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Atlantropa, also sometimes referred to as Panropa[1] was a gigantic engineering and colonization project devised by the German architect Herman Sörgel in the 1920s and promulgated by him until his death in 1952. Its central feature was a hydroelectric dam to be built across the Strait of Gibraltar,[2] and the lowering of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea by as much as 200 metres.[3]


[edit] The project

The ultimate, Utopian goal was to solve all the major problems of European civilization by the creation of a new continent, "Atlantropa", consisting of Europe and Africa and to be inhabited by Europeans. Sörgel was convinced that to remain competitive with the Americas and an emerging Oriental "Pan-Asia", Europe must become self-sufficient, and this meant possessing territories in all climate zones – hence colonizing Africa was necessary. The lowering of the Mediterranean would enable the production of immense amounts of electric power, guaranteeing the growth of industry. Vast tracts of land would be freed for agriculture – including the Sahara desert, which was to be irrigated with the help of three sea-sized man made lakes throughout Africa. The massive public works, envisioned to go on for more than a century, would relieve unemployment and the acquisition of new land would ease the pressure of overpopulation, which Sörgel thought were the fundamental causes of political unrest in Europe. Sörgel also believed the project's effect on the climate could only be beneficial. The Middle East, under the control of a consolidated Atlantropa, would be an additional energy source and a bulwark against the Yellow peril.

The publicity materials produced for Atlantropa by Sörgel and his supporters contain plans, maps, and scale models of several dams and new ports on the Mediterranean, views of the Gibraltar dam crowned by a 400-metre tower designed by Peter Behrens, projections of the growth of agricultural production, sketches for a pan-Atlantropan power grid, and even provisions for the protection of Venice as a cultural landmark.[4] Concerns about climate change, earthquakes, attacks, and the fate of African culture were often ignored as being unimportant.

The project never gained substantial support because of its fantastic scale and Eurocentric expansionism. Under the Nazi regime, the plan was ridiculed as it was against the idea of a Eurasian German Empire. The Italians never supported the idea, as their cities were so dependent on the coastlines. After the Second World War, interest was piqued as the allies sought to create closer bonds with Africa and combat communism, but the invention of nuclear power, the cost of rebuilding, and the end of colonialism left Atlantropa technologically and politically unnecessary, although the Atlantropa Institute remained in existence until 1960.[4]

[edit] Atlantropa in fiction

In Gene Roddenberry's novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Strait of Gibraltar has been dammed. Roddenberry may have borrowed the idea from Sörgel via the popular works of Willy Ley, whose book Engineers' Dreams describes both Atlantropa and Sörgel's other grand design, the forming of an inland sea in central Africa. [4]

The idea has a central role in the 1950 novel by Soviet science fiction writer Grigorii Grebnev The Flying Station which was popular in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, and was also translated to Hebrew. It depicts a future where Socialist Revolution is triumphant worldwide and leads humanity to undreamed happiness and prosperity, but must still fight off neo-Nazi remnants who skulk near the North Pole and plot to sabotage the Revolution's most prestigious project – the erecting of a huge dam at Gibraltar. Evidently, the book took up the technical details of Sörgel's idea while diametrically reversing its underlying geopolitical implications.

In Philip K. Dick's classic 1962 alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle, mention is made in passing of Nazi Germany draining the Mediterranean as just one of several gargantuan projects.

The Mediterranean sea is also mentioned as drained in Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, in the context of the spectacular archaeological discoveries it enabled.

David Mason's The Shores of Tomorrow (1971), with the theme of conflict between numerous timelines of alternate history which found means of invading each other, includes a technologically-advanced world where a project similar to Sörgel's had been realised thousands of years ago and the former Mediterranean sea bottom transformed into fertile agricultural land. However, during a cataclysmic power struggle between various protagonists the dam at the Gibraltar-analogue is blown up and the valleys flooded by the Atlantic waters, with immense loss of life.

Discussion of the project also rates a chapter in John Knittel's 1939 novel Power for Sale.

There is a passing reference to a huge hydroelectric dam spanning the Straits of Gibraltar in the alternate history novel Under the Yoke by S. M. Stirling. Although the word "Atlantropa" is never used and there is no mention of lowered sea levels in the Mediterranean, Stirling's novels of the Draka are something of an inversion of Sörgel's vision, in that it is Africa that subsumes Europe to create the new composite continental entity, with the guiding light coming from Pretoria rather than Munich.

In the Dan Simmons novels Ilium and Olympos the Mediterranean has been dammed and drained.

In the PC game Railroad Tycoon II: The Next Millennium, a dam is built across the Straits of Gibraltar in one of the missions.

In the Harry Turtledove short story "Tales from the Bottom Land", the area of the Mediterranean Sea is a desert through natural causes - the Straits of Gilbrator have naturally closed thousands of years earlier. The story has the protagonist try to stop a terrorist plot to open up the natural dam to the Atlantic Ocean with a nuclear weapon.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Hanns Günther (Walter de Haas) (1931). In hundert Jahren. Kosmos. 
  2. ^ "Atlantropa: A plan to dam the Mediterranean Sea." 16 March 2005. Archive. Xefer. Retrieved on 4 August 2007.
  3. ^ "Atlantropa."23 June 2006. Information on Atlantropa. Economy Point. Retrieved on 4 August 2007.
  4. ^ a b c "Atlantropa." Issue 10 Spring 2003. Cabinet Magazine. Retrieved on 4 August 2007.
  • Gall, Alexander (1998). Das Atlantropa-Projekt: die Geschichte einer gescheiterten Vision. Herman Sörgel und die Absenkung des Mittelmeers. Frankfurt a.M.: Campus. ISBN 3-593-35988-X
  • Gall, Alexander (2006). Atlantropa: A Technological Vision of a United Europe, in: Networking Europe. Transnational Infrastructures and the Shaping of Europe, 1850–2000, edited by Erik van der Vleuten and Arne Kaijser. Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications, p. 99–128. ISBN 0-88135-394-9
  • Günzel, Anne Sophie (2007). Das “Atlantropa”-Projekt – Erschließung Europas und Afrikas (2nd edition). München: Grin. ISBN 3-638-64638-6
  • Sörgel, Herman (1929). Mittelmeer-Senkung. Sahara Bewässerung (Paneuropa-Projekt) Leipzig: Gebhardt.
  • Sörgel, Herman (1932). Atlantropa (3rd, illustrated edition). Zürich: Fretz & Wasmuth.
  • Sörgel, Herman (1938). Die drei grossen "A". Großdeutschland und italienisches Imperium, die Pfeiler Atlantropas. [Amerika, Atlantropa, Asien]. München: Piloty & Loehle.
  • Sörgel, Herman (1942). Atlantropa-ABC: Kraft, Raum, Brot. Erläuterungen zum Atlantropa-Projekt. Leipzig: Arnd.
  • Sörgel, Herman (1948). Atlantropa. Wesenszüge eines Projekts. Vorwort von John Knittel. Stuttgart: Behrendt.
  • Voigt, Wolfgang (1998). Atlantropa: Weltbauen am Mittelmeer. Ein Architektentraum der Moderne. Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz. ISBN 3-933374-05-7

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