Plate Tectonics is Expansion Tectonics
The Tectonics of Rising Mountains and Growing Continental Plates
Karl W. Luckert
Professor emeritus at Missouri State University
Presentation at the Conference on “Erdexpansion -- eine Theorie auf dem Prüfstand“ --
Mining and Industry Museum of Ostbayern, Theuern, Oberpfalz, May 24-25, 2003.
Convened by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Karl-Heinz Jacob, Technische Universität Berlin
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.
A number of conclusions at which popular Plate Tectonics has arrived shall be accepted at the outset as being basic. The crust of our planet appears divided into several fragments or “plates.” With the continuous addition of rising magma, the plates are growing along the fissures and rifts that contour them. Cooled by ocean water, the rising magma cushions do harden and thereby add new stripes of crust.
At this point of theoretically visualization, the various tectonic theories divide and continue along different paths. The majority of subscribers to Plate Tectonics believe that the Earth has maintained its size, and that for each fresh stripe of ocean floor that is being added a corresponding width is being subducted along continental coastlines–or elsewhere in the great ocean. In order to better visualize the difficult wide-angled process of ocean floor subduction, along continental coast-lines, these scientists have postulated a process of subduction that is being kept in motion by currents of magma in the mantle.
Nevertheless, the presence of tectonic plates and spreading rifts, as well as the widening of ocean floors, are more easily explained with the help of a general theory of Earth-expansion. The oceans widen, the distances between the continents are getting larger, and the Planet grows. My presentation therefore follows a path of plate-tectonics that accepts the possibility of Earth-expansion.
Arguments for Earth-expansion do sort themselves into a variety of foci as well. First, there is a group of arguments that have been developed on the basis of physical theories. With their help one hopes to find an explanation for the suspected increases regarding the mass and volume of the Planet. Such arguments would enable us to explain Earth-expansion materially, but not necessarily tectonically. I personally consider the demand, that a credible theory of Earth-expansion must first explain the physical core of expanding matter, merely as a burdensome overload, which is demanded of Earth-expansionists but ignored by those who demand it when it comes to explaining their own convection currents of magma in the mantle. In my opinion, this demand only serves as a distraction from tectonics questions. I therefore limit myself intentionally to tectonics phenomena that present themselves at the surface, as areal structures and which can be mapped as such. As the pioneering astronomy of Nicolas Copernicus has been purely structural or “tectonic” astronomy -- which never really touched on the substance of the universe -- so it should be possible, to begin with and still today, to approach the problem of Earth-expansion tectonically.
Among tectonically oriented theories of Earth-expansion, one can find again several hypothetical placement patterns for the primeval continents. These differences pertain mostly to the continents of Australia and Antarctica. Earth-expansionists who still work in the tailwind of Alfred Wegener do project, upon their reduced Earth models, Australia most often into the northern Pacific; they place Antarctica into the southern Pacific. The round of Antarctica, inasmuch as it happens to be somewhat “round,” they try to place into the Bight of Australia.
With this present-day almost-established solution I do not agree. First, the round of Antarctica is too large for the Bight of Australia, and second, for Wegener’s arrangement there would not have been available, during the Paleocene and Eocene, some continental units with tough and coherent underlying strata that could, with any kind of leverage, have been able to tear these two continents apart. Our continents were not born as freely wandering vagabonds, just somewhere, as Wegener -- with little knowledge about the ocean floors has still imagined -- or as the supporters of present-day Plate Tectonics still like to move them about in their own Pangaea puzzles. Rather, the rims of the still sleeping continents were, along the bottom of the lithosphere upon the expanding sphere, weakened by Earth-expansion already during the pre-Cambrian period. To obtain horizontal tearing upon the expanding sphere, tough-cohesive lower layers needed to be overcome.
The Earth-expansion theory which is offered here seeks to derive Antarctica with its entire tectonic plate out of the eastern Pacific cavity. In addition, there is postulated an original connection between the Cape of South America and the Bight of Australia. The amount of cohesion among the present continents in the north, and the widened spaces in the south, together with the magnetically based ocean-floor chronologies in the Pacific and in the Southern Ocean, along the marginal seas of East-Asia, as well as in the eastern Indic, they all support the direction of the conclusion that is being presented here.
As far as the large mountain ranges along continental margins are concerned, the popular field of Plate-tectonics has always tried to explain their uplift on hand of a postulated subduction of ocean-floors. However, utilizing a clump of painter’s putty, and a rubber balloon, I shall demonstrate analogously the tectonic origin of mountain ranges along the continental peripheries – while having recourse only to spherical expansion, and making do without a process of subduction.
Past the Popular Plate Tectonics, to the Uplift
of Mountain Ranges
The events about which I am reporting here may surpass in scope all stories that we have read in past decades -- about meteorite impacts or about other natural catastrophes on our planet, during early epochs. The opening of the oceans between the continents, the rising of mountain ranges, and the breaking of the global belt of continents, during the Eocene, are creative events which can be traced in the widening cracks of the Planet’s crust. And all of this can be explained, without having recourse to the risky “subduction” hypothesis of popular Plate Tectonics, with its “convection” currents of magma in the mantle.
When in 1979 a Pangaea-oriented paleontologist provoked me into making my first paleo-globe, I had never heard of Alfred Wegener, and I also was oblivious to the fact that several people before me have been making evolutionary Earth models. Paleo-models of Planet Earth were constructed primarily to explore the possibility of matching continental contours beyond the obvious display in the Atlantic. They usually are made by people who have doubts about the Pangaea concept of Wegener and about the present-day Plate Tectonics theory.
The parallel contours of the Atlantic were recognized already in 1596 by the Dutch map-maker Abraham Ortelius. It is possible that this man already has dreamt of making a paleo-globe. But, of course, his maps were not yet precise enough for the task.
Paleo-globes are not the only means by which to argue for our planet’s expansion. In every argument, some of the issues are being defined (in advance) by the opposition. Those in opposition believe that tectonic plates do exist. I do too -- and moreover, I utilize empirical data that Plate Tectonics people have collected. These people also believe that there are rifts running along the ocean floors and that along these the floors are spreading. I do too -- even though I also am convinced that the oceans could be better understood if their floors were being perceived positively, not as gaps, but as the “growing edges” of continents. Most people who belong to the opposition would love to live upon a planet that proves to be eternally solid. I would prefer this as well. But unfortunately, such a wish is not in my power to fulfill. The Earth is doing whatever the Earth is doing. Plate Tectonics people are laboring under the shadow of Alfred Wegener, and Wegener labored under a shadow that neither he nor his followers have contemplated sufficiently.
