We had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with New York Times Best Selling Author, Mark Adams. Mark is best known for his book Turn Right at Maccu Picchu and his latest book, Meet Me in Atlantis is a thought provoking ride that chronicles Mark’s journey to locate the lost civilization of Atlantis. We were fortunate enough to sit with Mark and pick his brain about Atlantis, his journeys, and his take on the lost civilization.
Andrew: Ladies and gentleman I am very pleased to announce we are here with Mark Adams. For those of you who are not familiar with Mark’s work he is best known for his efforts on Turn Right at Machu Picchu, he’s been recognized as a New York Times Best Seller author and I believe Men’s journal recently added Turn Right at Machu Picchu to their list of 50 Greatest Adventure Books of all time, is that correct?
Mark: That is correct.
Andrew: That’s got to feel pretty cool. First and foremost, Mark thank you for joining us today.
Mark: Thanks for having me here
Andrew: Absolutely. So, Today Mark comes to us from the East Coast and he is in the midst of Snowmaggedon. So, instead of preparing for the apocalypse he chose to talk to us and we think that’s pretty cool. I got to tell you, I finished Meet Me in Atlantis about a week and a half, two weeks ago and I couldn’t put it down. I read a ton of books about history, alternative historical theories, lost civilizations and all of these topics I find fascinating. I have to say and as we mentioned in our review, your book read almost like a Dan Brown thriller. The way that you put this thing together was incredible. The data and research that you put into it was mind boggling and I loved it. For our readers that aren’t super familiar with who you are and what you’ve done, maybe give us a little background on yourself and a brief synopsis on Meet Me in Atlantis.
Mark:Sure. Well, my background mostly is a magazine writer and editor. I’ve worked in places like GQ, National Geographic and I’ve worked at Life magazine. About five or six years ago I switched over full time to writing books. My first book was a book about America’s first health guru and was titled Mr. America – it’s about a guy named Bernarr Macfadden. Basically every health fad we know of can be traced back, one way or another to McFadden about 100 years ago or so. That book got really great reviews and got optioned for a movie but nothing ever happened with it. After that I thought “I better come up with an idea that is a bit more commercial.” So, I came up with idea of recreating the discovery of Machu Picchu, which I did spend about a month in the mountains of Peru in 2009-2010 and mixed the history of the discovery, rediscovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 with my own sort of adventures retracing that route. That book was a great hit and like you mentioned New York Times Best Seller. While I was working on that book I came across a couple of things. I was working still working at National Geographic on a part time basis when Google Earth came out and we started getting all of these emails on the house email account saying “I found Atlantis, I found Atlantis, and I found Atlantis.” I had never really given Atlantis much thought, but what had happened was some ships sonars had left sort of a grid shaped pattern in the southern Caribbean and people had latched on to this and said “look it’s Atlantis it’s at the bottom of the ocean.” Google wiped it off by the end of the day, but it planted the whole Atlantis thing in my head that there are actually people out there who are seriously looking for Atlantis. It’s not just Scrooge McDuck,. While I was working on my Machu Picchu book, I was going through the archives of the New York Times and there was a front page story in 1911 that says German finds Atlantis in Africa and I can’t remember the guys name it might have been Frobisher, it said it matches the details in the original story of Atlantis which all come to dialogue by Plato. I said, Plato? The worlds greatest western philosopher is our primary source for the Atlantis story? That’s weird. So, because I love weird things, being an old fan of show like In Search Of and old movies like Beyond and Back and In Search of Noah’s Ark and things like that, that is what planted the bug in my head. I started digging into the Atlantis story. There are a lot of nonsense out there about Atlantis, but there is also a lot of very interesting work that doesn’t get publicity because for serious academics, Atlantis tends to be sort of career kryptonite. It’s one of those subjects they are not allowed to touch.
Andrew: Well, like anything, stuff gets labeled pseudoscience and it’s just thrown out very quickly.
Mark: Right, and they are not allowed to look at it in any way. So, that’s how I got started on Atlantis.
Andrew:So about how long was your journey for Atlantis? I know in your book you walk the reader through the chronology of your travels and how you’re after the lost city. How long was that journey?
Mark: It took two and half years and I would have to say I traveled all around the Mediterranean and I looked through all the literature and I came down to the four most probable and realistic candidates for what had been the original Atlantis. What happened was the deeper I got, the more I realized I was going to have to grapple with Plato’s use of numbers, which nobody wants to do. Plato is a pythagorean he studied with Pythagoras – the famous ABC triangle mathematician who came from an island near Greece and later went to what now is southern Italy. He basically started what you would call a cult based on numbers and mathematics and Plato studied with followers of Pythagoras. He lived about 150 years before Plato did, so he was deeply influenced by the idea that there was a numerical logic to the universe and if we just looked deeply enough we would be able to suss out what this logic was and some of his most obscure works deals with these sorts of numbers. Unfortunately, Plato is not the most straightforward writer either and his writings that involve numbers are infamous in the philosophy world as the most difficult to understand – the most difficult works by the most difficult philosopher. So, a lot of people like to pretend that these don’t exist or that he was speaking literally when he said certain numbers here and certain numbers there. It took me about six months just trying to crack the code of what Plato was actually trying to do with these numbers.
