The Development of the Theory of Plate Tectonics, from Continental Drift to Present Day Essay

563 WordsJan 13, 20143 Pages
Research into the theory of plate tectonics first began around 1920. This research was spearheaded by Alfred Wegner, a German meteorologist and geophysicist. His work presented the theory that today’s continents once were joined as one to form a huge supercontinent commonly referred to as Pangaea today. Wegner’s theory stated that the super continent broke up and the pieces (today’s continents) drifted over time into their current positions, he called this “Continental Drift”. Wegener's theory also provided an alternate explanation for the formation of mountains (orogenesis). The theory being discussed during his time was the "Contraction theory" which suggested that the planet was once a molten ball and in the process of cooling the surface cracked and folded up on itself. The big problem with this idea was that all mountain ranges should be approximately the same age, and this was known not to be true. Wegener's explanation was that as the continents moved, the leading edge of the continent would encounter resistance and thus compress and fold upwards forming mountains near the leading edges of the drifting continents. The Sierra Nevada Mountains on the Pacific coast of North America and the Andes on the coast of South America were cited. Wegener also suggested that India drifted northward into the Asian continent thus forming the Himalayas. Many other scientist provided evidence toward this theory of a “continental jigsaw”, this evidence included geological matches in the rock type on two different continents coastlines found thousands of miles away e.g. Scotland and Canada and South America and Africa. Fossil evidence was also provided; trilobites of the same species found in Canada and Scotland and also, coal deposits were located in Antarctica. During the 1950’s the first of the transatlantic communications cables was laid down on the sea floor. This lead

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