The theory of continental drift was a theory that explained how continents shift position on Earth’s surface. It is the movement of the Earth’s continents relative to each other. That’s how it appears to be drifting across the ocean bed. Continental drift also explained why look-alike animal and plant fossils and similar rock formations are found on different continents. The concept of continents drifting was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. We have been all ears whenever it is about Earth, paleontology, or geology or for instance anything that is relevant to human life.
Why not here then! Now let’s hit straight to top 13 facts about continental drift Theory by Alfred Wegener.
1 Who formulated the concept of continental drift?
The theory of continental drift was formulated for the first time by Alfred Wegener in 1912. His basic idea was that an original continental mass (Pangea) had been fragmented and separated to form the present continents.
2 Failure of Wegener
Wegener was of the thought that all continents were once joined together in an “Urkontinent” before breaking up and drifting to their current positions. Geologists soundly denounced Wegener’s theory after he published the details in a 1915 book called “The Origin of Continents and Oceans.” The opposition surfaced because Wegener had no model to explain how the continents moved apart.
3 Wegener’s Redevelopment of Continental Drift Theory
Paleontological evidence suggests that there must have been some terrestrial bridge in the past. The assumed bridge must have united Africa with Brazil, Britain to the continent 20,000 years ago through the Channel and Asia with America through the Strait of Bering. On the other hand, it was the case of the vast Atlantic Ocean. It made Wegener seriously consider the theory of continental drift and after 1912, he devoted himself to developing it.
5 Wegener’s Theory on Fragmentation of Pangea
Wegener posted about the original existence of a supercontinent, Pangea. It began to separate during the Permian era more than 200 million years ago. As a result of it, America moved westward away from the Eurasian continental mass and between the two continents, the Atlantic is formed.
Australia moved north and India moved away from Africa. Around 2 million years ago, Greenland separated from Norway. The archipelagos of Japan and the Philippines were identified as fragments that left behind by these colossal separations.
6 Wegener’s assumption behind the displacement of Pangea
Wegener assumed that the continental masses floated on some type of plastic magma. It was like the one that manages the great depths during the volcanic eruptions and indicated that the constant rotation of the Earth would determine a drift towards the west.
7 Further studies by Wegener
Wegener had two lines of study. As a meteorologist, he was interested in the history of the climate and climatic changes. The second line was less satisfactory. Once the idea of continental drift was accepted there were no credible reasons that it would stop. He also demonstrated the distances between points on different continents by using very precise astronomical methods and calculation of the duration of radio transmissions. Results obtained were negative but it was possible to argue that the drift rate was too slow to be detected with the relatively rough methods available at the time.
8 What was the rate of drift/separation and how was it measured?
The separation between Africa and America progressed regularly since the Permian era. The average speed assumed is not more than 1 meter in 30 years.
At the end of the 20th century, the use of laser and artificial satellites allowed for measurement of the rhythm of continental drift with remarkable precision. Thus Wegener’s theory was confirmed.
9 What is the evidence for continental drift?
A map of the continents inspired Wegener’s quest to explain Earth’s geologic history. He was intrigued by the interlocking of Africa’s and South America’s shorelines. Wegener assembled an impressive amount of evidence to show that Earth’s continents were once connected in a single supercontinent.
Wegener knew that the fossil plants and animals such as mesosaurs, a freshwater reptile found only in South America and Africa during the Permian period, could be found on many continents. He also matched up rocks on either side of the Atlantic Ocean like puzzle pieces.
Wegener never lived to see his theory gain wider acceptance. He died in 1930 at age 50 of a probable heart attack while on a scientific expedition in Greenland.
10 Mohorovicic and the structure of the Earth
On October 8, 1909, an intense earthquake occurred 40 km south of Zagreb, in Croatia. It determined the installation of a seismograph at the city’s meteorological observatory, led by Andrija Mohorovicic. Mohorovicic received from all stations in Europe the records of the 1909 earthquake.
After analyzing the details, an interesting discovery was made by Andrija. The registers reflected two types of waves: compression (P), in which the particles oscillate along the line of propagation, and distortion (S), in which the motion occurs at right angles to With respect to the propagation line that may support the idea of continental drift.
11 A live example of continental drift
The land of India has pressed China for 50 million years. The magnitude of the pressing force has given rise to the high mountains of the Himalayas and in addition raised it to an altitude of 4,500 meters. The red sandstone folds which were located in a time on the shores of the Tethys ocean, are now gone.
According to continental drift theory, this sandstone operates like dinosaurs which is located on the tops of the high mountains as it contains numerous fossils of plants and animals.
12 The aftermath at the end of Mesozoic
At the end of the Mesozoic, it began to open the Indian Ocean and the Tethys. Their width was reduced by 5,000. As the surface of the Earth remains constant, the birth and development of a new ocean leads permanently to the disappearance and death of another. The great island of India (comparable in extent to present-day Australia) drew nearer to Asia, while at the same time moving away from Africa and Antarctica. At that time the Atlantic was opened; South America distanced itself from Africa and North America from Europe.
About 80 million years ago, India began to move northwards at more than ten meters per century and abruptly, the speed dropped to only five meters per century. The Indian subcontinent has since then pushed the main mass of China against the Pacific Ocean from the south as a lever and crushed it out.
13 The hypotheses of A. Snider-Pellegrini
Starting in the 1600s, the world maps began to be more exact and geographers warned that the west coast of Africa could fit in with the eastern coast of America as two pieces of a giant puzzle. This fact suggested in a very general way that the two Atlantic continents had been united and had since separated at a very remote time.
This hypothesis was formulated more concretely by the French scientist A. Snider-Pellegrini in 1858; Half a century later, HB Baker presented his theory that 200 million years ago all continents had occupied the siege of Antarctica and had since separated. FB Taylor, a North American geologist especially interested in the Great Lakes region, independently formulated a similar theory in 1910.