gradual and uniform change on Earth and catastrophes became increasingly identified with unscientific myths and religious fundimentalism, 

Trevor Palmer, a professor at Nottingham Trent Universit, explains the problem in his essay, The Fall and Rise of Catastrophism:

Until recently, the Modern Synthesis of neo-Darwinism, together with the contemporary geological paradigm, has seemed secure in representing the triumph of a gradualistic- uniformitarian view of Earth history over the catastrophist alternative. Uniformitarianism was formulated by Charles Lyell in a geological context, but many of its principles and attitudes were adopted by Charles Darwin for his theory of evolution by natural selection, subsequently developed into the Modern Synthesis. There was a general belief that catastrophism and evolution were mutually exclusive explanations for the fossil record and, as fossil evidence accumulated during the second half of the nineteenth century, it became increasingly clear that the features could not be explained by the Earth-centred model of catastrophism then in vogue, which linked extinctions of species to crustal upheavals on a global scale.

 So, gradualism-uniformitarianism became dominant. Then, as a result of distortions propagated by Lyell and others, subsequent generations were led to believe that the views of the catastrophists owed more to pre-conceived ideas than to observation, whereas the theories of the uniformitarians were all derived by logical deduction from observed data. At best this was over-simplistic, at worse a reversal of the truth, yet the myth became widely accepted. It also became received opinion, quite falsely, that the catastrophists relied on supernatural explanations for the cause of the major catastrophic events which had supposedly taken place.

These days, geologic research increasingly reveals Earth's history of natural catastrophes, inclulding documented cases of entire cities suddenly disappearing.  For example, National Geographic has written about how the cities of Herakleion and Eastern Canopus disappeared suddenly 1,200 years ago when they were swallowed by the sea. Scientists now believe it occurred because the land on which the cities were built liquefied suddenly and disasterously. The Geographic also describes new evidence of ancient cities and temples buried under the ocean.

So where ARE the safest places on Earth?