The Continents according to Alfred Wegener
In 1915 Alfred Wegener published Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, in which he showed how the continents were separating from an assembly of continents that he named Pangaea. There was general opposition to his ideas, but over time the possibility was accepted that continents may be adrift.
When after World War II the American initiative to explore the world-oceans led to startling discoveries, the sea-faring Earth-scientists reached back to Wegener’s theories. They combined his notion of “wandering continents” with their new discoveries of tectonic plates, the global mid-ocean rift, symmetric magnetic striping, and chronology. They synthesized this combination by adding “ocean floor subduction” and “convection currents in the mantle.” Caught up in euphoria about the new oceanic discoveries, under the aegis of the natural sciences, it was generally not noticed that Wegener, as well as his latter-day followers, were all along laboring under an ancient cloud of mythology.
Of course, this fact alone does not prove that they are wrong. Surely, ancient mythology had some things right. But this happenstance should be an incentive for careful historical introspection and examination of the subject matter.
There are two mythical notions that still haunt those who study tectonic plates in the shadow of Alfred Wegener. First there is the “central land,” surrounded by a world-ocean, and second there is the “sea in the middle.” Wegener was under the spell of both.
Ancient Mesopotamian land dwellers envisioned their all-land to be centrally located. It was watered by rivers and surrounded by the boundless and mostly unknown world-ocean. For merchants who subsequently crisscrossed the Mediterranean Sea and who hugged her shores, their homelands lay nicely arranged around this fluid center. Their Middle Sea replaced the centrality of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile rivers. Farther out in this geography, the known lands were believed to be surrounded, still, by the world ocean of Near Eastern antiquity. The complete geographical model, of the surrounding world ocean and a sea in the middle, has become established in the psyche of Western peoples as an archetype.
When Alfred Wegener contemplated the matching shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean, he brought together into his modern world model all the lands that seemed to have drifted away from their assumed original unity, the Pangaea. Wegener’s idea of an all-lands „Pangaea” was not necessarily a bad idea. It could have been nicely corrected over time, had it not been skewed from the start by his other quasi-mythical concept of the world-ocean, Panthalassa, which he posited as an outer boundary. For the Western mind of Wegener this meant that continental shores needed to match only along the central ocean, which for Pangaea happened to be the Atlantic. At the back side of continents, the coastlines were permitted to flare out freely into the vast unknown. The happenstance, that the shorelines of the Atlantic can be matched more easily than those of other oceans, seemed to endorse Wegener’s mythical predilections.
Today the notion of Pangaea-centered ocean-spreading is being demonstrated, in Plate Tectonics theory, still mostly on hand of the easily matched shorelines of the Atlantic. For the sake of this convenience the idea of Pangaea is probably here to stay. Moreover, some subduction-oriented scientists continue to be haunted by the “middle sea phantom.” Within Pangaea they grant special status for the Atlantic -- namely, an exemption from the natural law that governs the postulated subduction of ocean floors in the other oceans. Hardly any deep trenches can be found in the Atlantic. This ocean therefore is allowed to expand, for the time being, without having to subduct its floors.
Of course, this exemption from a supposed natural law does not withstand even a first spark of reason. According to the new magnetic ocean-floor chronology, the Indian and Pacific oceans do feature similar quantities of epochal stripes and patches along their floors, which have accumulated since Jurassic times. In order to avoid fair comparison, the Indic and Pacific oceans are being dissolved in the mythic Panthalassa with all its fog and glory. An all-surrounding world ocean that is kept close to the Wegener ancestry -- supported by the central presence of Pangaea -- surely can devour any amount of ocean floor. Why should an all-surrounding world ocean be unable to do this?
The function ascribed to deep-sea trenches, as places of subduction, has no place in an empirical science. The conjecture merely rests on the blind assertion that deep-sea trenches cannot be simple jarring-features. All the while, the deep-sea explorers were dumbfounded from the outset, that the sediment in these suspected “subduction trenches” appears undisturbed and of the same age as the surrounding sea. There was no scrape debris to be found anywhere. Instead there are occasional cracks -- running lengthwise -- as obvious signs of small movement in the “wrong” direction. The equivalent of two thirds of the planet’s lithosphere would have had to disappear through these imaginary subduction zones without leaving a trace “somewhere” in the Greater Panthalassa -- within less than 200 million years.
It is of course understandable, that someone who believes in a process of subduction will search the suspected subduction zones for every possible trace of evidence. Slanted earthquake zones dipping under the coastlines -- so-called Benioff Zones -- have been mentioned as such evidence. But expansion-friction can account more easily for these zones. The difference in thickness that exists between continental and oceanic crust implies that all along the boundary, between land and the deep sea, there must exist not only a downward shelf-slope overhead, but also a corresponding mantle-slope that rises below the crust, seaward as well. Inasmuch as our postulated “expansion-friction” (also named “expansion-flow”) would then necessarily have to rumple upward along that bottom-slope of the lithosphere, all earthquakes along the so-called Benioff zones are explained.
There is an additional effect of the expansion process that will produce earthquakes along Benioff Zones. Expansion-friction, between the mantle and the crust, tends to roll the edges of the plates upward (a process which earlier I have characterized as “flanging”). This tendency of “upward rolling” increases the gradient of the mantle slope until, eventually, the differential between the continental and oceanic crusts -- along the half anticline -- has been evened out with intrusive transported materials.
Accretionary prisms also have been mentioned as remnants of subduction. In 1998 I wandered, in the company of a bus-load of international geo-scientists, along the shores of Japan, to view the suspected accretionary prisms. None of the participants could visualize them to be surface-scrapings from a process of subduction that supposedly happens thirty kilometers eastward, in the deep trench. Slant variations in these deposited “prisms” were better explained as adjustments to magma bulges that have been creeping eastward, underneath -- thus again “expansion friction.”
