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2/20/2009
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Google Earth's 'Atlantis' Just A Data Glitch

While Google's mapping program is turning up many formerly hidden objects, a lost city under the sea isn't one of them, says a company spokesperson.

The addition of sea-floor topography to Google Earth earlier this month revealed what some claim could be the lost city of Atlantis.

But Google says the undersea grid lines spotted by aeronautical engineer Bernie Bamford while browsing Google Earth's ocean maps are data artifacts rather than sunken streets.

"[W]hat users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "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. 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."

London's tabloid The Sun on Friday published screenshots from Google Earth showing what resembles a city street grid on the ocean floor west of Morocco, in an area known as the Madeira Abyssal plane.

According to The Sun, the site in question lies at the coordinates 31°15'15.53" N, 24°15'30.53" W.

Google said the area mentioned in The Sun article reflects a mixture of bathymetric data from sonar and satellite altimetry, which provides an estimate of the ocean floor topography based on wave height. The intersection of these two data sets, which don't align perfectly, is what produces the appearance of a street grid. Similar grid lines can be found in other parts of the ocean where the sea floor has yet to be completely mapped, such as near Hawaii.

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