Four Theories of Earth Expansion and
the Eocene Event
Karl W. Luckert
A Video Script prepared for the 32nd IGC Post-Workshop PWO 09 -- “New Concepts in Global Tectonics” -- Urbino, Italy,
August 29-31, 2004.
Commentary, added during the 2016 Revision of the “Triplehood” Website:
About the precise manner of East-Pacific rifting – and of Antarctica “moving” southward relative to the present sphere – I have already noted the fact, that in my videos I was displaying the continental separations all too loosely. My explanations of Antarctica’s relationship to the tip of South America, influenced to some extent by my video animations in my bilingual Theuern video, and in the Urbino edition, were definitely inadequate.
Explaining Antarctica’s twisting away, to the west of the Americas, my Urbino video was even farther off the mark. In my recent book, Spread and Growth Tectonics… (2016), I explained continental contacts along the South American cape much tighter. I am publishing these dated videos on Youtube, now anyhow, because they also contain illustrations of other processes—such as the general expansion of oceans as illustrated by isochrones. The videos will at least demonstrate, roughly, how I do envision the overall expansion and how my thinking has evolved over time. However, everything here should be viewed as leading up to my 2016 book, titled “Spread and Growth Tectonics….” In comparison with differences presently championed by other Earth-Expansionists, changes within my own visualization of the expansion process, overall, appear to be minor issues. I am getting too old to acquire better technology to remake my videos. Nevertheless, serious students equipped with better technology should be able to visualize—or even synthesize—my explanations easily enough from what I have made available over time, shown at this website and in the book.
The initial ocean-spreading in the north-eastern Pacific began with rifting between Antarctica and North America, gradually, since the Cretaceous. Expansion in the northeastern Pacific was the natural result of the round Pacific cavity, carving out the round Antarctica while the ocean itself was getting enlarged by way of creating new ocean floor. The earliest ocean floor in the northeastern Pacific resulted from the general enlargement of the ocean. It became part of the triangular ocean floor plate that grew along the round of Antarctica and which now points into the southwestern Indian Ocean. Along the southern flank of the Atlantic, since Africa’s departure from there—and Australia’s departure in the opposite direction during the Eocene—the ocean floor was pre-torn down into the Upper Mantle and soft enough to be intruded upon. All the while, the Pacific has insisted on its own round enlargement—thereby tearing and twisting the round Antarctica west- and southward. The Pacific’s growth itself has pushed Antarctica, shearing past the Cape of South America, nearly all the way east across the width of the southern Atlantic edge of the time.
In any case, I am back again, closer to my Theuern video of seeing the Antarctic Plate do most of its turning later, in fresh southern ocean space, after having poked eastward as far as the Islas Orcadas Rise. With this observation, I cannot see anymore the possibility of a small continental collision having occurred there, which for I while I had granted as a possibility. Not here at the toe of South America, nor anywhere else in the topography of the planet, is there evidence of a continental collision. There is no need to postulate that coastal mountain ranges were pushed up by continental collisions. What we see at the toe of South America was a slight displacement caused by tearing, close shearing, and a nudge between the toe just mentioned and the portion of Antarctica that has become its tail.
I regret now having ever used the metaphor of a “dance” to refer to the southward “turn” of the Antarctic Plate during the Eocene. Apparently, I have been lecturing too many years, trying to challenge students with analogies and exaggerations. In any case, by using this metaphor I lost at least the sympathy of the late Klaus Vogel. Because he could not understand my meaning relative to the isochrones, he has reproached me to the effect that continents do not jump (“sie hüpfen nicht”). The Langenscheidt Dictionary, was too timid to help him recognize the difference between turning a dance-step and “hüpfen.” I should have limited myself to the weaker metaphors of “twisting” and “turning.” But then, our friendly disagreements went deeper than the metaphors we preferred. For Klaus Vogel, and for his globe constructions, the continents have remained genuine Wegenerian wanderers. He was not interested in contemplating isochrones, which I happen to recognize as primary data. For me the “Wandern” of continents has all along been an overdrawn metaphor—much more so than a full turn (Umdrehung) in a dance. Of course, in both the German and the English language can it be said that, superficially, continents “do wander.” They wander after the fashion in which, for common folk and scientists alike, the Sun continues “to rise” in the East and “to go down” in the West. Antarctica was turned horizontally by a process of getting transported sideways, by irregularly expanding ocean floors and sitting on a tough mantle substratum, being invited into regional mafic areas where ocean floors were still young and soft.