The idea of a Pangaea and the surrounding world-ocean was conceived on behalf of a Flat Earth view of the world. For this reason, it enables now the modern Pangaea dwellers to arrange their geography quite easily on a flat world map. This predilection enables them to neglect the backside of the sphere. The convenience of a two-dimensional geo-science is preferred by many students. On the other hand, fully developed three-dimensional thinking, which also is well anchored in the fourth dimension of time-awareness, cannot just choose any one ocean as being central. And it cannot just push all the difficult area-problems out into a surrounding Panthalassa. While Wegener’s theory can be animated with a single view, by showing a flat world map, my own theory requires several perspectives of hemispheres.
Meanwhile, even people who espouse an Earth Expansion theory have been susceptible to ancient mythology. For instance, the goddess Tethys, revered along the shores of Greece, has turned out to be a very persistent divine lady among avant-garde Earth-expansionists. After the famous spokesman for Earth-expansion, Warren S. Carey, had upon his pre-expansion Earth model reduced all oceans to zero, Tethys continued to haunt him under the guise of “Tethyan Shear.” It is a concept which I consider to be as unnecessary as Alfred Wegener’s “Panthalassa” had been earlier.
Formation and Uplift of Mountain Ranges
Whenever in a debate I reject the subduction hypothesis, for lack of empirical support, I am given as evidence only a protest question: “How else can one explain the uplift and presence of mountain ranges on our continents?”
Indeed, I will explain the uplift and presence of mountain ranges in a few short minutes. But first I like to give recognition to the honest perspective of a pioneer of the Plate Tectonics revolution.
During May of 2002 the international “New Concepts in Global Tectonics (NCGT) Conference” was held in La Junta, Colorado. Among the participants was an emeritus professor in geology -- Robert G. Coleman -- seen here on the right discussing with professors from Russia, Greece, and Germany. In his younger years, he visited Germany where he learned what Alfred Wegener had said about wandering continents. During his active years at Stanford University he has helped establish Plate Tectonics theory in America. He has brought the study of ophiolites to center stage.
Among the magnificent mountains in Colorado it was impossible to ask an irrelevant question -- as it was also impossible for the professor to give a bad answer. My question went to the point: “What does Plate Tectonics theory have to say about these mountains?” His instantaneous answer was “Nothing!“
Surprised that we were in agreement I continued asking: “Why nothing?” He answered “There is no ocean nearby for subduction to work.”
Clear and simple, Plate Tectonics theory cannot explain the formation of inland mountain ranges. Personally, I would add that -- apart from theoretical diagrams, it also cannot show convection currents in the mantle and the subduction of ocean floors. It also cannot explain to my satisfaction the volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains, by which I live. The time has therefore come for me to demonstrate the process of mountain formation, on hand of a simple putty experiment, upon an expanding balloon.
A Slab of Putty versus the Miter Joint
Approximately a decade ago I watched for the first time a teaching movie that illustrated subduction-oriented Plate Tectonics theory. There are two images from this exposure that over the years have continued to rummage through my mind. I clearly remember the ocean rift that once upon a time was supposed to have divided Eurasia along the Ural Mountains mobile belt. And I remember the wide-angled miter-joined board that was supposed to illustrate the direction of ocean floor subduction. I will pick up this gauntlet, now at last, and will square up the carpenter’s miter joint with a lump of painter’s putty.
Already in 1979 I simulated continents in the form of slabs of putty upon the flattening surface of an expanding balloon. Back then I argued for Earth expansion, and noticed tensile folding, flanging, and relative expansion flow. I referred to cracks that were forming in the lithosphere under “Precambrian geosynclines,” and I wrote about magma intrusions from below. But because my aforementioned concepts could not be found in official geology texts, no-one dared to understand what I meant -- or to take it seriously.
For this video lecture I have devised a method of showing the underside of my continental slab of putty. I patted down a clump of putty and pumped up a balloon. A balance between brittleness, cohesion, and adhesion, was required. Since I had neither control over slippage on the balloon surface, nor a way of simulating gravity from within the balloon, I could only experimentally adjust the stickiness of the putty by trial and error.
There was some flanging along the edges, and when a significant rupture appeared at the surface I assumed that the cracks that formed at the underside of the slab would be greater. It had to be that way, because the surface of an expanding balloon flattens out. I mixed a batch of plaster to cast a mold. By means of this cast the putty slab could then be lifted from the balloon surface untouched.
In real-Earth processes, by Relative Expansion Flow, all the dents and cavities at the underside of the lithosphere would have been filled by magma and metamorphosed rocks -- and been filled at the same speed as they were being torn open.
I poured Plaster of Paris into the mold. At the upper right on the cast one can see formations of tensile folding. These represent the initial form of all parallel mountain ranges. In areas of greater stress, deep cracks have been torn open. They all run parallel to the perimeter of the slab. Most mountain ranges upon the continents of our planet are aligned in this manner. The challenge of popular Plate-tectonics, with its stiff-angled subduction of ocean floors, is with the help of this simple putty-and-balloon experiment effectively bypassed.
On this experimental model I obtained only a single row of cracks. This was a limitation of the experiment. In real-world geological history these crevice molds would have gotten filled with hot materials at the same time as they were torn open. Gradually they would have cooled and toughened. This means that parallel rows of cracks would have been torn open and filled next to them.
A marginal detail of my experiment deserves to be mentioned. I have put forth every effort to lay down an even putty surface onto the experimental balloon. Only at one place did I allow a thin fold to form underneath, intentionally, running ninety degrees against the direction along which I expected flanging to occur. I wanted to see how such an adverse wrinkle would behave.
No crack was torn across this test fold. But small perpendicular fissures have begun to form. These fissures are not spaced at crossings, exactly opposite one another; rather, the crust at either side of the test fold simply tore wherever tension from expansion friction exceeded the putty’s cohesion factor. We have here a clear case of offset faults, such as have been discovered along rifts and cracks in the oceans. Such offset transform faults are being created because the lithosphere is being stretched in all directions at once -- by all-around Earth expansion. All the while, cracks break open at random, wherever and whenever tension is sufficient. Because the oceanic lithosphere is thinner, rifts and transform faults are breaking through the surface more easily than on continents.
Another experiment has yielded unexpected results. My quantity of putty was too dry, and it sat and slid upon the rubber surface as though expansion-friction (Relative Expansion Flow) did not matter. The experiment seemed unworthy of a plaster cast. But scientific habit prevailed, and behold! I got a continent covered with low “granite” domes. I recognized this landscape immediately, because I have seen it in Africa.
