The best books on submerged lands

Patrick Nunn Author Of Worlds in Shadow: Submerged Lands in Science, Memory and Myth
By Patrick Nunn

The Books I Picked & Why

Cities in the Sea

By Nicholas C Flemming

Cities in the Sea

Why this book?

One of the first books written about scientific discoveries of Cities in the Sea was this by Nic Flemming and it is a great read. Impassioned, exciting, personal, you cannot fail to be swept along as the author describes his discovery of Pavlopetri, still acknowledged as the world’s earliest-known underwater city. Written before the world knew about climate change, this book is not in any sense forward-looking but rather a celebration of the discovery of once-inhabited undersea places that lit the way ahead for a whole generation of people curious about human pasts.


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Europe's Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland

By Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, David Smith

Europe's Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland

Why this book?

Ever since deep-sea fishing vessels started to bring up artifacts and the bones of extinct land animals from the floor of the North Sea (UK), there has been a suspicion that a once-inhabited submerged land lay there. Named Doggerland, this land has now been investigated in more detail than any other. We know how people lived there, what the topography and vegetation were like, what animals roamed there. And we know that about 8000 years ago, Doggerland – the last land link between the British Isles and the rest of Europe – became submerged.  A gripping and hugely compelling account.


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The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories

By Sumathi Ramaswamy

The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories

Why this book?

Sometimes English readers are never exposed to histories in other languages but I feel personally indebted to Sumathi Ramaswamy for this monumental scientific study of Tamil traditions about the ‘lost land’ of Kumari Kandam. It is not merely comprehensive but leads its reader through Tamil literature and poetry to express the profundity of loss associated with this land’s submergence. Which may conceivably have informed western stories about Lemuria in the Indian Ocean.


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Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia

By Stephen Oppenheimer

Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia

Why this book?

In the late 1990s when this book was published, it seems no scientist had ever given serious thought to the consequences for human evolution of the submergence of Sundaland in the aftermath of the last ice age. There is compelling scientific evidence, compiled and analyzed here in compendious detail, that Sundaland was a heartland of human innovation and that its drowning may have led to the spread of rice agriculture, pottery making, and even tales of lands being ‘fished up’ (as by the Pacific demigod Maui). An astonishing read that today I still regard as largely credible.  


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Sunken Cities. Some Legends of the Coast and Lakes of Wales

By F.J. North

Sunken Cities. Some Legends of the Coast and Lakes of Wales

Why this book?

Written in the 1950s by a museum curator-geologist, Sunken Cities is one of the earliest expositions of ‘myth and legend’ and their plausible geological meanings. The author marries his deep knowledge of Welsh traditions about submerged places with contemporary geological understandings. Of course, geology was transformed the following decade but North’s book remains insightful and grounded in ways that many more recent accounts are not. If I lived in Wales, I would be off every weekend with it in hand!


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