Reflecting on numerous presentations of Expansion Tectonics theory, the conclusion has emerged, that most misunder-standings regarding Earth Expansion, in the past, can be traced to defective visualizations. I have been doing video animations of the Earth expansion process since 1996, and by now my method has evolved to a level at which it can be used as a preliminary scientific testing procedure for a variety of tectonic processes. Common wisdom has it that video animation -- known in some languages as “trick photography” -- does exist for the sole purpose of deceiving the viewer. This need not be the goal. Animations that are based on serious globe models or thumbnail images can help illustrate a proposed expansion process dynamically, reflecting exactly how the author of a particular expansion theory does envision it. Animation can give to a viewer a preliminary impression of whether a proposed expansion process falls within the range of tectonic probability -- provided the viewer is alert to material and tectonic processes in general, within three-dimensional space and time. Animation can ruthlessly expose certain tectonic improbabilities which static globe models and thumbnail sketches might fail to reveal.
The models and thumbnails of Earth expansionists, whose theories I have chosen to animate -- Hilgenberg, Vogel, Maxlow, and my own -- can better be visualized, studied, and judged after they have been viewed comparatively, in video animation. Contextual animation does solve many global tectonic problems in stride -- as the present video succeeds in illuminating the uniform formation of East Asia’s marginal seas and island chains. As a matter of principle, I have expanded equal and sometimes even greater efforts in producing correct animated sequences for the theories of my competitors than I have for my own.
The comparative aim of my video presentation is new to the field, and it is intended to stimulate a continued desire for clarification. At various steps of preparation have I been able to effect some improvements regarding details of my own theory. Moreover, in addition to the usual isochrone maps and globes I have, in this edition, utilized numerous NASA satellite images. I consider this 33-minute video lecture, in DVD format, to be a fitting addendum to my last year’s DVD-lecture at the Theuern Conference, in Germany 2003. It was undertaken as a follow-up and as an improvement on its precedent.
Hello, I am Karl Luckert, speaking near Mount Hood, in the Cascade Mountain Range, along our planet’s beautiful Ring of Fire.
The Theuern Conference of 2003, in Germany, was an event at which three presenters, Klaus Vogel, James Maxlow (in absentia), and I, offered in tandem our theories of Earth expansion, focusing primarily on ocean spreading. Ideally such a meeting should have facilitated an opportunity for making critical comparisons. But, because all three of us used different media -- globe models, PowerPoint, and video -- direct comparisons have proven to be rather difficult. To better compare the three expansion models that were presented, I shall attempt to translate all three onto the common denominator of my video medium. I will include again animations of Wegener’s Pangaea and add some illustrations pertaining to Ott Christoph Hilgenberg’s (and Klaus Vogel’s) pioneering work.
The habit of Alfred Wegener, of having a world ocean “Panthalassa” as a foil for the expanding Pangaea-crust, at the opposite side of the globe, has persisted in earth science circles. For instance, I was able to find the thumbnail images for this Wegener animation at the website of the Geological Society of America. Today many subscribers to Plate Tectonics theory still appreciate the convenience of subducting excess ocean floors in Wegener’s Panthalassa -- in the mysterious Pacific -- somewhere along the “backside” of our planet. When Alfred Wegener lopped off the subcontinent of India, and permitted it to float freely among the wandering continental scabs of Pangaea, he created an appetite for similar geological marvels. Not only people who later subscribed to the Plate Tectonics theory, but also Earth expansionists have indulged in the “terrestrial surgery” that Wegener’s world of wandering continents has made possible.
Ott Christoph Hilgenberg
Hilgenberg derived Antarctica from the Pacific -- while Australia was clinging to the round of Antarctica down south. I take here the liberty of completing his three-globe sequence by way of morphing toward a NASA satellite image. Hilgenberg has sliced North America into three segments. He severed Alaska to have it slide home along the continent’s western coast. The remainder of North America he cut diagonally. He postulated a mega-shear that severed the mountainous West from the Great Plains.
Unfortunately for Hilgenberg’s theory, this gigantic hypothetical rift has left no revealing topographical scar and, had there been such a rift, uplift of the Rocky Mountains would surely have been prevented. It took magma pressure from underneath the settling Plains to raise the continent’s peripheral wrinkles. And it took Earth expansion to flatten and to lower the Plains.
To the lasting credit of Klaus Vogel it must be said, that he has avoided Hilgenberg’s continental gash.