From Baby Mountains to Grand-old Peaks
Evidence for a rebuttal of subduction-oriented Plate-tectonics stared me right in the face on several occasions during that same field trip in Colorado. Thirty years earlier, while crossing the mountain ranges between North America’s Mojave Desert and the Great Basin, I contemplated their origin as hot intrusions from below. By the time I got to California I suspected the presence of Baby Rocky Mountains under the bulge of the eastern Colorado High Plain.
Alongside the Colorado Highway 10 I saw my first Baby Rocky Mountains, eleven miles northeast of Walsenburg, and another outcropping near the twenty-eighth milepost along that same road. These igneous tips of subterranean mountain ranges are known today as Rattlesnake Buttes and are barely protruding now. Next to them still extend wide stretches of old overhead layers and sediment that presently are being eroded at a faster rate than these young peaks.
Sediments are being carried eastward by rivers, and they contribute to weighing down the Central Plains just a little more. The cycle exerts a little more pressure westward, deep under Colorado, and these low mountain tips are destined to rise. In time they will be more exposed and erosion will scrub them for better viewing.
Nevertheless, the primary engine for mountain formation and uplift is not climatic erosion. Earth expansion is that engine. The energy and material for mountain formation, and for uplift, comes from beneath the lithosphere. There the mountains are pre-formed. Because the Planet expands, continental surfaces necessarily must flatten. This means that the mid-regions of continents must sag and adjust to the new curvature. And by so settling they produce large central plains that some geologists call “cratons.”
Underneath, where mantle and lithosphere share a viscous semi-liquid cushion between themselves, surplus magma is being squeezed sideways and outward from under the middle of the continental crust. Creeping outward from under the flattening continental shield, magma pressure can cause outlying plains to bulge upward and become “high plains.” Then along that bulge, the brittle lithosphere may fail to contain the increasing pressure from underneath. Anciently pre-molded, jagged mountain ridges gradually break forth and rise. They are being uplifted hydraulically from below, pushed by their own youthfully hot, sluggishly creeping posterity.
The processes of magma injection from beneath, and uplift for exposure to erosion, are displayed well in Colorado. These dykes are evidence that Earth expansion has continuously been widening and filling some cracks in the crust from below.
After having seen the lowest Rocky Mountains, and having observed subsequent smaller intrusions among the larger ones, we are ready to contemplate the Planet’s highest Alpine peaks. The collaged geology of these mountain ranges has frequently been noted by geologists. But their extraordinary variety need not overly surprise us -- considering how they were formed. Multiple cracks along the underside of the lithosphere were not all torn open at the same time, or squeezed full with the same magma melt each time.
So, before we allow Alpine reality to overwhelm us, we should bear in mind that the age sequences in sedimentary and igneous strata generally are different. Sedimentary layers, at the surface of the lithosphere, are deposited on top of one another. Unless they get overturned by severe tectonic upheaval, bottom layers are oldest and top layers are youngest. In addition, they are unevenly distributed on the surface of the Planet.
At the underside of the lithosphere, “erosion” and “deposition” do happen upside down. Hot igneous strata are pasted to the bottom of the lithosphere, and are cooled from top downward as the crust thickens. Younger magmas carry with themselves sedimentary and metamorphosed scrapings from the lithosphere overhead as well as from the mantle below. Together these materials may end up either intruded into fresh crevices, or layered underneath older rock which they help uplift hydraulically. Hydraulic fluid and molten rock, in this case, are the same substance.
Many Earth-science texts give the impression as though Alpine mountains have risen, and then been given all their characteristic shapes by climate and erosion. Most of the high Alpine mountains are covered nowadays with snow and ice. On that account, glaciers are given most of the credit for having fashioned them. And indeed, the contributions of glaciers to Alpine cosmetics are extensive. But seriously! Did these long mountain ranges get their crests, or did the Matterhorn obtain its shape, only as a result of weather and glaciations? Did water carve all the wedge-shaped valleys between the Alpine crests from a solid igneous block, all the way to the creek below? Or were the igneous crests approximately pre-molded before they were uplifted? I am inclined to accept the latter. It seems highly unlikely that granite domes in Zimbabwe, even if they were uplifted in the climate of Greenland, would ever be worn down to jagged Alpine peaks and ridges.
It looks as though many Alpine peaks in the world have been molded during the late Precambrian and early Cambrian periods. Here is a map that sketches Precambrian mobile belts (It is based on a projection by Professor Harold Levin, The Earth Through Time, 1988). Accordingly, expansion must have been underway already 500 million years ago -- thus long before the first oceans began to crack open. These jagged high peaks were uplifted to pierce forth at many places on the Planet -- such as in the Alps, the Himalayas, and in the Rocky Mountains of North America.
Since Jurassic times, the continents have extended their crusts by way of adding stripes of ocean floor. Along the oceanic spreading-rifts we therefore find another generation of mobile mountain belts, generated and uplifted by the same processes of Tensile Folding, Flanging, and relative Expansion Friction.
Relative Expansion-friction, or Expansion-flow, is caused by expansion movement in the mantle. Relative to the continental crust that lies overhead, Expansion-flow increases its speed outward from the middle of a continent. It grows a half-ocean along the continental edge. The outer edge of the young surrounding crust rolls upward as a half-anticline. In this manner the puckered “lips” of tectonic plates touch lightly, uplifted by hot magma. Their light “kiss” surrounds the whole Earth.
If a crack from down below is torn all the way up through the lithosphere, the intrusive magma may erupt and a lava flow may result at the surface. Examples of such massive flows are the Deccan Traps in India and the Idaho-Oregon-Washington Flow in North America. If only a small orifice is opened, perhaps at a weak spot of intersecting faults, we may see a volcano. However, the brittle lithosphere frequently collapses upon and pinches these wedge-shaped intrusions, and prevents their eruption. In any case, upward in the lithosphere the intrusive magma tends to coagulate and cool.
Strong earthquakes are rare in the middle of sagging continental shields or “cratons.” But they do happen when a brittle section of the continental dome collapses to adjust to the expanding and flattening mantle curvature. Such inland earthquakes, when they are contained in a craton, frequently create over- and under-thrusts that in time may extend to tens of kilometers. Petroleum engineers in the American Midwest frequently find themselves drilling through the same stratum twice. Expansion tectonics can explain such duplicate stratification rather easily.
