Finding a Missing Land: How It All Started

Leatherbound Book on PlanksI distinctly remember the “aha!” moment I had on one particular day when I was in my third year at college. I had checked-out a few old history books from the library (yes — I did go into the library now and then) to do research for a paper I was writing at the time. Of course, the paper was due in a couple of days and I was way behind the proper curve for researching and writing a paper of this type, so I had been trading normal sleeping hours for homework time.

The books spanned a wide range of the middle ages and were filled with old maps and stories about travels throughout the known world. I’m not sure if it was the sleep deprivation or the frightening amounts of coffee I had consumed that evening, but I started seeing some unmistakable patterns. Although it was never fully described nor drawn on a map, I became certain that there was once a large land area located in what is now the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

Old Maps on PlanksLogs from early merchant fleets and navies mentioned ports and resupply points that were not part of mainland Europe, northern or western Africa, nor the northern explored areas that we know now as Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, etc. The mentions were found in a couple different explorer journals from the late 1400s, which used the name “Brykovia” for a set of large islands used as a stopping-off point along the way to find a western sea route to India and China. Prior to that, throughout the 1300s and early 1400s, sailors’ notes would occasionally refer to the “Land of Danger” as a collection of islands a few weeks sail to the west of mainland Europe.

Now, as soon as this silly idea surfaced, I simply shrugged it off and tried to get back to my initial research purpose. But something in me didn’t really want to let this go. So, after a couple hours of mental tug-o-war, I decided to follow the threads to some sort of conclusion. Mainly, I figured I’d see the light along the way and realize I was on a fool’s errand with this.

Map of potential Missing Lands - Atlantic OceanMy first thought, of course, was that this was really the remnants of fabled Atlantis. Ever since Plato first mentioned it a few thousand years ago, people have been looking for this land (or whatever remains of it, buried beneath the sea). And while some interesting theories have risen along the way, nothing has ever really stuck as proof of its existence. I spent a couple days tracing all of the references and theories and came to my own conclusion on it: I think it did exist at one time, but not in the location that this Brykovia/Land of Danger used to be. Instead, it looks to have been located to the west of Africa, before the Atlantic swallowed it. I believe that the modern-day Republic of Cabo Verde used to be spot islands off the eastern coast of Atlantis. When Atlantis sunk, Cabo Verde was all that remained of the ancient super power.

So, where does that put Brykovia? The best I was able to determine during that first research binge was approximately half-way between Spain and Maine. But, its archipelago nature made it tricky to pinpoint. I did have some port city names — King’s Harbor, Costa d’ Costa, Ard Alwafra — but the translations seem suspect. I knew I would need something more substantial if I was going to make any further progress.

And, as these things usually go, I caught a break: As part of a side conversation about my new-found research passion, my academic adviser told me that she knew a guy that might know a guy. And it turns out that her friend actually knew a couple of people that would be the key to getting the real story. (to be continued)

(The above is part of the background story for the Tales of Danger game series.)

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