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Writing about Outrageous Hypotheses and Extraordinary Possibilities: A View from The Trenches

A challenge

The general tone of this Der Spiegel article - derisive, condescending, ridiculing the islanders -- is fairly typical of the way in which the quality Western press report on the Yonaguni structures. Also typical is the instant (and insulting) rejection of the conclusions of two highly qualified Japanese scholars (Terukai Ishii and Professor Masaaki Kimura -- both of whom believe the Yonaguni monuments to be man-made) and the equally instant (and credulous) acceptance of the opinion of the German "expert" Wichmann, whose only qualification is that he is a geologist who has done three dives at Yonaguni. No mention is made of the fact that Professor Kimura is a geologist too and that he and his team of research students from the University of the Ryukus have reached their opinion about the artificiality of the monuments after a five-year survey there involving more than 200 dives.

There are a number of other serious lacunae and errors in the article.

For example, it tells us that Professor Robert Schoch of Boston University "believes the Sphinx was built by the people of Atlantis." This is completely untrue! Schoch does not believe any such thing - as he has stated explicitly on several well-documented occasions (e.g. see Link 1; for Schoch's view on Yonaguni see Link 2)

Another pointer to the generally low level of knowledge upon which the Der Spiegel piece is based is the howling error that only "primitive hunter-gatherers" roamed the coasts of Japan 10,000 years ago. It is now well-established that at that date Japan was home to the remarkable Jomon culture which manufactured beautiful pottery at least 3000 years earlier than any other known civilisation in the world and which also mastered the domestication of rice at an extremely early date. The mounting evidence of the surprising sophistication and complexity of Jomon culture, coupled with evidence of advanced architectural abilities at sites like Sannai-maruyama and elsewhere, makes these mysterious prehistoric people look like very plausible candidates for the creators of the Yonaguni monuments.

All in all, therefore, it seems to me that the judgements expressed in the Der Spiegel article are narrow-minded, ignorant and premature. I don't think anyone is in a position to form an intelligent opinion about what Yonaguni has to offer until they have put in extensive time there and dealt with some of the risks of repeated dives to its unique underwater sites.

Wolf Wichmann's three dives don't even begin to qualify him.

Yonaguni Path
Yonaguni: clearly-defined path at the base of the monument.

Since March 1997 I personally have made more than 100 dives to the Yonaguni monuments (not just "an excursion in a submersible" as Der Spiegel dishonestly asserts; actually I have never used a submersible at Yonaguni!). The experiences I have had as a hands-on diver (including examination, in ferocious currents, of what is, indeed, a "clearly-defined path" at the base of the monument) have convinced me that the structures are all inter-related and that they must, accordingly, be the result of some sort of masterplan. This is why, contrary to mainstream opinion, the better I get to know Yonaguni the more difficult it becomes for me to accept the various theories which claim that the underwater monuments are natural.

I would therefore like to offer a challenge to Wolf Wichmann, or for that matter to any suitably qualified, scuba-diving geologist - or preferably to a team involving both a geologist and an archaeologist (both of whom must be competent scuba divers and both of whom should already have formed the opinion that the Yonaguni structures are natural). Let us agree a mutually convenient time to do, say, 20 dives together at Yonaguni over a period of about a week. I will show you the structures as I have come to know them, and give you every reason, including expert academic opinion (which I will ask the relevant scholars to present in person), why I think that the monuments must have been worked on by human beings. You will do your best to persuade me otherwise. At the end of the week let's see if either side has had a change of mind.

Meanwhile I remain puzzled that the overwhelming reaction of academics to the Yonaguni enigma is to attempt to debunk it with superificial arguments along the lines of the Der Spiegel piece.What is wrong with a bit of common-sense curiosity about bizarre and hard-to-explain phenomena -- which these Japanese underwater "monuments" most certainly are (whatever they may ultimately turn out to be). Where did we get the idea that it's right, "rational", "scientific" even, to approach all such anomalies in a hostile and sceptical spirit? Why shouldn't our initial posture towards a problem like Yonaguni be one of intellectual generosity and open-mindedness -- rather than one of pedantic, nit-picking meanness?

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