Geologists are not generally all that excitable. After all, developments in their field generally take place over millions of years. But when scientists began scouring the Atlantic off southeast Brazil in 2011, they suspected that they were on to something— and something very big, at that.
Two years—and half a dozen deep-sea expeditions later—the geological world is abuzz. Brazilian marine geologists are poring over the rubble dredged up from the undersea excavations in the so-called Rio Grande Elevation, and the research done by a Japanese exploration vessel, which deployed a mini, three-man submarine to comb the same waters before sailing on to Rio.
So what did the rubble reveal?
This week, a joint Brazilian-Japanese research team broke its long silence, officially unveiling its find with a head-turning and slightly mischievous teaser: Could this be a “Brazilian Atlantis?”
“Today we believe we may have found vestiges of an unknown continent,” Roberto Ventura Santos, head of the Brazilian Geological Service, told The Daily Beast. The evidence? Not gold but granite. “We expected to find volcanic rock and debris, typical of a seabed, not granite. Granite is typically found on the continental shelf.”
And yet, as Santos pointed out, this was 1,800 miles from the Brazilian shore, where the water is 5,900 feet deep.
No one in Rio or Tokyo expects to find traces of human life on the ocean floor—never mind the ruins of the iconic Atlantis of Plato’s prose: an island where the marine god Poseidon is fabled to have lined his palaces with gold and silver and where elephants and “wild beasts of prey” roamed.
However, if the scientists’ hunch pans out, they will have stumbled upon the earth scientists’ equivalent of hidden treasure. Proof of an underwater continent could be a major piece of a geological puzzle allowing scientists to reassemble events of literally seismic proportion that stretch back tens of millions of years.
The geologists’ Atlantis is a glimpse into the geological upheaval that around 200 million years ago created our world as we know it. The earth shrugged and shifting tectonic plates forced the supercontinent Pangaea to break apart to form the African continent in the east and South America to the west.
Researchers now believe that the high plateau in the high seas might just be a sunken remnant of that earth-moving event. And with this discovery, for the first time, scientists have what could be their best chance to test the theory in the field.
More Must Read Stories From The Daily Beast:
© 2013 Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC