Atlantropa, a crazy mega-project to close the Mediterranean Sea

Samuel Biener Meteorized Spain 7 min
The “Atlantropa” project aimed to close the Mediterranean Sea to Gibraltar and the Dardanelles in order to generate energy and expand agricultural areas on land reclaimed to the sea.

There is no need to resort to fiction to create interest in history. It is common for the media to turn history into a speculative spectacle full of absurd theories or conspiracy theories. The “Atlantropa” project, originally known as “Panropa”, is such a story that there is no need for inventions to be surprised.

The origin of the project in Europe between wars

Many intellectuals believed that after the drama of World War I in Europe, the nations of the old continent would be able to resolve their own conflicts off the battlefield. Others, on the contrary, believed that given the complex situation of the 1920s (unemployment, overcrowding and an impending energy crisis in Europe), a new war would break out if they did not act quickly and vigorously to bring peace among Europeans. Unfortunately, the latter did not deviate.

Among the latter was the German architect, engineer, and pacifist Herman Sörgel. In the late 1920s, he outlined an ambitious plan he believed would unite Europe after World War I. In 1929 he published his idea in the book Lowering the Mediterranean, Sahara Irrigation, Panropa Project.

Stopping the Mediterranean to create Atlantropa

Basically, Sörgel planned to lower the level of the Mediterranean Sea by about 100 meters in the western basin and by 200 meters in the eastern basin. Are you? The architect planned to close the Mediterranean Sea with two giant dams at its ends, one in the Strait of Gibraltar and one in the Dardanelles, which would prevent water from entering the Atlantic and Black Seas, respectively, generating a large amount of hydroelectric energy. . , to feed the new supercontinent that would emerge after the withdrawal of the Mare Nostrum that would leave Europe and Africa united, resulting in years later in what he called Atlantropa.

With this he wanted to reclaim more than 660,000 km2 of new land by sea, an area similar to that of France. The evaporation calculated by Sörgel was more than 4100 km3 / year (a sea level drop of 165 cm / year), which necessitated the construction of new port cities that Sörgel designed together with other architects (Tangierja e Re would be the new great capital of this utopian becomes supercontinent). He believed this was a way to recover lost land due to rising sea levels after the salt crisis in Messina.

Energy and communication revolution

Sörgel designed a complex blocking system for transport in the Mediterranean and the construction of several hydropower plants of unimaginable proportions. The largest of these dams was in Gibraltar (over 15 kilometers), but there were other large dams between Sicily and Tunisia and in the Dardanelles that would produce 50,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply just over 8 millions of homes and end the energy crisis. .

Sörgel diseñó a sistema complejo de esclusas, siendo el kryebashkiaku ojë situaría en el Estrecho de Gibraltar.

Moreover, the road between Sicily and Tunisia would facilitate the connection between Africa and Europe through a major highway. He also designed a tunnel for the Strait of Gibraltar that would allow a direct train connection between Berlin and Cape Town, and a dam to prevent the drying up of the Venice Lagoon (which he plans to build by lowering the water level 500 km from new Laguna) .Adria would be far away).

Large inland seas in the heart of Africa

The final project also envisioned the construction of several dams on the Congo River and the creation of an inland sea in Central Africa. This large artificial lake would in turn be connected to Lake Chad, the level of which would also rise, allowing a “second” Nile to flow into Tunisia, reclaiming Saharan agricultural land, and mitigating the African climate. making it suitable for European settlers. would be more enjoyable.

The consequences would have been catastrophic for the Mediterranean region

Fortunately, this crazy plan did not materialize. The architect did not take into account that the Mediterranean would have turned into giant hypercrystalline lakes similar to the Dead Sea, purely biological deserts in which it would have been impossible to grow plants, and that rainfall in the Mediterranean would have been drastically reduced. All this would have been catastrophic for most of the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean, as well as for the cities and communities on its shores.

Also, Sörgel did not seem to think much about how Africans would be affected by his project, seeing Africa as a continent without history and culture. He even went so far as to say that Atlanta would make Africa a really useful area for Europe.

The consequences would have been catastrophic for cities along the Mediterranean coast, while forests and African communities would have been flooded.

At the time, the possibility of a new continent was taken very seriously by architects, engineers and politicians in Germany, while the project was heavily criticized in Mediterranean countries. When the Nazis came to power, they rejected the project altogether (partly because Atlantrop received the support of some respected Jews). Sörgel fought for his project until his death in 1952. Eight years later, the Atlantropa Institute, a structure set up to keep his dream alive, closed. Today all the details of this failed project can be found in the archives of the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

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