In my 1999 booklet, Planet Earth Expanding and the Eocene Tectonic Event, I have explained the 1964 earthquake in Alaska, and the New Madrid Fault earthquakes along the Mississippi River, 1811-1812, as examples where sections of continental domes have collapsed. The Alaska movement slipped the continental edge outward onto its lower oceanic plate extension. The New Madrid Fault by the Mississippi River has produced over- and under-thrusting of rock strata. Interlocking layers raised the land surface and stopped the flow of the Mississippi River for a time. The large continental area that surrounds the New Madrid Fault, in addition to its sheer size, is also reinforced by mountain ranges that run along the continent’s periphery and prevent sea-side over-thrusting of the Alaska variety.
Part One of this presentation can now be summed up in form of a small riddle: In their first manifestation during tectonic evolution, how could a mountain range and an ocean be distinguished from one another? The Answer is: They could in the beginning not be distinguished from one another, because both originated as similar cracks along the underside of the Earth-crust. Their later differences must be explained in terms of differential expansion rates in the mantle, and in relation to regional physical characteristics inherent in the crust.
Spreading Oceans and Growing Continents
Makers of paleo-globes usually have, for the sake of simplicity, preferred to work with a “budget of available areas.” However, I personally have come to the conclusion that a “budget of continually adjusting tensions” is of equal importance. I therefore like to begin the second half of my presentation, concerning the oceans and continents, with an emphasis placed on continental cohesion down in the asthenosphere. After an overview on directional tensions has been provided -- illustrated in the shape of three straps that during the Eocene were reduced to a simple belt -- the “budget of available areas” will display itself.
Three Straps and a Belt
When the crust of our planet began to tear open seriously during the Jurassic, there appeared cracks that later widened to become the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indic oceans. These first cracks could be found within a wide band that wound around the Earth along the equator. This may mean that our planet has for a long time been an oblate sphere, flattened at its poles, and that the largest early expansion cracks therefore did burst open along an equator. The larger cracks appeared somewhat below the middle, and they extended themselves toward the present south. In the south they united -- and together they widened there into the oceanic spread of the southern hemisphere.
hemispheres showing present continental cohesion in the north and separation in
Smaller Jurassic hemispheres showing the beginnings of our deep oceans.
When our oceans were still young and existing by themselves -- that is, during Jurassic times before Africa, South-America and Australia were severed from each other -- the cracked-open crust of our expanding planet still consisted of three bands or „straps“ that remained fastened together in the north and in the south. All three continental bands were significantly stretched apart, already during Jurassic times. Large stretch-zones came into being along the Mediterranean, in Middle America, and in Austral-Asia. An additional area of severe stretching can also be found in the Arctic. At two opposite forks which roughly correspond to our present poles, all three bands remained connected into the Lower Cretaceous. One of the continental straps ran from the Arctic over North-America to South-America; the next ran from the Arctic over Eurasia toward Australia, and the third from the Arctic over Eurasia to Africa. In the north all three of these continental bands remained somewhat connected with one another, but in the south they have broken apart. Today these three straps, the remains of continental bands, can still be seen dangling downward along the southern hemisphere.
Because the continental straps broke first in the south, and because their breaking has reduced expansion stress in other areas, there was no immediate need for them to also tear apart in the north. The tip of South America had been seated in the Bight of Australia until the Eocene. These two southern continents separated approximately 43 million years ago, when the Earth-surrounding belt of four continents broke in the south.
During the Cretaceous the “Africa” strap broke off along the toe of South America. This first breakaway of a continental strap, between Africa and South-America later during the Lower Cretaceous, is marked by two events. Firstly, the Cape of Africa departed from the toe of South-America, and secondly, expansion in the Black and Eastern-Mediterranean seas came to an end. From this point onward Africa was no longer pulled southward. It may be assumed that, as a result of the relaxed tension caused by the severance, the Mediterranean Sea shrunk a little, and that tensions were relaxed even into southern Europe. This loosening of tension stimulated the uplift of the Alps -- however, not through a collision or under-thrusting by Africa, but through magma that could be pressed under the relaxed area from the north.
The remaining two straps -- that is, the two Americas together with Asia down to Australia -- remained fastened to each other all the way into the Eocene. Like a belt these four continents surrounded Antarctica and the Pacific, and thereby the entire expanding planet. The tension along the simple belt, which wound from South-America over North-America, Asia, Australia and back to South-America, was increased until the Eocene. South-America thereby was stretched lengthwise by Australia until the two continents finally broke apart. Today, almost forty-three million years later, South-America is still 400 kilometers longer than it needed to be earlier in its union with Africa.
It is noteworthy that the rupture between Australia and South-America, during the Eocene, merely represents a continuation of the earlier break during the Cretaceous. The crack continued at the same place. This means that the two ruptures, together, must have torn open a very deep gash that was destined to widen the entire Southern Ocean. This crack has agitated the asthenosphere apparently down into the mantle.
Obviously, the talk about a “crack,” in this context, pertains only to a “superficial” surface perspective. The deeply torn gash can also be valued positively, as locally amplified growth in the mantle, caused by Earth-expansion. In addition, this entire torn area became a new home to the firstborn continent of the Planet -- round Antarctica, which leaned into the widening space while slowly turning.
While in earlier days we constructed our paleo-globes in hope of improving our continental outlines with better continental shelf estimates, we now have vastly improved topographical maps of all the ocean floors. Since 1988 we also have the UNESCO Geological World Atlas, with ocean floor maps based on magnetically embedded stripes and reversals. While not everything on these maps is perfect and free of risky projections, some of the stripes have been drilled into, dredged, and dated. We now have sequential isochrons -- a series of steps extending from a zero-ocean globe in the Jurassic, some 180 million years ago, to the size of the present oceans. This situation is a scientific illustrator’s dream that has become reality.
With the help of isochrone-maps it is now possible, theoretically, to take any ocean and reduce it to its Jurassic size. This method works fine all across the Atlantic. But as soon as one attempts to reduce any of the other oceans, one gets stuck in the Oligocene or Eocene. If one cannot go backward one must try to move forward. But move forward from where? All earlier starting positions are necessarily hypothetical. If one reassembles the continents on a globe of a little more than half its present diameter, and if one estimates somewhat reasonably certain areas of stretch, then all the continents and their shelves can be accommodated.
