February 20, 2009

Google: ‘Atlantis’ image was sonar data

A Google Ocean picture that some said might show the location of the mythical city Atlantis off the coast of Africa was an image of sonar data, Google said.

The image, first reported by a British aeronautical engineer using Google Ocean, appears to depict a grid system 620 miles off the coast of northwest Africa, near the Canary Islands, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

However, a Google spokeswoman said the grid lines on the image, which the original British viewer described as resembling a man-made aerial map, were caused by thin bands of sonar data collected by boats while mapping the bottom of the ocean, The Daily Mail reported.

It's true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa, the spokeswoman said. In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.

The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data, she said. The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world's oceans.