Atlantropa: Craziest Project in World History

At the beginning of the 20th century, a German architect named Herman Sörgel came up with a project of his own, Atlantropa. The project’s goal was to partially drain the Mediterranean Sea and use the land that was previously under the water.

Atlantropa dam
Tom Fisk

While obviously, Sörgel’s vision did not come true, as crazy as it may sound, he worked tirelessly to prove Atlantropa’s merit. But why and where did this architect from Bavaria come up with and support this bizarre project? Well, to answer that question, one has to look back in history.

before Atlantropa

After World War I ended, Germany was economically and physically in ruins, as was most of Europe. Sörgel believed that from this mayhem, 2 superpowers would emerge: the Americas and the “Pan-Asia.” However, Sörgel also feared that Europe would be a lot weaker in comparison due to the post-war situation.

after Atlantropa

Sörgel had the idea of Atlantropa from the mythical city of Atlantis. By accessing the land underwater and utilizing it, he envisioned a united Europe.

Atlantropa dam and bridges drawing

He thought that the only way for Europe to stand against a united Americas and Asia was to unite as well including Africa. This union, however, would be a union of the colonizer-colonized in Sörgel’s vision. Therefore, the only way to do this was to drain the Mediterranean. As a result of the draining, the underwater land would emerge and be added to the landmass.

Atlantropa propaganda posters from germany

While this project is not feasible at all, 5 million years ago, it was the natural condition of the Mediterranean Sea. Around that time the strait of Gibraltar was closed, and the Atlantic Ocean could not flow into the sea. This, in return, gave way to the gradual decrease in water levels and the emergence of patches of land.

the project drawing
Tim De Chant

The body of this emerging land would get the name Atlantropa. In addition, this land would also help with resource and housing shortages and overcrowding. Aside from solving a bunch of European issues, a secondary main goal of the project was to get energy from this process. As ridiculous as this project gets, Sörgel was moderately right about one thing. He believed in the future of hydropower and sustainable energy. By damming both ends of the Mediterranean, he planned to generate 110,000 Megawatt of hydroelectricity.

german illustration of the project
Deutsches Museum

Atlantropa also attracted attention from the Nazi top command as well but they abandoned it shortly. In Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle which talks about an alternative history where the Nazis won WW2, the Nazis complete the project and colonize/divide the land.

fictional atlantropa drawing