Andrew: Let’s talk about that real quick. Tell me a little bit more about your interpretation of the numbers in terms of the timeline with his story and his relation to Solon. Realistically, when do you think this fits into human history, if he was describing a real event?
Mark: I can’t remember the exact numbers he uses are but they end up leading us back to a date of 9600 BC which happens to coincide with the end of the last Ice Age and the Younger Dryas and what could have been a huge global melting that could have caused some sort of flood. Atlantis is famously a city that sank beneath the sea. There are two big problems with that. The first of which is as I mentioned, Plato doesn’t use numbers literally. He is using them as an illustration. He is using them figuratively. The pythagoreans believed numbers have personalities and certain numbers matched other numbers or were used as symbols and we still don’t even know what they are talking of most of the time. The pentagram has been passed down to us through numerology and all of that can be traced back to the pythagoreans. They were the ones looking for the source code behind the universe. So to say Plato is using numbers like we use numbers is just not the case and history was not even written down until about a 100 years before Plato was born. So the idea that this could be passed down verbatim for 9,000 years at the very least is a scratch. The other big problem is that the end of the ice age seas don’t rise suddenly, an island does not suddenly sink, It sinks bit by bit by bit. While there are some theories that the Black Sea was breached and there are enough geographic hints in Plato’s work to place the original Atlantis, if it was real, probably somewhere in the western Mediterranean where no-one has any evidence of such things happening. 9,600 BC is at the very least problematic.
Andrew: Right, so you mentioned the end of the last Ice Age and that the rise of the oceans would be more slow and steady – it wouldn’t be a cataclysmic swallowing of an island. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the work of Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson, but they talk about comet and meteor impacts that took place during the Young Dryas that some have speculated could have caused a very rapid cataclysmic event that could have been the source of Plato’s story. Do you think we are looking more at coincidental pieces or do you think there is some evidence that warrants investigation?
Mark: I think that anytime you try to use Plato’s numbers literally you are going down a rabbit hole and you’re not going to get your head out. In terms of his description of an island that sank due to earthquakes and floods in a single night, that absolutely could coincide with some sort of nature disaster. It could be a comet impact in the ocean – the holocene impact working group, I think they’re called, has done some very interesting work with the Buckle Crater in the Indian Ocean. An archeologist by the name of Bruce Massey who is still compiling all of these ancient flood stories has dozens and dozens of them in bits and pieces. They all seem to fit back to this original possible impact around 2807 BC in the Indian Ocean. Most serious academic who will even talk about Atlantis pin it to the Santorini explosion roughly 1600 BC depending on whether you date it by carbon dating or ceramics. It’s possible that part of the story relates to that but Plato was very familiar with volcanoes and he doesn’t mention a volcano in Atlantis – he talked about earthquakes and floods. It absolutely sounds like some sort of earthquake followed by a tsunami event. If the original kernel of truth of the original Atlantis story is rooted in fact, then that seems to me like a very possible situation.
Andrew: Back to the book. You walk the reader through all of these different relationships and interactions you have with different Atlantologists in your journey. And of these interactions, your connections with Tony O’Connell, I thought was just fascinating. He seems like such a character and he comes back multiple times in the book and overtime he comes back it’s like “Yes! This guy again. I love listening to this guy.” I listened to the book as I was reading it. I have quite the commute to my office and that’s how I’m able to get through so many book so quickly is I’ll listen to the audiobook in the car and when I’m home I’ll read through the actual hard copy. The narrator does an Irish accent which makes it that much more fun. Tell me a little a little bit more about Tony O’Connell, about your relationship, about how you came to know each other, and some of the work he has done with the Atlantipedia. My god, I was reading through the book and when you mentioned the Atlantipedia, I immediately hoped online I think probably four hours of my life were just sucked dry from that experience. It’s an incredible, incredible rabbit hole.
