Great example of previously denied geologic phenomenon


At 05:12 Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, the coast of Northern California was struck by a major earthquake with an estimated moment magnitude of 7.9 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme). High-intensity shaking was felt from Eureka on the North Coast to the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region to the south of the San Francisco Bay Area. Devastating fires soon broke out in San Francisco and lasted for several days. More than 3,000 people died, and over 80% of the city was destroyed. The event is remembered as the deadliest earthquake in the history of the United States. The death toll remains the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California’s history and high on the lists of American disasters.

Quick lesson on continental drift!

Continental drift is the hypothesis that the Earth’s continents have moved over geologic time relative to each other, thus appearing to have “drifted” across the ocean bed. The idea of continental drift has been subsumed into the science of plate tectonics, which studies the movement of the continents as they ride on plates of the Earth’s lithosphere.

The speculation that continents might have “drifted” was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. A pioneer of the modern view of mobilism was the Austrian geologist Otto Ampferer. The concept was independently and more fully developed by Alfred Wegener in his 1915 publication, “The Origin of Continents and Oceans”. Although now accepted, the theory of continental drift was rejected for many years, with evidence in its favor considered insufficient. Instead, a group of geologists called The Fixists clamored for their earth mantle theory to prevail.

Alfred Wegener first presented his hypothesis to the German Geological Society on 6 January 1912. His hypothesis was that the continents had once formed a single landmass, called Pangaea, before breaking apart and drifting to their present locations.

Wegener was the first to use the phrase “continental drift” (1912, 1915) and formally publish the hypothesis that the continents had somehow “drifted” apart. Although he presented much evidence for continental drift, he was unable to provide a convincing explanation for the physical processes which might have caused this drift.