He has reversed Hilgenberg’s starting positions for Antarctica and Australia by way of placing Australia to the north of Antarctica. Hilgenberg’s rift, that was supposed to have split Alaska, Klaus Vogel has re-routed to bypass most of that problem. But even in Vogel’s reduced problem area, across his amputated Alaskan Peninsula, his hypothetical shear lacks the evidence of a topographical scar -- as did the two mega-shears of Hilgenberg, earlier.
The Aleutian Islands, today, are curved evenly between Asia and North America. To obtain such an even bow, both ends of the “stick” needed to be held fast. It seems impossible to have had one end of the Aleutian strip slide all the way from California to Alaska, and still achieve, in the end, an even curve that is welded seamlessly onto Alaska. Matters could still be well with Klaus Vogel’s hypothesis if, following the Second World War, the ocean floors of the planet had not been explored as thoroughly as they were.
Even without the problem of the Aleutian bow, projecting a Jurassic rift into the eastern Pacific and Arctic Ocean is problematic by itself. Vogel’s crescent-shaped sliver of an Ur-Ozean would have had to exist in an area that now features the youngest sea-floors -- with none being older than the Eocene.
From among the current Earth Expansion theories I am taking the tectonics of James Maxlow most seriously. The methodologies of both Maxlow and Luckert are based on isochrones-data found on maps of the ocean floors which pioneers of the Plate Tectonics Revolution have produced.
James Maxlow has avoided the gash that Klaus Vogel has projected across the Arctic. He pays attention to magnetic striping and ocean floor chronology in the northern Pacific and he begins his Pacific Ocean, as he should, with a Jurassic triangular gap.
Maxlow extends his Jurassic Pacific eastward -- as he opens up a crescent-shaped sliver there, similar in shape to the Ur-Ozean of Vogel. One wonders about the ease with which a blue extension of Jurassic ocean is painted Cretaceous green, in the next thumbnail image. It is impossible to animate this change. I can only try to be helpful and fade Jurassic blue to dark Cretaceous green. But fading one color into another does not solve a tectonic problem. It only conceals.
From eastern Asia, Maxlow pulls away Australia with Austral-Asia in its tow. One wonders whether all the continental scabs and shelves, which now stretch between Japan and Australia, could have been pulled from the small Jurassic continental patch which Maxlow has allowed. If his movement of Australia were correct, should not the smooth curve that now runs along Sumatra/Java have been bent along the northeastern edge of Austral-Asia instead? Somewhat like this?
The Indic Ocean
For the confirmation of my doubts I must turn to the Indic Ocean. Maxlow’s overall tearing pattern of the Indic Ocean, especially of the northeastern portion, presents a serious problem for me.
According to James Maxlow’s isochrones-drawings -- from which I have removed the fluctuating equator -- the Indic Ocean has unfolded in this manner. The isochrones do delineate a distinct triangular patch of Eocene ocean floor, west of the Andaman Islands and Sumatra. His projection, back into pre-Eocene times, does obscure the Eocene triangle with a bulge of continental shelf. While in this instance it is possible to animate between his thumbnails, we are nevertheless left with the tectonic puzzle of how a rounded bulge could have vacated a sharply defined triangular patch of Eocene floor -- and have done so while, concurrently, the whole of Austral-Asia was swirling north?
In response to James Maxlow I would have to say that to me the Indic Ocean does appear differently. I believe, that the Ninety-East Ridge was the western edge of Austral-Asia, and that it was stretched southward by general Earth expansion. What is at stake here is much more than the formation of an Eocene triangle. An entirely different expansion pattern for Austral-Asia, and of movement for Antarctica, is implied.
East Asia’s Island Chains and Marginal Seas
If 58 million years ago our ancestors had not been so busy running away from dinosaurs, and instead had put a satellite into orbit, they could have seen Austral-Asia stretched southward, somewhat like this. By the end of the Eocene, Austral-Asia was elongated southeastward, and ever since then it has been ricocheting northwestward.
The Eocene triangle in the Indic Ocean was torn open when the western edge of Austral-Asia, along the Andaman Islands, Sumatra and Java, was bent eastward in an even curve, away from the Ninety-east Ridge-line.
When a little while ago I played my animation of the NASA satellite photo, your eyes probably have followed the wanderings of Australia. But in this instance Australia is a diversion.
Let me focus on East Asia specifically. I take the isochrones-map and roll it back unto a contemporary globe. We reduce the globe by way of subtracting from the ocean floor all the recent stripes, down to the Paleocene. And then we can play the Eocene Event forward, up to the present.