The Eocene Event in the Indic Ocean
After some hesitation, in 1979, I have concluded that the cape of South-America must have come out of the Bight of Australia. This implies that the Continent of Antarctica must be an intruder in its present realm.
The Indic Ocean contains an important key for deciphering the Eocene puzzle. Nevertheless, before this key can even be recognized, Wegener’s impossibility concerning the wanderings of India must be cleared from our path. While formerly India was closer to Arabia and Africa than it is now, surely it never was farther away from Asia than it is now. According to the new isochron-maps, nothing spectacular happened in the Indic Ocean during the Lower Cretaceous. However, during the Upper Cretaceous the large island of Madagascar slid southward -- or shall we rather say it was invited by a tentative vacuum down south. This tentative vacuum came into being because the oceans widened in the south much faster than in the north. The small Madagascar plate could slide southward because continental plates, generally, abide in pre-cut readiness for sliding along their edges -- along the soft oceanic spreading rifts.
The rifts of severance that ran along both sides of Madagascar were aligned in the same general direction where today one still finds, in the west, the Great African Rift, and where in the east we still see the Ninety-east Ridge scar. It is possible that the severance of Africa from the toe of South-America has contributed a first jolt for the movement of this island. With Africa moving northward after its severance, all that Madagascar needed to do is to remain stationary, and in terms of relative movement it would implicitly be on its way south. As a result of the island’s movement, some Jurassic floors were probably obliterated along their edges.
Obviously, in this discussion all references to the directions -- east, west, north, or south -- are to be understood in relation to the present globe. I do not wish to say much about the location of the poles or the equator during the earlier epochs.
The Paleocene and Eocene floors in the Indic show that the entire continental mass of Austral-Asia was bent eastward and away from the Ninety-East Ridge. The Eocene triangle, in the northeastern corner of the Indic, leaves no room for another explanation. According to tephro-chronology, this eastward bending might have happened some 42.7 million years ago. This date of 42.7 million years ago has been assigned by tephro-chronology to a huge tectonic upheaval along the Ninety-East Ridge (see Jonathan Dehn, http://www.aist.go.jp/GSJ/~jdehn/research/diss.htm). The continental edge that left the Ninety-East-Ridge scar -- the longest straight line on the globe -- could initially only have been pulled straight by a north-south tension. Then, while the Austral-Asian continental unit was bent eastward, the west/east Paleocene spreading rift provided the soft edge along which all the older southern floors, up to the Paleocene, could slide east and northward together. On a sketch-map we can return some of these to their former places.
The angular slabs from the Cretaceous appear to be broken and pushed into one another -- too much to be completely sorted out at this very moment. We shall keep this condition in mind and simply return Australia to its earlier approximate position. From the other side of the globe we bring home the tip of South-America into the Bight of Australia. Thereby we have reconstructed the belt of four continents, which spanned the Earth.
The round Pacific was expanded over the course of time, to such a degree that the belt that consisted of four continents -- Australia, Asia, North-America, and South-America -- was stretched into a great circle around the Planet. In this hopelessly stretched condition it was only a matter of time before that belt would break. The worldwide Eocene event was triggered when, finally, Australia and South-America snapped away from each other.
This flat map is ill suited to illustrate the dynamic of an expanding sphere. While we now turn to an approximate Paleocene globe, we are enabled to observe the Eocene event from the perspective of the Indic Ocean. When Australia let go the tip of South America, the Eocene event in the Indic was fully under way. The process continued to the present globe more or less as a tranquil expansion. Please observe the loosening of tension and the pull-back of East-Asia, which resulted from the severance that happened in the south. The consequences in East Asia shall be the subject matter of our next section.
While I now display the evolution of the Indic, in the time-span of one minute, I will only name the epochs: Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous, Upper Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene onward to the present globe.
The Eocene Event along East Asia’s Marginal Seas
Now we bring our camera into the northern Pacific and look westward -- to obtain a wide-angle view of the marginal seas of East Asia, ranging from the Philippine Sea all the way to the Bering Sea up north. This entire area was modified by the Eocene event. All East-Asian marginal seas were pulled open during the Eocene.
The Philippine Sea began to enlarge already during the Paleocene. A sliver of Paleocene sea floor appeared behind the loop that was destined to become the Marianas archipelago. During the Eocene, this Paleocene sliver in the Philippine Sea was cut into half by a rift that slanted north-westward.
The great retreat of the Asian mainland was triggered by the break in the global belt of four continents. When Australia broke away from the tip of South-America, eastern Asia was liberated from the Earth-surrounding tension which, since the Jurassic, had been continuously increased. The continental mass of Asia relaxed and withdrew toward the Northwest. Eastern Asia left behind a band of island arcs that extends from the Philippines all the way to Alaska.
On the Asian mainland changes have occurred as well. When one observes the general topography of Asia, it becomes obvious that the many mountain ranges there cannot very easily be explained as being merely peripheral phenomena along the Siberian craton. It appears as though there also has occurred a loosening of tension, from the southeast. During the “loosening,” magma that was required to uplift these mountain ranges came, nevertheless, from the larger dome of the continent -- and from under the Moho. A small craton, the Tarim Basin, was compressed and pushed downward while, next to it, the Himalayas were uplifted to the highest mountain region on the globe. As a next trough, farther south, appear the Indus and Ganges plains. These lie before the Himalayas after the fashion in which, on a smaller scale, the Po valley lies in front of the Alps.
A Round Continent
When mantle-expansion is to peal from the crust of a planet a first continent, what might be its shape? About a quarter of a century ago I have concluded that it could be round. Then, in 1998 I undertook a series of tear-experiments that involved the breaking of balloons.
Here are some samples of typical first patches that were obtained during these tear-experiments. In order to slow down the tearing of the balloon skins, I have inserted a second skin as a lining -- so that outward expansion pressure might be transformed into horizontal tension along the surface. Later I have slipped a transparent third skin over the top, to capture the results between two layers. In general, the results indicate that it is reasonable to expect from the skin of an expanding sphere a rounded patch -- and that a teardrop-shaped balloon tends to produce a more ellipsoid patch.