Mark: Tony is a great example of an amateur enthusiast who has latched onto something and just makes it a big part of life. The original root word of amateur is lover. He’s a love of Atlantis related stuff and I should add a huge skeptic. He doesn’t have a theory to prove, he’s just out there digging around for intersting information. As you know, anybody who goes online and starts searching seriously is going to get to Tony’s Atlantipedia. It’s just incredible. There are hundreds if not thousands of entries on this thing and every little scrap you can think of, he’s gone through and done sort of an even handed balanced several paragraph account of what this thing is. So I called him up, I think he gets a lot of strange people contacting him, and I said “Tony do you have time to talk on the phone? Maybe I can pick your brain and discuss some candidates to where Atlantis may have been” and after he warmed up a little bit he said “why don’t you come over to Ireland and spend a week with me.” So I said ok. He lives in a really old part of Ireland and we spend the week out there talking about Atlantis. He’s incredibly warm and charming and intelligent and by the end of the week we had come up with this list of probable locations and probable hypotheses that I could pursue. I still talk to Tony all of the time and I just got an email from him the other day. He’s in Malta and he spends a lot of time there as well.
Andrew: We’re going to come back to those four locations here in just a second, but I really want to dig into the maps of antiquity, more specifically the Piri Ries map and the Oronteus Phineas map. These maps, among others, have been a huge source of debate and controversy since their discovery. Primarily because in the artist’s own script, they reference older maps that are no longer available as their source for all of this data and obviously the controversy stems from the idea that they are they actually showing Antartica as it looked several thousand years ago. How did they know that some of these islands existed in the oceans that have since been swallowed by the sea? It raises a lot of questions about mystery. These maps basically get tied to the search for Atlantis on a daily basis and so I’m sure these maps were part of your research. I would love to hear your thoughts on these older maps and if you think there is some weight to be invested into researching these pieces.
Mark: I am very skeptical about the old maps. You mentioned the Piri Ries map and Oronteus Phineas map. There was a cartographer who has studied the Oronteus Phineas map for 30 years and looked at the map every single day for 30 years. It is a projection. A globe that containes a shape like what we call Antartica, say it’s football shape. If that’s put on to a flat surface, that is going to change the shape. You can’t take a round spherical thing and turn it into a two dimensional surface without changing the shape. So if those two shapes match up that is not necessarily a perfect match. The other thing is the Antartica on those two maps and the Antartica we know did not really match up that well. They kind of matched up. The best version that people keep citing is the US Navy map from the 1950’s. They never use the updated maps, they use this map from the 1940’s-1950’s because that’s the best map. Our methods for seeing what’s under the ice have gotten much better over the last 50 years. If the ice on Antartica suddenly melted, the rebound of the land would be so great that it would be a completely different shape. We’ve got billions and billions of tons of ice pressing this down right now. It’s not the shape it would have been if there was ice on it. I haven’t seen any evidence that these maps can be sourced backed prior to Christopher Columbus. As far as I can tell after talking with people who have studied these, most of this stuff can be traced to Columbus and the people who came right after him. A lot of it is word of mouth. Much of these [map] spaces contain dragons and snakes and monkeys. Much of this is guess work. I wouldn’t put too much credence in those maps because they hinge on the shape of Antartica in one place and how it somewhat looks like the shape of Antartica in a 50 year old map that somebody made. If you step back and look at everything the match maybe isn’t so great. That said, Stavros Papamarinopoulos is arguably the number one academic Atlantologist. He hates that term, but he viewed as the number one Atlantis researcher. He coordinates the Atlantis conferences in Greece and sponsors them and is a renewed Geophysicist. He does believe in the validity of the maps and he thinks there is significant information contained within them. I could be wrong and he could be right, but my general feeling is that the map is a little too convenient.
Andrew: Sure, like anything else it is a matter of opinion or how perception is reality. It just depends on who is looking at them and how they are interpreted.
Mark: The more you want it, the more you’re likely to say “oh, it’s a perfect match”.
Andrew: Right. I can’t remember who said it but if you’re looking for something specific you’re going to be analyzing everything through a certain type of filter. It makes identifying it that much easier. Let’s go back to your time with Tony. You guys had identified basically four sites that warranted boots on the ground research. Tell us about those four sites and which one of those is the most intriguing to you and the most likely location for Atlantis.
Mark: All four are intriguing. What we came down to was Santorini, which was the classic site that you’ll see on National Geographic specials and the Discovery channel because it is the only place that has actual archaeological evidence of a disaster happening in 1600 BC. For the people who don’t know it’s called the Thera-Explosion. An island now known as Santorini is a volcanic crater that blew sky high and there are ancient myths from all around the Eastern Mediterranean that describe what is going on. Some people think this is an island nation like Atlantis – destroyed in a day and night with great naval power and it’s a good match. Certainly word would have gotten back to Plato, so I went there and it’s intriguing. But there are a lot of things that don’t match up with Santorini once we start to look at other places. We went to look at Malta, where Tony O’Connell introduced me to his friend Anton Gibson. Anton is a pediatrician and he has made a very compelling case that Malta was the original Atlantis. What a lot of this hinges on is the geographical clues that Plato gave us in the story. He says Atlantis is opposite the Pillars of Hercules and in the Gederan country near Gades in the ancient world. If you put the pillar of hercules at the Straight of Messina or at Sicily and what is now Tunisia, then Malta is a perfect candidate. Malta was hit by a number of watery cataclysms in this antiquity and we know that its population was wiped out completely at least once by some sort of cataclysm. There was a German IT specialist named Michael Hubner who is a specialist in probability theory and he took every clue that Plato put together and plugged them into an algorithm and he spit out what he called seven sigma accuracy 99.9999% that Atlantis has to be at the spot of a city now called Agadir on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The fourth possibility was that Atlantis had been near what is now known as the city of Cadiz in southern Spain – just beyond the rock of Gibraltar which is the most famous candidate for the Pillars of Hercules. I would say based on the number of things that match up, either Hubner’s theory or the southern Spain theory are probably the strongest, but certainly most academics who have put more time into archaeology than I have lean towards Santorini and a lot of people including Graham Hancock, who you have mentioned, have given serious thought to additional theories as well.