We can apply the same procedure to a satellite image that, surprisingly, lets us look deep into the Pacific. It reveals the outlines of the oldest patch of ocean floor on our planet. We reduce this hemisphere down to the Paleocene by removing all the recent stripes, and now we are ready to observe the surprisingly smooth unfolding of the eastern Asian marginal seas -- the Philippine Sea, the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk, as well as the Bering Sea. This is how East Asia obtained its marginal seas and its island chains. Down south, Australia pushed against Celebes and thereby squeezed open the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea.
It goes without saying that with the shrinking of eastern Asia, during the Eocene, spectacular mountain ranges were created on the mainland.
Nine-Figure-shaped Ocean and Continent
In a slightly larger context, I am postulating that the rounded Nine-shape of Antarctica came from the rounded space of the Nine-shaped Pacific Ocean which, for present-day emphasis, still happens to be encircled by the rounded Nine-shaped Ring of Fire. Of course, the cavity that was left by Antarctica has, over time, been expanded several times its original size.
Like Hilgenberg, Vogel, and others before him, James Maxlow remains faithful to the tradition that was begun by Wegener, of trying to fit some round contour of Antarctica into the Bight of Australia. I personally think that this solution has, all along, been a mistake. While the “roundness” in each does tempt the human mind to make an association, wherever two continental crusts are supposed to match, size also is a significant factor. The round of Antarctica is everywhere too large to fit into the Bight of Australia, and upon an expanding sphere there is no way to explain why the Bight of Australia should have been shrinking. But, inasmuch as “roundness” is being judged by most people as being more interesting than “size,” I am willing to quarantine this crucial datum -- for the moment.
The Central Spreading Rift
For me there looms a still more fundamental question. Spreading happens nowadays in the Atlantic, the Indic, Arctic, and in the younger eastern Pacific, all along the interconnected worldwide oceanic rift. Is it thinkable -- as the Maxlow-animations suggest -- that since Jurassic times and throughout the Paleocene, the Pacific Ocean was spreading without the presence of a central rift? I should think not.
I suspect that the older Pacific was created by the same process that we can observe today in all the oceans. For this reason I pay attention to the fact that the northeastern flank of the Pacific patch of Jurassic floor does show offsets which suggest ancient transverse faulting. Transverse faults could have been developing alongside the flank of a central spreading rift.
I postulate that the Jurassic remnants that now can be found along Antarctica do match the northeastern edge of the Pacific Jurassic floor. This observation is corroborated by the tear-drop shape of the Paleocene Antarctic plate which nicely fits into what has become the eastern Pacific.
Once this possibility is acknowledged, one can visualize an ongoing central spreading rift in the Pacific that begun already in Jurassic times. Then, when the Antarctic Plate was loosened from North-America during the Eocene, as it was moving southward (or rather, “being spread southward”), the Pacific spreading rift and the severance rift that was shared with North America merged in the “wake” of that plate.
Of course, this “merging” of the two rifts is figurative speech. While the wake behind the moving plate was soft and flexible, no actual spreading rift was necessary or even possible. A joint rift became possible when the crust was sufficiently hardened and ready to crack. One may also suspect that in the wake of the moving plate most forms of oceanic life have become extinguished. This means that we face a discontinuity when we attempt paleontological dating.
Geological happenings in the Indic Ocean, during the Eocene epoch, were part of a larger pattern of events that involved Australia and Antarctica, as well as South America. This combined Eocene “event” opened and widened the entire (Pacific and) Southern Ocean.
Focusing my subject matter for additional contrast, it may be helpful to approach the Eocene epoch and the Pacific Ocean first with a feeling of nostalgia for the time before any of us needed to worry about tectonic plates, isochrones, and ocean floor chronology.
For this reason, I have selected three NASA satellite photographs, of the southern hemisphere, which are centered on points that tectonically may have (could have) converged on our present South Pole. As I have dealt with the Indic Ocean earlier, so I will choose the Paleocene epoch as my staging point for the expanded “Eocene Event.” I believe that during the Eocene epoch, which followed the Paleocene, some connections between continents have been broken and some positions have been altered.
With no isochrones to worry about, back in the good old days, we could have contemplated my Paleocene reconstruction and then focused on the NASA image of the present Earth. The task would have been to separate Antarctica, over a time of 43 million years, from Point “A” to Point “B.” Scientists always prefer the simplest possible route. Therefore, by placing a couple of thumbnails between “A” and “B,” the animation can begin. I can complete this procedure without inflicting excessive separation unto Antarctica. Most proponents of Plate Tectonics, as well as of Earth Expansion, in the past, have engendered similar and even greater conjectures.
