There may have been many interesting civilizations that disappeared from one disaster or another, but there was only one Atlantis and, by definition, it was an island outside the Straits of Gibraltar and near a region in southwest Spain known as "Gadirus" or "Gadira" (around modern day, Cadiz which was named after the original Phoenician city of Gades, later ).
Plato said that Atlantis met its end 9000 years before Solon heard about it (roughly 200 years before Plato, about 600 BCE). This would make the disaster about 9600 BCE. Hold onto your hats, because we now have scientific proof that something very, very BIG happened 9600 BCE. Three items of scientific evidence show that a catastrophe happened then. Each piece of evidence is also compatible with and suggestive of the destruction of Atlantis.
Briefly they are:
* The abrupt change in climate worldwide -- the end of the Younger Dryas (a 1300-year mini-Ice Age) -- about 9620 BCE.
* The appearance in the Greenland Ice cores of a moderately large trace of volcanic debris -- 9620 BCE.
* A sudden, 2-meter drop in sea level worldwide after a steady rise for thousands of years -- about 9620 BCE.
For more on this, check out, http://www.ancientsuns.com/ancient-earth/
The weakest of the three is the 2-meter drop in sea level, but it is also the most compelling if corroborative evidence can be found to show this as a proxy for a real event. Timing of the drop calls attention to itself, because it is at the very end of the Younger Dryas period. Two meters does not sound significant, but remember this is worldwide. More importantly, the drop is sufficient to account for the 3000-meter tectonic collapse of a Texas-sized plot of land somewhere in the ocean.
Why is Plato's traditional location for Atlantis the most compelling location? First, because that is where he said Atlantis was. Get a copy of Plato's Timaeus and Critias. More interestingly, the geology of the location is full of anomalies. There is a so-called "hot spot" at the Azores that does not follow the pattern of a hot hole in the tectonic plate (as with the Hawaii-Emperor chain in the Pacific). There is a curious bend in the tectonic plate boundary at the Azores (roughly 36 million years old). And the plate boundary is indistinct in many locations between Gibraltar and the mid-Atlantic ridge.
Also, the location is important to consider because of how most mountains are formed -- at tectonic plate boundaries by the actions known as subduction and crustal folding. Could it be that 50 or 60 million years ago (Mya) the African plate slid under the Eurasian in the region known currently as the Azores? Could the collision of Africa with the Eurasian landmass have caused the plate boundary in the Azores region to become pinched and damaged?
Such damage would have caused a cessation in subduction locally. The plate boundary would have become more and more damaged as the African inexorably moved northward. So, what does this mean? Mountains! Mountains that grew tall enough from the wrinkling of the plate boundary region to poke their tops above sea level. Over millions of years, an island grew.
When northward movement of the African plate could no longer proceed locally, but with the remainder of the plate continuing to slide under the Eurasian, the obvious effect would have been forced rotation of the African plate. The evidence: the sudden bend in the plate boundary in the Azores reagion, the slight spreading motion in the area of the Terceira Ridge, the continued subduction east of Gibraltar, stress fractures across the body of North Africa, and the biggest rift zone in the world -- the Great Rift Valley, sheared off from the older, larger African plate because of the new rotational force. As if that weren't enough, continued plate damage crept along the boundary infecting adjacent portions of plate boundary until the damage had reached Gibraltar about 7 Mya. That was the beginning of the Messinian Salinity Crisis, when the Mediterranean dried up.
Because of the plate rotation, the pressure was off. The continued plate movement around the area of damage greatly weakened the accidentally uplifted former island and now peninsula. Over the next 7 million years, portions of the accidental land form began to collapse. And I had always wondered how Atlantis got elephants. Plato said the place had them. Simply they walked across the 2-million year landbridge before Gibraltar opened up again.
These observations of data in the scientific literature and understanding of the science of geology do not prove Atlantis, but there is enough here to suggest further investigation is warranted. There is a great deal we do not know about human prehistory. If Atlantis existed, then we are certain to see the effects of it and its passing in the myths, legends and archaeological evidence.
How would refugees of a technologically advanced civilization react to being thrust into the wilderness? Are the earliest beginnings of civilization -- pottery, farming, burial and others -- the influences of the children of Atlantis on their environment and neighbors?
I propose we start a mission. It may be an impossible one, but it may be a worthy one, especially if we gain the needed proof.
Anyone interested in this fascinating subject needs to read all they can, not only on the subject of Atlantis and the ideas of others, but also learn the related sciences -- geology, climatology, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, myth and legend. And, of course, you're at the right place. There are lots of books here.