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Science & Technology

1920s plan sought to drain the Mediterranean

By T.K. Randall
September 18, 2016 · Comment icon 9 comments

Europe and Africa would have been joined together. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Andre Engels
A prominent German architect once proposed joining Africa and Europe by draining the Mediterranean Sea.
The brainchild of Herman Sorgel, the ambitious and somewhat ludicrous idea would have involved placing huge dams at strategic locations to create 254,900 square miles of new land.

One of the dams would have been built across the Straights of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco while another would have blocked the Dardanelles and shut off the Black Sea.
The largest dam of all would have stretched between Sicily and Tunisia - cutting the entire Mediterranean in to two sections with different water levels on either side.

Sorgel argued that the endeavour would not only join up Africa and Europe to create a brand new super-continent he called 'Atlantropa', it would also create huge swathes of new land prime for cultivation while also bringing the peoples of Europe together following the events of WWI.

Unsurprisingly however his idea was universally rejected and the project never got off the ground.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (9)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Scarlatti 7 years ago
At the time he would of course seen this as a plan for Europeans to spread into Africa, not the other way around. A potentially good idea then would be catastrophic now.
Comment icon #2 Posted by exojjl 7 years ago
Comment icon #3 Posted by exojjl 7 years ago
Not at all a "potentially good idea." Europeons were already invading Africa by World War II, so draining the Mediterranean would mean more land for people to make more war and fighting.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Habitat 7 years ago
Two things came to mind, how to pump all that water out into the Atlantic (seems technically unfeasible, in the extreme) and how much does the sea level rise world-wide as a result ? It can safely be filed under "hare-brained schemes".
Comment icon #5 Posted by Gold Star 7 years ago
Where could this crazy idea have originated from? O I know - Revelation 20:1 "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away: and there was no more sea." This German architect took the bible and the 1,000 year Reich of Hitler much too literally.
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
I wonder what he was going to use to fill in the hole?  Maybe the Sahara?
Comment icon #7 Posted by blackdogsun 7 years ago
there's a short but interesting review of Hoergel's ideas here along with the original pamphlet circulated at the time there's also an artists sketch of the dam complex stretching between Africa and Europe http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2011/04/jf-ptak-science-books-llc-post-691-blog-bookstore-simply-the-thing-i-am-shall-make-me-live-from-jorge-luis-borges-sha.html
Comment icon #8 Posted by DarkHunter 7 years ago
Since I had the time I did a rough estimation of how much the ocean level would increase if the Mediterranean was emptied and the water pumped into the ocean.  It would be no less then a 5 meter increase and no greater then a 26 meter increase.  Given the nature of volume and spheres the actual increase is probably around 10 meters. Since I'm lazy and figuring out the actual increase would require complex vector calculus which I didn't feel like doing I just found the upper and lower bounds for a rough estimate and if anyone is interested I can post the math for the estimator's bounds.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Habitat 7 years ago
Schnapps, imo. He must have taken to it in a big way to come up with this idea ! All the pumps in all the world would not have drained it in a thousand years.

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