Antonio Zamora Podcast
Antonio Zamora Podcast

Antonio Zamora Podcast EA002

Earth's Shifting Crust

This presentation discusses plate tectonics and a book written by Charles Hapgood proposing that Hudson Bay was at the North Pole and that it shifted to its current position at the end of the Ice Age.

Earth's Shifting Crust
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The Earth's solid crust rests upon a viscous layer that allows the continents to move. Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that studies the large-scale motion of the plates which form the Earth's crust. In 1915, the meteorologist Alfred Wegener proposed that the breakup of a single land mass, which today is called Pangea, gave rise to the present continents through a process that he called continental drift. The idea culminated fifty years later into the modern theory of plate tectonics.

Today, Alfred Wegener is considered a visionary who persisted in spite of the rejection of his ideas by mainstream geologists. He was finally vindicated in the 1950s when discoveries such as paleomagnetism in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge provided strong support for continental drift, but this happened more than 20 years after his death.

At the same time that Wegener's ideas were being debated, Charles Hapgood wrote a book entitled: "Earth's Shifting Crust – A key to some basic problems of earth science". The book had a foreword by Albert Einstein. The book was intended for the general public, but Hapgood wrote an author's note grumbling that there is a natural inclination among specialists to consider only the evidence falling within their own field of competence and nothing else.

Hapgood's note characterizes scientific peer review as scientific passing of the buck: the paleontologist tends to look to the geologist, the geologist to the geophysicist, and the geophysicist to the geologist, for the proof of the theory. Hapgood's disdain for the scientific method was a tacit acknowledgement that his proposal for the Earth's shifting crust would not be able to meet rigorous scientific scrutiny.

The Wikipedia article about Charles Hapgood says that he received a degree from Harvard University in medieval and modern history, and that he was a college professor who became one of the best known advocates of the pseudoarchaeological claim of a rapid and recent pole shift with catastrophic results. The word pseudoarchaeological is a pejorative term that refers to the postulation of ideas about archaeology which are inconsistent with the scientific method. That is not a good legacy, and it brings up the question of why Albert Einstein agreed to write a foreword for Hapgood's book.

This is what Albert Einstein says in the foreword: I frequently receive communications from people who wish to consult me concerning their unpublished ideas. It goes without saying that these ideas are very seldom possessed of scientific validity. The very first communication, however, that I received from Mr. Hapgood electrified me. His idea is original, of great simplicity, and if it continues to prove itself, of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth's surface.

A great many empirical data indicate that at each point on the earth's surface that has been carefully studied, many climatic changes have taken place, apparently quite suddenly. This, according to Hapgood, is explicable if the virtually rigid outer crust of the earth undergoes, from time to time, extensive displacement over the viscous, plastic, possibly fluid inner layers. Such displacements may take place as the consequence of comparatively slight forces exerted on the crust, derived from the earth's momentum of rotation, which in turn will tend to alter the axis of rotation of the earth's crust. Einstein's foreword goes on to say that unsymmetrical deposition of ice at the pole produces centrifugal momentum that could move the earth's crust over the rest of the earth's body.

Hapgood has an image of Antarctica showing that the center of gravity of the polar ice cap is not in the center of the axis of rotation of the Earth. On page 154, Hapgood illustrates that a displacement of mass at the pole produces a thrust toward the equator. This imbalance tends to shift the solid crust over the viscous inner layers of the Earth.

Hapgood proposes that Hudson Bay was at the North Pole. He says: Several independent lines of evidence, each individually extremely impressive, unite to suggest that the Hudson Bay region lay at the North Pole during the so-called Wisconsin glaciation.

To appreciate Hapgood's argument, we need to look at a map of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that was deposited during the Wisconsin glaciation from approximately 75,000 to 11,000 years ago. We can see that Hudson Bay is in the center of an extensive ice sheet that was almost 3 kilometers thick. Hapgood refers to this ice sheet as the Wisconsin ice sheet.

