The Rising Sealevel Myth --
Proofs that ocean levels are falling, not rising
(countering a new and expensive misconception about the Earth)

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

The Myth of Rising Sealevels
A dangerous misconception is gaining increasing credibility in the public eye. This misconception is that the levels of world seas and oceans is rising.

The fact that ocean levels are falling, not rising, is easily demonstrated from a wealth of historical evidence, some of which is presented below. Widespread fears and assertions of rising sealevels prove, when examined, to be only deductions from other equally groundless myths.

Perhaps the world is full of misconceptions, do we really need to worry about them? The rising sealevel misconception is one for which the answer is very definitely "Yes!". This misconception is beginning to cost us very serious money, and interfere with planning and progress in every country with a seashore.

The Story Begins
In 2002, my wife and I were fortunate to be able to visit Ephesus, the remains of a once-major Roman city in Western Turkey [1]. Roman Ephesus was developed from an earlier Greek city. In the first century BC it had a population of a quarter of a million, and was the second-largest city in the world.

Ephesus, western Turkey. From [1]

Ephesus is the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It still holds a wealth of spectacular architecture for modern visitors, including the part-restored Library of Celsus.

The Library of Celsus. From [1]

Like most modern tourists, we entered the Ephesus site from the hill road above, and walked down past impressive ancient buildings along the columned cobblestone road. Passing the Celsus Library, we came to the vast amphitheatre, cut into the hillside, and below this the site of the marketplace, and the road to the harbour.

The road down to the Harbour, Ephesus. From [2]

As a major city, Ephesus necessarily depended on its harbour for a major part of its trade. Starting around 401 AD, when riots, and later an earthquake, caused destruction, decline of the city began. The harbour silted up and eventually the city was abandoned.

There's Something Wrong Here ....
This is a nice historical tale, but there's something wrong with it. Ephesus is not on the Aegean coast, but some 9 kilometres inland. How could it have a harbour?

Looking at the site with Google Earth gave no obvious explanation of what happened to the harbour. The conventional explanation is that the harbour, and a nearby river, "silted up".

Ephesus and the Aegean coast. From [3]

In the picture, ancient Ephesus is a couple of kilometres south of the red marker. The harbour road can be seen going WNW from the amphitheatre (cloudy white patch) towards a shallow green lake, all that remains of the harbour.

Angled closeup view of the harbour road and the amphitheatre. From [3]

These two pictures give a good idea of where the Ephesus harbour has ended up in the landscape, but no plausible reason why. The inescapable conclusion is that the coast has retreated some 9 kilometres from its position in ancient Greek and Roman times.

Some sense of how this must have occurred can be had if you open Google Earth for this area and, using the height-above-sea-level indicator, trace the present-day 4-metre contour. This shows clearly how, when the sea was 4 metres higher, Ephesus stood on a wide inlet or sheltered bay.

The Ephesus area with land up to 4 metres above sea level replaced by sea

This gives us a good explanation of what happened to Ephesus and its harbour, clearly the sea has fallen some 4 metres in the last couple of thousand years. Still, this could have been a local phenomenon, Turkey is certainly subject to earth movments. So let's move on to see if these sorts of falls have occurred elsewhere in the world.

Sea recession around the World
The phenomenon of seas retreating from their former shores has been investigated in considerable detail by Richard Guy, who has published three books [4-6] including the topic. Let us look at some instances of retreating seas, many of which are referred to in these books.

The Norfolk coast of England
In an episode of the BBC TV program 'Kingdom', local solicitor Peter Kingdom has a client claiming that one of the coastal meadows had been used for grazing sheep for many years, and had protected grazing rights. It turns out that the meadow area had in the past been a fish farm -- and so used for 'grazing' fish.

In fact, googling some the coastal towns on the north Norfolk coast shows that these, too, have had the sea recede. This is what Wikipedia has to say about the former coastal towns of Blakeney and Cley-Next-The-Sea [7].

Despite its name, Cley has not been "next the sea" since the 17th century, due to land reclamation. Some of the buildings that once lined the quay remain, notably the 18th-century windmill. .... It is hard to imagine Cley as one of the busiest ports in England, where grain, malt, fish, spices, coal, cloth, barley and oats were exported or imported. The many Flemish gables in the town are a reminder of trade with the Low countries.