Andrew: It is interesting too if you travel anywhere across the world there are so many sunken cities not just captive to the Atlantic. Look at the Yonaguni Monument off the coast of Japan. There is still debate whether this is manmade or natural occurring but the structure itself is massive and we don’t know what happened there. There is so much that we don’t know and that is what I personally find so intriguing about all of this. There is so much we can dig into and so much that can be researched, but at the end of the day it is all just theory and speculation.
Mark: It’s all detective work and there is no smoking gun. It’s just a fingerprint here or a fingerprint there and maybe a microfiber and eyewitness account along the way. The bits and pieces of the evidence we have are so fleeting and small that all we can do is make an educated guess.
Andrew: Almost any potential spot for Atlantis, the checklist that Plato provides us has never been completed in one location. You always have to modify the checklist to strengthen your case for that location.
Mark: You go in thinking it is in this place and then you start to bend and shape the evidence to your advantage. That is in every place. There is no perfect match for these sites. I picked what I thought were the likely four locations. People have written and complained that “oh my theory is the best” but the one thing I would say in almost absolute is that any theory that places Atlantis too far out the Mediterranean doesn’t really hold water because it’s a story about a naval attack on Athens by Atlantis. People have put Atlantis in Bolivia or Indonesian or Cuba or the Bahamas. How are you going to say it’s 1200 BC and you are going to put together an armada of hundred of thousands of ships and feed those sailors and get them across the Mediterranean to attack Athens? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Andrew: Unless we subscribe to again the theories of individuals like Graham Hancock. If we say there is a lost civilization that dates back to the Younger Dryas and that cataclysmic event forced society to reboot, how much lost technology are we not aware of? It all comes down to how you perceive something.
Mark: The more that a hypothesis includes stuff that could have been that we don’t know about, the more skeptical I am. The further you push, the closer you get to ancient aliens, Chariot of the Gods, and you end up coming up with dues ex machina.
Andrew: One last question for you Mark, what is next for Mark Adams? Do we get a sequel to Meet Me in Atlantis? Are you researching any other projects right now that you can talk about?
Mark: No I am not doing another Atlantis project. I get a lot of calls from TV people that I am an Atlantis expert, and I say “no, I wrote a book on it, I’m a writer.” It was an interesting story and I wrote it and now I move on to something else. My next story will be like Turn Right at Machu Picchu. I will be recreating an expedition that the industrialist Edward Haramain put together to Alaska in 1899 where he put together this Noah’s Ark of experts, top scientists, naturalists, forestry experts, botanists and put them on this luxury boat and just took them into the fastest stretch of American territory in 1899 and went exploring. So, I’m going to recreate that this summer. It’s an interesting story because it’s sort of where John Muir, who was on the boat and the founder of American Conservation publishes his most influential essays. You also have Edward Haramain who is the crowned prince of industrialism – both of whom are coming together on this boat and it’s the first big clash on commerce and conservation. Alaska is still sort of ground zero for that and a lot of things are going on up there that will have a big impact on us for the next 50 to 100 years.
Andrew: Very cool. So, research starts this summer, when can we expect you to publish?
Mark: I would guess that will be out in late 2017 or early 2018 from Penguin books. I’m also working on a couple possible TV things based on Atlantis and Machu Picchu. The difference between books and TV is with book they want to make a book right away and figure out what it is and you then have as long as you want to write it. With TV, they have to figure out what they want and then they want it right away. We’ve been talking about this for months and months and months. So, we’ll see.
Andrew: Well ladies and gentlemen, that was Mark Adams. You can pick up both Turn Right at Machu Picchu and Meet Me in Atlantis from various booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Mark, thank you so much for your time today. It was awesome chatting with you and gaining some insight on the theories and the story of your journey that went into Meet Me in Atlantis. We really appreciate it.
Mark: Awesome, I appreciate you having me Andrew.