Atlantropa, a 1920s Plan to Dam the Med
Africa, Atlantropa, Europe, Herman SÃ¶rgel, History, Projects
IFLScience has the story of Atlantropa, a colossal 1920s plan by German architect Herman SÃ¶rgel to dam the Mediterranean and create an African-European supercontinent.
Dams across the Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, and eventually between Sicily and Tunisia, each containing gigantic hydroelectric power plants, would form the basis for the new supercontinent. In its final state the Mediterranean would be converted into two basins, with the western part lowered by 100 meters and the eastern part by 200 meters and a total of 660,200 km2 of new land reclaimed from the sea â€“ an area larger than France.
Later plans for Atlantropa also included two dams across the Congo River and the creation of a Chad and Congo Sea, which SÃ¶rgel hoped would have a moderating influence on the African climate making it more pleasant for European settlers. In line with the colonial and racist attitudes of the times, SÃ¶rgel envisaged Africa with its resources and its land to be entirely at the disposal of Europe, a continent with plenty of space to accommodate Europeâ€™s huddled masses.
While SÃ¶rgelâ€™s proposal may sound absurd to our ears, it was taken seriously by architects, engineers, politicians and journalists at the time. The extensive Atlantropa archive in the Deutsche Museum in Munich abounds with architectural drawings for new cities, the dams and bridges of the future continent as well as letters of support and hundreds of articles about the project, which appeared in the German and international popular press as well as in specialised engineering and geographical magazines.
What made Atlantropa so attractive was its vision of world peace achieved not through politics and diplomacy, but with a simple technological solution. Atlantropa would be held together by a vast energy net, which would extend from the gigantic hydroelectric plant in the Gibraltar dam and provide the entirety of Europe and Africa with electricity. The power plant would be overseen by an independent body who would have the power to switch off the energy supply to any individual country that posed a threat to peace. Moreover SÃ¶rgel calculated that the construction of the supercontinent would require each country to invest so much money and people power that none would have sufficient resources to finance a war.
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