Jurassic Australia, and Antarctica, could not have been joined in the manner in which most proponents of Earth-expansion, in the tailwind of Wegener, still are thinking. The round of Antarctica is larger than the Bight of Australia and could therefore not have come out of the latter. In addition, there were during the Paleocene and Eocene no agents in the vicinity that, with any kind of leverage, could have torn the two apart. Continents were not somehow born as freely wandering vagabonds, as Wegener imagined them -- or as some dedicated believers in popular Plate Tectonics still like to move them about in their Pangaea-puzzles. It is rather the case, that upon the expanding Earth, already in Precambrian times, the rims of sleeping continents were weakened along the underside of the Planet’s crust. In order to obtain horizontal tearing upon the expanding sphere, viscously coherent substrata had to be defeated. To these viscous strata apply the designations “Asthenosphere” and “Mohorovičić discontinuity” (“Moho” in brief).
From obtaining a first rounded continent it is but a small step to visualize the expanding cavity from which Antarctica might have been peeled. As the round of the Pacific Ocean proceeded to tear, it continually reset the global tension pattern in the viscous layer underneath the crust -- namely the fields of stress along which the other oceans would be torn. Each fresh tearing in the crust would affect the direction of tearing elsewhere. While over time Antarctica was torn free in the form of a “9,” the Atlantic was torn southward in the form of a slender “S.” The Indic Ocean was torn northward along eastern Africa, a path which for a while looked like a straight “I” (and later like a “λ”). Of course, all directions mentioned in this lecture are approximate and correspond to a present-day globe.
The Atlantic and the Indic have torn for themselves, from the south, some large V-shaped peninsulas up north -- Greenland and India. Even the small Red Sea has torn up north the triangular Sinai Peninsula. Among the three great equatorial oceans, only the Pacific is without this triangular feature up north -- because this ocean has been torn from within itself, and round-like.
By now I have come to regard the Pacific and the Antarctic oceans as a single entity. Taken as one, this largest of the oceans has been expanding mostly in the southern hemisphere -- widening from there subsequently the Atlantic and the Indic. Inasmuch as the Pacific-Antarctic Ocean has peeled out for itself no angular feature in the north, it nevertheless has within itself three V-shaped continents. Originally the capes of Africa and South-America, and the “tail” of Antarctica, were all sliced in the same direction -- toward the Bight of Australia. Six V-shapes, all pointing in the same direction, together hint at some source of unified tension. This source, I propose, has been the global cohesion among three continental “straps” and the subsequent “belt” of four continents.
Reading the Isochrons
Since the discovery of magnetic stripes and the production of chronological ocean maps, the age-boundary, which divides the round Pacific right down the middle, has become our primary puzzle. The western half is older and contains floors from the Jurassic to the Paleocene. The eastern half is younger and features floors from the Eocene to the present. The new formulation of the riddle is therefore: Where was the Pacific spreading rift since the Upper Jurassic -- from 180 to 43 million years ago? Some scientists have suggested that there may not have been an early spreading rift. But if this is the case, then the Pacific contradicts everything that we have learned about symmetric spreading in the other oceans. While a spreading rift in the round-like expanding Pacific could not always be straight and constant, it nevertheless seems that a dominant spreading rift has persisted there over time -- all the way to the point when an entire plate was severed. Earlier, the direction of the older spreading rift had to circumvent the round of the continent that got torn from the Pacific womb. This means, the direction of tearing had to keep changing. Indeed, spreading rifts in the Pacific have proven to be as ephemeral as the sea-faring Henry William Menard has always suspected them to be.
Since the Eocene the central spreading rift of the Pacific has radically changed its location. From Mexico southward it has gradually combined itself with a coastal rift that ran along South-America. The two rifts could unite only after an entire plate had slid southward -- similar to the movement of Madagascar in the Indic, two epochs earlier. The eastern half of the old Pacific moved southward as a tectonic plate in which the continent Antarctica lay embedded.
Like other continents, so also Antarctica has added alongside itself certain crusts of ocean floor. Its plate grew toward the middle of the old Pacific. Moreover, like all other continents that slept in the early Jurassic crust, the continent was pre-carved several hundred million years earlier through tensile folding and expansion-friction. In the east the plate remained embraced, for a long time, by the two American continents. South-America was still held together with Australia by the viscous asthenosphere -- as was the entire belt of four continents that was wound around the Earth.
What empirical data are there, that permit us to derive Antarctica from the space of the Pacific?
First: The oldest Jurassic patch of ocean floor one finds in the north-western Pacific. A Jurassic band, of matching length, runs also alongside Antarctica. Both patches lie inclined in a manner that enables us to derive Antarctica by way of beginning there. According to these circumstances, the two Jurassic portions would have drifted apart because of ocean-spreading -- specifically through the continuation of the Jurassic rift during the Cretaceous.
Second: When the shape of Antarctica is contemplated, then one discovers that it not only fits into the round Pacific, but likewise into the conspicuously active Ring of Fire. The contour of the Pacific, and the violence outlined in the Fire-Ring, are associated by their shapes. Both have the shape of a “9” -- as has the continent Antarctica. The irregular appearance of Austral-Asia, which corresponds to the upward curve in the figure “9,” need from an evolutionary point of view not necessarily be judged as an irregularity. This region is presently under less stress than it had been during the Cretaceous or the Paleocene. To this consideration may be added the fact that Antarctica, to this day, has not managed to move outside its Pacific home region -- this means, across the threshold line between Australia and South-America.
Third: In addition to the contour of the Pacific, and of the Ring of Fire, one can today contemplate the finger-print of expansion also on hand of magnetically established isochrons. Successive isochrons provide us, regularly since the Jurassic, with the “9”-shaped contour of Antarctica in its proper inclination. They help us trace the sequence of expansion stripes up to the present. The Ring of Fire still surrounds the original scar -- namely, the wound of the womb from which, in the course of approximately 140 million years, Antarctica has been severed and separated.
Fourth: During the early Eocene, South-America has loosened its embrace around the teardrop shape of the Antarctic plate. The Eocene ocean floors, which were formed as a result of this loosening, along the coastline of the Americas, are clearly indicated on the isochron-map. These Eocene patches are difficult to explain without the departure of the teardrop-shaped Antarctic plate. They are too short to be simply counterparts for the long Eocene band that, on the other side of the spreading rift, runs down the middle of the ocean. Along the north-western coast of North-America the Antarctic plate sprung loose somewhat later, and along its southward path some of the earlier Eocene floors were erased. Along the middle of the Pacific the floors of the early Eocene, the Paleocene, and the Upper Cretaceous, then began to lean and to broaden eastward.