A failed land reclamation scheme led to the silting up of the port, and Cley had to find another industry. In the late 19th century, it became a holiday resort. Blakeney started life as a busy medieval commercial port until the estuary began to silt up preventing all but pleasure craft from gaining access.

A look at the present coastline with Google Earth shows that the concepts of 'a failed reclamation scheme' or 'the estuary silting up' are fairly unbelievable.

The modern Norfolk coast. The land forming the coast in the 1500s is now about 13 metres above sea level.

The Kent coast of England
The coast of Kent, in southeast England, is the home of the 'Cinque Ports', a famous group of port towns. However, almost all of these historic ports are now well inland.

These ports have a well-documented history, including their gradual retreat from the sea. One of them, Romney, was a prosperous port in 791 AD [8]. As the sea retreated and it became no longer usable as a port, it was replaced by New Romney. In turn, New Romney gradually lost its sea access, and is now about 2 kilometres from the sea.

The modern coast of southeast Kent. New Romney, one of the Cinque ports in 1500, is now 2 km inland.
Rye, another Cinque Port is even further inland.

The original port of Old Romney, active in 800 AD, was lost as a port by 1100 AD and replaced by New Romney. Old Romney is now almost 4 km inland, and consists of only an old yew tree, the church, and a few cottages.

Old Romney has now almost disappeared. Only a yew tree, a few houses, a pub, and the church remain.

A local-history web page [8] gives an account of the decline of Old Romney. Following are some extracts from this page.

In 791 King Offa granted a court to Romney, possibly heralding in the start of the Cinque Ports, and at the time it was a prosperous fishing and trading port.

Old Romney and New Romney were linked, with the port at New Romney moving further away from the old town as the coastline spread into the English Channel. This creeping away of the harbour continued until the 1100's, when the distance between Romney and its harbour became too great, and the two villages separated. The Cinque Ports first mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155 originally consisted of the "Ports" of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich, so we know that Old Romney had been superseded by this time.

The decline of Old Romney started at this point, but the natives continued to reclaim the land from the Rother Estuary and the marshland to provide rich and fertile farmland .

Old Romney reverted to a farming community, providing sheep and wool for the wool industry in Flanders. Around 1300 Edward I set up a customs duty on the export of English wool, which was in great demand in Europe. This was the first permanent customs system established in England, and until it was set up all trade in and out of England was free. Up to this point Old Romney was shipping most of its wool abroad from its harbour at New Romney.

In 1614 the export of all wool was made illegal, so the smugglers became more violent and with the introduction of the death penalty in 1661 most became armed. In 1698 the government decided to take action. An Act was passed stopping people within 15 miles of the sea from buying any wool, unless they guaranteed that they wouldn't sell it to anyone within 15 miles of the sea. Also any farmers within 10 miles of the sea had to account for their fleeces within 3 days of shearing. All of this affected Old Romney .

With the decline in smuggling in the 1730s the area continued as a farming centre. The number of people declined, until today there is only the church and a handful of houses to mark the village.

Egypt and India
Richard Guy has identified many other world sites which show apparent withdrawal of the sea. One of the earliest atlases ever produced, by Ortelius, includes a map of Upper Egypt.

Upper Egypt in 1570. From [9]

While this map has obvious distortions in shape compared to modern maps, the connectivities between places marked must still hold. Some real surprises for modern observers are that the Qattara Depression held two lakes, and that a working canal system existed between the Red Sea, the Nile, and the Mediterranean.

It seems very probable that sea levels in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean were higher in the 1500s than they are now. A close study comparing the positions of Red Sea towns shown, such as Hero and Cleopatris, with their modern successors might well indicate recession of the northern part of the Red Sea. But there is an interesting logical deduction which applies here too.

There is no evidence at all to suggest that the canals linking the Nile and the Red Sea had anything resembling locks, instead they must have been sea-level systems (like the modern Suez Canal). For this canal system to work, the sea level in the Red Sea must have been higher in older times, to match the level of the Nile.