The “Eocene Event” (ca. 58-37 mya)
But geological reality and Plate Tectonics are more convoluted. From Jurassic to Eocene times the Pacific has widened, and the continent of Antarctica has grown by surrounding itself with ocean floor crust. In other words, Eocene Antarctica could not move anymore as a continent, but only as being contained in a larger plate. Its movement required space between itself and Austral-Asia -- more space than a simplistic animation has available. In our simulation we must allow enough space for the Antarctic plate, to slip into the capacious Southern Ocean, where it could have turned.
As I read the isochrones-map, it was the circum-global belt of continents -- consisting of South-America, North-America, Asia and Austral-Asia -- that Earth expansion has stretched, still a considerable span of time into the Eocene. The first fifteen million years of the Eocene epoch (58-43 mya) are characterized by slow severance between the tip of South-America and Australia, and between Antarctica along the western shores of Middle- and South-America.
The Atlantic end-point of the tear-line had been established already during the Lower Cretaceous, where the Cape of Africa broke away from the toe of South America. Then during the Paleocene a gash was torn into the global belt from the other side, along Tasmania. Finally, during the early Eocene an even curve was sliced all the way to the Atlantic. The global belt tore in a curve along the Australian Great Bight and the Cape of South America.
The remaining six million years of the Eocene (43-37 mya) brought cataclysmic speeds of continental separation between Australia and South America. By the same jolt of rupture that loosened the circum-global belt, the Antarctic Plate was sprung loose from North America, along a widening rift. The Plate was invited to slip southward into the soft region that was opening up between South America and Australia. To all these happenings I refer, collectively, as the “Eocene Event.” The greatest continental movements (read “separations”) on our planet seem to have occurred between 43 and 37 million years ago.
Of course, this process happened more tightly than I can animate here without damaging the contours. In addition, my morphing tool has the bad habit of shrinking everything that turns. So, please visualize this progression as happening a little more tightly than I am able to show.
The Eocene epoch has ended with a squeeze-play between Australia and South-America, whereby Antarctica was caught in the middle and was shoved against the cape of South-America. In general, the continents do not collide, because they are cushioned by ocean floors that lie between them. So, this Eocene rebound-collision may be the only one that has happened on our planet.
When Australia snapped northeastward it scooped and pushed some of the older ocean floors against Antarctica, and it pushed Antarctica against the foot of South America where it fractured the toe. It scooped the tip of South-America eastward into the Atlantic as far as the Islas Orcadas Rise.
Today we can see Antarctica leaving the scene of a minor accident. Antarctica’s gradual disengagement began during the Oligocene. We know this because in the Scotia Sea one finds -- amidst a lot of debris -- some Oligocene patches of ocean floor. Of course, during cataclysmic continental adjustments most oceanic forms of life have been eliminated, and the discontinuities that result do make paleontological dating somewhat difficult.
Polishing the Metaphor
New theories tend to get remembered by the simplest motion that they imply. Wegener’s continents became famous as wanderers -- and mine -- let me say that most of the continents are still “clinging” to the partners with whom they have slept encrusted for billions of years.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to mention the exceptions. Africa has left South America during the Cretaceous, and with a break in the global belt, during the Eocene, Australia and South-America got severed. While celebrating their separation, the Antarctic Plate was invited to “dance” southward between them, half a turn. Australia pushed the whirling dancer against the tip of her former mate, South America. Finally, after the Antarctic Plate had wedged its tip into the southern Indic Ocean, Australia stepped back from this encounter and curtsied, at Celebes.
Only one continent on Planet Earth appears so far to have achieved complete emancipation. It is Antarctica, the whirling occupant of the South Pole. Our other five continents have shunned such reckless freedom. They remain draped over the North Pole, together, as leftovers of the original Pangaea crust. Australia’s shelves have snugged up to Eurasia while the shelves of Eurasia are reaching around the North Pole to hold on to North America which, in turn, has locked arms with South America. In the same mode of Arctic togetherness and anchorage, Africa accepts the hold of Eurasia that embraces the Mediterranean Sea, and thereby Africa, too, still clings to the original Pangaea configuration.
A 2004 PostScript:
At the regional GSA conference in Boise, Idaho, on May 5, 2004, I learned that the coastal mountain tops, along the states of Washington and Oregon, all do feature basalts from the Eocene [exactly the break-up time which is implied by my theory of Antarctica’s partition from the Pacific]. Two scholars from Puget Sound University suggested a scenario of “extensive rifting” -- without being able to name a plate that might have gotten torn away from there. This independent fact should at least persuade some earth scientists to admit my theory as a “working hypothesis,” alongside others.