Hapgood continues: The first line of evidence is based on the shape, and on the peculiar geographical position, of the last North American icecap. Kelly and Dachille point out that the area occupied by the ice was similar both in shape and in size to the present Arctic Circle. Many geologists have remarked on the unnatural location of the icecap. It occupied the northeastern rather than the northern half of the continent. Some of the northern islands in the Arctic Ocean, and northern Greenland, were left unglaciated.

On page 217 of his book, Hapgood disdainfully dismisses scientific findings about glaciation and makes his own interpretation. He says: The new radioelement data from Antarctica, as we have seen, strongly suggest that the huge total quantity of ice supposed to have existed during the ice age is an illusion. It now appears that while the glaciers were at their maximum in North America a large part of Antarctica was ice-free. This is the only reasonable interpretation of the Antarctic data. It is therefore doubtful that the amount of ice then was very different in amount from that existing now.

Hapgood then imagines the movement of the continents. He says: We have noted that for about 10,000 years the Wisconsin ice sheet was growing thinner until its final disappearance. If this was the result of the southward movement of the icecap, if North America was then moving southward, Antarctica must, at the same time, have been moving into the Antarctic Circle. Therefore, as the ice sheet gradually thinned in North America, as it withdrew in Europe, the Antarctic icecap must have been in process of expansion. The water released by the melting in North America may have been mostly locked up again in the gathering Antarctic snows.

Did you notice the inconsistency? On page 154 Hapgood says that the imbalance in Antarctica can cause Antarctica to shift toward the equator, but here he envisions Antarctica migrating from somewhere in the southern hemisphere toward the South Pole. This is just one of many conflicting ideas in Hapgood's book. So it is not surprising that his suggestion about a crust shift has been disregarded as pseudoscientific in spite of the foreword by Albert Einstein.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mountain range that was initially discovered in 1872 during an expedition for laying transatlantic telegraph cable. In the 1950s, mapping of the Earth's ocean floors revealed that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was seismologically active and it was the epicenter of many earthquakes. The discovery of a worldwide ridge system led to the theory of seafloor spreading and general acceptance of Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift and expansion in a revised hypothesis called plate tectonics. Notice that all the striation marks run from North America to Africa and there are no striations from north to south to indicate that America shifted southward.

The expansion of the Earth's crust around the mid-ocean ridges was proved by examining the record of magnetic reversals in the ocean floor. The youngest crust is adjacent to the ridge, and the crust gets older away from the ridge.

The Atlantic Ocean in the southern hemisphere has striations between Africa and South America that show how South America separated from Africa. Notice that there are no striations in the north-south direction.

The expansion of the sea floor in the Atlantic Ocean pushes America westward where it meets the plates of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific plates bend under the American plates forming subduction zones that create mountain ranges and volcanoes. This image shows the incidence of earthquakes along the subduction zones of the tectonic plate boundaries.

There is evidence of a north-south crust movement in the floor of the Indian Ocean where we can find the scars left by the Indian land mass. About 80 million years ago, India was located roughly 6,400 kilometers south of the Asian continent, and it moved northward at a rate of about 9 meters per century. India rammed into Asia about 35 to 40 million years ago creating the Himalaya Mountains.

Einstein said that the first communication that he received from Mr. Hapgood electrified him. Certainly, the physics of an unbalanced rotating object seem compelling, and it turns out that rotating bodies have unusual behaviors. When cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov was unpacking a crate held by wing nuts, one of them flew off and started flipping in an unexpected way. This behavior is called the Dzhanibekov effect.

An asymmetric object spinning around its second principal axis will flip periodically as illustrated in this NASA video. You can test this yourself by flipping a hammer. Each time that the hammer makes a full revolution, the head of the hammer points in an alternate direction. What would happen to the Earth with a heavy polar cap? According to the laws of physics, it could flip.

In conclusion, we can say that Hapgood was wrong about the pole shift. There is no evidence that Hudson Bay was ever at the North Pole. A crust shift is possible, but it would probably be dominated by plate tectonics. Based on the Dzhanibekov effect, it is possible that a heavy polar ice cap could cause the Earth to flip and the sun would rise in the west, and by the way, Venus spins in the opposite direction of the Earth.



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