The epochal stripes of these floors widened and leaned eastward as if the ocean were a dish of gelatin. For a considerable length of time no spreading rift was necessary in the east -- until Earth-expansion caught up with the hardening process of the crust, and until the “gelatin” had found its new tectonic balance. Or, to explain the same process without using the metaphor: In the course of 43 million years the eastern Pacific area necessarily contracted at first, and when thereafter global Expansion caught up with its soft areas, it developed a fresh compromise spreading rift.
A Rare Continental Collision
There are traces of a continental collision in which Antarctica had gotten involved. From the chaotic topography at the floor of the Scotia Sea it appears as though Antarctica has entered there at a reckless speed, coming from elsewhere. It collided and took out a significant bite from the cape of South-America. The recent departure of Australia gave South-America not enough time to surround its coastline with fresh crust of ocean floor -- that might have cushioned the collision.
Seven years ago (in 1996) when I first animated this collision, I associated the route of the turning plate directly with the collision that followed. Because the continent needed to turn into the Southern Ocean counter-clockwise, in order to attain its subsequent inclination, it seemed as though South-America had been “bitten” during that process. During my final revision of that video I had in my hands the decisive NOAA map, of 1994, but my animations had all been finished earlier. Observing now more precisely, one can see that the collision did not happen because Antarctica was turning into that space, but it happened as a direct impact from the south-west. Antarctica had come from the same direction in which it now is retreating.
With great force it has scooped up the Sandwich archipelago bulge. All the way to the Islas Orcadas Rise has the crust been scooped -- which means, across the entire width of the Cretaceous and Paleocene floors in the western Atlantic. When the Antarctic plate retreated, it jarred a deep trench behind the Sandwich bulge, and in front it tore open an active spreading rift. In addition, the entire width of South-America’s toe was broken through, northward. A line of displacement can also be seen along the entire northern edge of the toe.
If Antarctica has not caused this collision by its own twisting motion, which mobile agency should then be blamed for this continental “accident”? The time has come that I must speak more precisely about events that happened between Australia and Antarctica. We are faced with a dating-problem on the Pacific and Antarctic isochron maps. Already in 1998, in the course of a semipublic e-mail debate, have I gotten into an argument about this matter with James Maxlow. In my 1999 booklet I have tried to furnish the disputed places on my Pacific map with polite English question-marks. Nevertheless, my present lecture for the Theuern Colloquium was first written in German -- and in German these question-marks signify an emphatic “Impossible!”
During the Eocene event Australia has separated from South-America and has snapped northward behind ocean-floors from the Cretaceous. Ricocheting then, it leaned east toward the void that had been left by the departing Antarctic plate. Australia thereby pressed Cretaceous floors against the bare back of Antarctica and pushed everything together against the cape of South-America. The disputed epochal stripes, which on the map are colored Paleocene and Eocene, can therefore not be older than Oligocene. The Scotia Sea was opened again, with the same movement, during the Oligocene.
Epochal stripes in the eastern Pacific can be precisely dated only after the movements of Australia and Antarctica have been ascertained. Moreover, along the path of a continent that moved from the vicinity of one magnetic pole to the other, surely some geographical lines were being disfigured in the process -- possibly even the magnetic energy lines themselves. Corresponding magnetic “reversals,” on our isochron maps, can therefore not be dated yet with great certainty in these areas.
Ricocheting away from the edge of Antarctica, Australia then moved westward. In its wake it left New Zealand, along with the Tonga Ridge and Trench. The topographical map of Bruce Heezen shows the entire tail that Australia has dragged. In the west, Australia has thereby also tightened the land-swirl around Celebes.
To solve the Pacific puzzle, I will animate the story about the birth and liberation of Antarctica, twice from the Jurassic to the present. If the movements of Antarctica should appear too fast, for the Eocene, then let us consider that one second in this animation represents, nevertheless, three million years.
During the first round we focus our camera on Antarctica itself: Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous, Upper Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene up to the present.
It must have become obvious by now, that my animation technique is not quite up to the task. Instead of cracks I can only show lines by means of extreme stretching. In order to avoid having my colors and continental patches flow into one another during simulated movement, I must maintain unseemly distances between them. By contrast upon the real Earth, any relative movement among the tectonic plates does happen along real cracks and always in close conformity with the surrounding plates -- almost with the flexibility of a birthing process. Only the wide open gaps in the lithosphere, produced by Earth expansion, have been able to persuade a few of our continents to travel a little-ways.
For the second round we focus on the area between Australia and South-America, where Antarctica has arrived during the Eocene: Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous, Upper Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene up to the present.
The flexibility in the total crust of the Planet, for facilitating the “birth” of a continent, is to be sought mostly along the thinner floors of the oceans. Here and there around the sphere, these floors can be compressed and stretched wherever required by greater forces. For our research with satellites this means that unless measurements of movement can be obtained contemporaneously around the entire globe, the results will not be of much help to us.
Regardless of my overly loose animations, scientists in the field of paleontology may take note of my “near-contact” hints -- between Australia, South America, and Antarctica -- and consider these as potential temporary land bridges for certain species of animals.
Reverberations in two Americas and the Atlantic
As a result of the Eocene event the continents of the Earth suddenly lost the cohesiveness that formerly was maintained by tension along the global “belt” of continents. This new instability affected especially the continents in the southern hemisphere. The liberation of South-America from the global belt has bent Middle America toward the northeast -- along the entire width from Panama to the West Indies. Meanwhile, the Atlantic spreading rift of the Eocene has pinched off a small area of Paleocene ocean-floor. It has left it lay in the Mid-Atlantic, along the Middle American latitudes.
South-America has moved sufficiently toward the northeast, and has pushed Middle-American ocean floors against the southeastern corner of North-America. Thereby it has pushed this northern continent westward, a little-ways over what used to be the Antarctic/North-American rift of separation. The Gulf of California and the San Andreas Fault today mark this line, as it has broken through at the surface.
In order to conclude this treatise, I need only to show yet the expansion process in the Atlantic. This ocean explains itself: Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous, Upper Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, and Oligocene up to the present.
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