ATLANTIS: MYTH OR POSTCODE?
I SHALL NEVER FORGET THE IMPOTENT RAGE I FELT as I concluded my address to the Royal Geographical Society upon that fateful evening in 1979.
It's true, the subject of my lecture, "Atlantis: Myth or Postcode?", had attracted a large audience. But they had arrived less in the spirit of sober, scientific enquiry, more that of a mob at a public execution.
Their incessant heckling still rings in my ears, as do the jeers invoked by my (as I believed) compelling conclusion: namely, that the "Lost Continent" was an historical reality, not some figment of Platonic fancy.
Perhaps my anger served as the catalyst that impelled me to turn the tables upon my detractors and to substantiate my theory once and for all. On 10 March, I sailed out of Plymouth Sound on the mature yet affordable steam packet the ss Pointless, on a voyage of discovery that would rival, if not that of Darwin's Beagle, then certainly those of her two lesser-known predecessors, the Poodle and the Shitsu.
For two years we trawled the oceans of the world. Our remote-controlled submersible recorded intact Phoenician galleys on the anoxic floor of the Black Sea, volcanic vents in the abyss of the Marianas Trench, a 3m heap of missing snorkels off Swanage Pier. Yet any Atlantean clues eluded us entirely.
Until, that is, we docked at Swansea to take on the coal and the antique furniture from English-owned cottages in Gwynedd that made up the bulk of our fuel.
While the stevedores broke up Chippendale dining tables on the dockside, I slipped ashore for a drink at the Chip on Shoulder, a typical Welsh hostelry I'd known since my days as a suicidal depressive.*
That pint proved to be our lucky break.
"What's an uninterestin', middle-aged, overweight bloke like you doin' in a place like this?" enquired Alwyn, three times Silver Medallist in the "Downright Rudeness" section of the Pontyprid Eistedfodd.
I ignored her pleasantries and sat down by the fire, next to an ancient man with a face that might have been carved out of mahogany (albeit by someone with St Vitus' Dance and severely impaired vision).
"So, bach," he growled, between puffs on a greasy clay pipe. "What's an uninterestin', middle…"
"Actually," I interrupted testily, "I'm sailing the world in search of the Lost Continent."
A spark kindled in his rheumy eye. "An' which one would that be?"
"Why, Atlantis of course! What others are there?"
"Dozens. Sea's littered with 'em. But if you're after what you English call 'Atlantis', I can 'elp you out, see? Fer the price of a large rum."
I obliged the ancient with his tipple, which he seized in a palsied, claw-like hand and drained in a single draft.
"The proper Welsh name is Atllyntwys Wells," he explained. "You'll find it about 30ft offshore at Abersoch. They got flooded out every winter for 3000 years, see. So in the end they just said, sod it, enough's enough, an' they packed up an' moved to Rhyll.
"You can see their point, but it's a pity all the same - Atllyntwys was very nice, by all accounts. A lovely spot."
And that, friends, is how I stumbled on the answer to the conundrum that has intrigued mankind since the beginning of recorded history. They'll be laughing on the other side of their faces now, down at the Geographical Society.
Meanwhile, it's given me a taste for nautical mythology. Next week: Davy Jones' Locker - Lost Souls or Left Luggage?
*See the author's Mopey Dick: The Seven Seas on Seroxat (1974)
Deeper with Blackford
by Andy Blackford
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From Swanage Bay to the Redcar sewage treatment plant; from Bovisand Harbour to the wreck of the Wigan Shopping Trolley - Andy Blackford has been there, dived it, and recalls the experiences in this new collection of 36 of his best stories. Illustrated by Rico.
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