Lowering of levels in the Red Sea does explain the loss of viable canal links to the Nile. Traces of these canals still exist in Cairo, but now all are 'silted up', apparently in spite of dredging efforts. No amount of dredging could combat a fall in the Red Sea as it retreated, if the land levels became relatively higher.

Other sites mentioned by Guy which have evidence of falling sealevels include the northern Indian Ocean, near the present mouth of the Indus, and the coast of New Jersey, USA. The New Jersey sites will be considered here later.

Ur of the Chaldees
Our final site to look at is one of the most ancient cities known, Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was a major city and port of the Sumerians, a civilization developed around 4500 BC [10] in what is now southeast Iraq, at its junction with the Persian Gulf.

Location of the ancient city of Ur.

It is not known exactly when Ur ceased to be a working port, but it was probably still active till about 1000 BC, when the Chaldeans were established. At the present day, Ur is a little over 250 kilometres from the nearest point of the Persian Gulf.

This evident recession of the sea looks very impressive, perhaps hard to accept. However, examining the area with Google Earth's height checker, as was done above for Ephesus, shows that a fall of around 6 metres would be enough to account for the recession. In other words, if the level of the Persian Gulf was raised by 6 metres today, it would again lap the shore at Ur.

How does the rising sealevel myth affect us today?
All this historical evidence that rising oceans is a myth might be interesting, but does it matter in everyday life? Unfortunately, the myth is beginning to affect society, and cause quite unnecessary costs and problems.

In Australia, local councils have started rezoning coastal land and imposing building restrictions on the assumption of a one-metre rise in sea level, and this is costing coastal landowners dearly .

Janet Henriksen shows the new minimum building base level required by Lake Macquarie City Council. From [11]

Here is what a recent newspaper report said about the problem affecting New South Wales coastal properties [11].

Coastal councils are making real-life planning decisions based on long-range sea-level modelling that projects, with little certainty, that the ocean will rise by about 1 m by 2100.

"We're the first victims of global warming and we haven't even got the rising seas yet", says Pat Aiken, one of 9000 homeowners near Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, whose houses have been tagged with a council warning that they may be threatened by future rising sea levels. Aiken claims the warnings, which are attached to Section 149 planning certificates, had the effect of devaluing the homes overnight.

In towns around coastal Australia thousands of similar battles are being fought as more than 100 coastal councils try to implement state and federal government rhetoric on rising sea levels. These councils are busily rezoning coastal land, slapping building restrictions on private homes and commercial developments, demanding homes be built higher off the ground and issuing long-term warnings about suburbs that may one day be under water.

Meanwhile, on the New Jersey coast of the eastern USA, quite another legal problem has arisen. Aerial photography has now been around long enough to show that new land is being created as the ocean recedes [6], and there is argument as to how the money gained by the State of New Jersey in selling off this land should be used.

Where does all this leave us?
We might well ask how the The Great Sealevel Swindle has managed to come to be. It is, of course, a tail-end effect of the greatest myth in human history, that man-made global warming is affecting the planet. Without a shred of evidence, paper calculations on melting of icecaps leads the conclusion that the oceans must be rising.

Here the solid historical evidence shows that the rising-ocean scenario just does not match reality. Why should this be, what's wrong with the Man-made Global Warming idea? That is another can of worms altogether, those interested in my take on this can find it at reference [12].

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

References and Links

1. Ephesus.
2. Mark D Roberts. Ancient Ephesus and the New Testament.
3. Google Earth. Application downloadable from
4. Richard Guy. Is Planet Earth Expanding? Institute of the Expanding Earth, 1991.
5. Richard Guy. The Mysterious Receding Seas. Institute of the Expanding Earth, 2005.
6. Richard Guy. The Ascent of Man: Downhill All The Way. Institute of the Expanding Earth, 2009.
7. Cley Next The Sea.
8. Old Romney (Sheep and Wool Smuggling).
9. Michael Swift. Mapping the World. Chartwell Books, 2006.
10. Ur of the Chaldees.
11. Anger Rises Ahead of the Sea. Weekend Australian: Inquirer p.1, 2011 Jul 30-31.
12. Will Greenzilla Destroy the Earth?

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Version 1.0 on Web, 2011 Aug 3