Thursday, June 28, 2012
To see how the tectonic plates are moving apart, one has to be prepared for some extreme diving.
This amazing underwater journey shows some of the inevitable changes on our planet.
We also take a look into the future to better understand how these tectonic movements will shape our continents.
The Silfra Rift, Thingvellir Lake, National Park Thingvellir, Iceland is a dream site for divers. Not only is the visibility excellent, but this is also the place where the continental plates meet and drift apart. Diving here is an underwater experience few will forget.
Dr. Alexander Mustard, underwater photographer, marine biologist and author have dived 80 feet into the crevice between North America and Eurasia to reveal the stunning landscape.
"The photos show diving in the unique underwater world of Iceland which, like on land, is formed by the volcanic landscape of the country.
Many people visit Iceland to see these features on land but they also continue underwater.
The place is called Silfra Crack and is in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland. Image credit & copyright: Alexander Mustard
The tectonic plates are pulling apart at about one inch per year. Image credit & copyright: Alexander Mustard
For a scuba diver these are spectacular places to visit - being able to fly through the clear water and explore the fault lines in three dimensions.
Alexander Mustard took his first pictures underwater at the age of nine. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the most creative underwater photographers, whose works is admired and respected around the world. The British-born photographer took the images where the area is is riddled with faults, valleys, volcanoes and hot springs, caused by the plates pulling apart at about an inch per year. Image credit & copyright: Alexander Mustard
I have dived all around the world and this is almost certainly the clearest water I have ever been in. Many people have an experience of vertigo from the sheer walls and clear water, " Alexander Mustard said.
The canyons Silfra, Nes and Nikulasargja, are up to 200ft deep. Image credit & copyright: Alexander Mustard
The National Park Thingvellir has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, both for its cultural & historical significance as well as natural & geological uniqueness.
Earth's landmasses were not always what they are today. Continents formed as Earth's crustal plates shifted and collided over long periods of time. This video shows how today's continents are thought to have evolved over the last 600 million years, and where they'll end up in the next 100 million years. Paleogeographic Views of Earth's History provided by Ron Blakey, Professor of Geology, Northern Arizona University.
The Earth is going to be a very different place 250 million years from now.
Africa is going to smash into Europe as Australia migrates north to merge with Asia. Meanwhile the Atlantic Ocean will probably widen for a spell before it reverses course and later disappears.
A map of the world as it might appear 250 million years from now. Notice the clumping of most of the world's landmass into one super-continent, "Pangea Ultima," with an inland sea -- all that's left of the once-mighty Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy of Dr. Christopher Scotese.
"We don't really know the future, obviously," Scotese said. "All we can do is make predictions of how plate motions will continue, what new things might happen, and where it will all end up."
Among those predictions: Africa is likely to continue its northern migration, pinching the Mediterranean closed and driving up a Himalayan-scale mountain range in southern Europe.
Africa has been slowly colliding with Europe for millions of years, Scotese said. "Italy, Greece and almost everything in the Mediterranean is part of (the African plate), and it has been colliding with Europe for the last 40 million years." That collision has pushed up the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains, and is responsible for earthquakes that occasionally strike Greece and Turkey, Scotese noted.
Australia is also likely to merge with the Eurasian continent.
"Australia is moving north, and is already colliding with the southern islands of Southeast Asia," he continued.
"If we project that motion, the left shoulder of Australia gets caught, and then Australia rotates and collides against Borneo and south China -- sort of like India collided 50 million years ago -- and gets added to Asia."
Meanwhile, the Americas will be moving further away from Africa and Europe as the Atlantic Ocean steadily grows.
The Atlantic sea floor is split from north to south by an underwater mountain ridge where new rock material flows up from Earth's interior.
The two halves of the sea floor slowly spread apart as the ridge is filled with the new material, causing the Atlantic to widen.
The world in the distant future will look entirely different...
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