Why One Man Devoted His Life To Draining The Mediterranean Sea

Where would we be if “Atlantropa” came to fruition?

Artist rendering of Atlantropa (via Wikipedia)

It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but one man crafted a very real plan to drain the Mediterranean Sea, effectively merging Europe and Africa into one supercontinent. As far-fetched as this idea may sound, Herman Sörgel dedicated his life to it.

In 1929, while most of Europe was still reeling from World War I, Sörgel, then a German architect, wrote a book detailing his idea for the massive project called The Panropa Project, Lowering the Mediterranean, Irrigating the Sahara. Three years later, when that didn’t seem to catch on, Sörgel repackaged the idea in another book called Atlantropa, which is still the work he’s best remembered for today.

Herman Sörgel (via Wikipedia)

In Atlantropa, Sörgel describes closing off the Strait of Gibraltar and setting up two other enormous dams that would make modern China’s Three Gorges Dam look puny in comparison. By lowering sea levels to make room for farmland and gathering hydroelectricity from the dams, Sörgel claimed the project would provide jobs and boost prosperity within the Euro-African region for decades.

Sörgel’s plan may sound crazy, but his aim was far from it. According to Atlas Obscura, he saw Atlantropa as a solution for the deep depression Europe found itself struggling to crawl out of following the First World War. Requiring intercontinental cooperation and millions of workers, Sörgel (who was a diehard pacifist) saw the project as an opportunity to rebuild frayed relations. Amidst unemployment, poverty, and the building tensions that plagued European nations, you could argue that creative solutions such as Sörgel’s were more desperately optimistic than outrageous.

Despite support from fellow Germans, Atlantropa never got past the daydreaming stage. By the time the Nazis took over Germany, they weren’t interested in dams or community building; they were interested in expanding territory the old-fashioned way by conquering other countries and absorbing them into their fold. It didn’t help either that the rise of nuclear power quickly overshadowed hydroelectricity’s capabilities.

Alas, Atlantropa lives on in the fictional works of Philip K. Dick and Gene Roddenberry. But if Star Trek’s ability to influence scientific innovation is any indication, fiction has a lot more power than we’d like to think. Who knows? Maybe the next off-the-wall idea will be the one to save us all.


September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

It's fun to go to a party, talk to strangers, and try to guess where they're from just by their accents and use of language. It's called 'soda' on the East Coast and 'pop' in the Midwest, right? Well, it looks like a new study has been able to determine where a Humpback whale has been and who he's been hanging out with during his awesome travels just from his song.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less