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A plan from the 1920s to drain the Mediterranean Sea and create the nation of Atlantropa

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On the cusp of the Great Depression, architect Hermann Soergel had a radical idea: Why not expand the landmass of Europe by draining part of the Mediterranean? It was all part of his plan to found the nation of Atlantropa.

Here you can see one of his plans for the dams that would be part of this geoengineering project. He'd also create canals in the Sahara Desert with the excess water.

Science historian and rare book afficionado John Ptak recently acquired a monograph where Soergel explains his grand scheme:

His most spectacular contribution-incubated in the mid-1920's and still clinging by its fingertips as an idea among some current thinkers-was to put a dam across the straights of Gibraltar. The dam would generate electricity of course, but most importantly to Soergel, it would also empty an enormous amount of water (lowering the sea by 200 metres) from the Mediterranean leaving vast new expanses of land to be developed and colonized over generations into the future. The water of course would have to go somewhere, and that somewhere was the Sahara Desert, somehow in its wake creating farmable and productive lands. Soergel was creating a certain, very wide, fantastical future of uncertain monumental prospects . . .


Soergel thought that this plan would add at least 660,000 KM2 to the base of the surrounding countries of the Mediterranean, or roughly the equivalent of the combined land masses of Italy and Germany. Having the sea pulled back from hundreds if not thousands of seaside towns and cities would no doubt be a "problem", for them; but that doesn't matter to Soergel, as they were inferior thoughts to the grand idea of emerging a new continent . . . The master plan at work was that the world would be divided into three economic spheres in the future, all beginning with the letter "A": American, Asia, and the new land to be created by Soergel, "Atlantropa", which was the former Europe expanded into the new dry beds of the Mediterranean and North Africa. And also of course Egypt, which would be covered with "thousands" of canals and become semi-submerged by the new borders of the meandering sea. This would be the way for Europa to compete with the rest of the world in the future.


Some of Soergel's contemporaries got so excited by the idea that they started designing architecture for the new city, including the bridge you see above, which would have spanned the entire (drained) sea. Hey, if you can't colonize the countries bordering the Mediterranean anymore, why not colonize the sea itself?

Read the whole article on John Ptak's Science Books blog.