Alfred Wegener's Book,
By Charles William Johnson
Alfred Wegener in 1912, from a conjecture about the coincidental outline of the eastern coast of South America and the western coast of Africa, proposed the idea of the horizontal displacement of the continents, or drift theory as Wegener himself referred to it. The main thesis of drift theory (der Theorien der Kontinentverschiebungen) is that some 200 million years ago a supercontinent (Ur-Kontinent) once existed, which broke up into smaller landmasses, the continents and sub-continents of today. Wegener arrived at this thesis by considering the possibility that the continents of South America and Africa were once joined together at their respective western and eastern coastlines. [Wegener, Alfred, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, Dover Publications, New York, 1966 (1929 ed), 246pp. Throughout this book, this volume will be cited as AW with the page number(s) following. In such a brief review as this, I can only cite selected passages by Wegener. The reader is best advised to obtain a copy of Wegener's book in order to read his entire argument].
The work of Alfred Wegener, Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, examines the displacement of the continents, and in my opinion, does not explain the placement of the continents, which requires a distinctive explanation. In order to be able to fully understand the reasons why I disagree with many of Wegener’s postulates, it is necessary to examine many of the theses of drift theory in detail, before offering the findings of my own research. These findings are soon to be published in my upcoming book, entitled, The Geography of the Earth: Eventpoint Cosmogeography. This book presents the measurements between specific extremepoints and eventpoints, in order to illustrate the symmetry and scalar proportion in the placement of the continents on Earth. Wegener himself offered a few isolated measurements along these lines, but did not pursue this line of questioning in his work. Had Wegener carried out more extensive measurements between extremepoints and eventpoints in his studies, possibly he would have reached opposing conclusions to his drift theory.
Horizontal Displacement of the Continents
In his book, Wegener cites the idea of the horizontal placement of the continents in the studies of such authors as Green, Wettstein, Schwarz, Pickering, Montovani, Coxworthy, Taylor and others [AW:2-3]. The cited revised edition of his book (1929) examines scholars who support and who critique his own work presented in 1915. Wegener seems to have been somewhat discouraged by the fact that the drift theory, as he alluded to it, was often called the Taylor-Wegener theory [AW:4].
Prior to Wegener, it was generally held that whatever landmass existed on Earth had been there and will be there forever in the same place; i.e., permanency theory. Wegener’s studies in climatology, however, caused him to propose the idea that the continents had formed from the break-up of a supercontinent ---similar ideas of which had been proposed by other scientists before him but with little success. Wegener’s idea, although rejected at first, has now come to be one of the dominant concepts about the formation of continents on Earth. It is known as the theory of continental drift, or simply drift theory.
Wegener reduces his interpretation of the formation of the continents to the singular movement of the continental blocks, drifting away from their central resting place in the supercontinental landmass (Pangaea), occupying their present position today. With that the so-called theory of continental drift, in my view, is nothing more than a specific thesis, overriding all supplemental ideas related to the continental blocks. In fact, from a reading of Wegener’s book, it becomes obvious early on that he filters every conceivable idea and intepretation through the thesis of drifting continents.
Today, the idea of continental drift suggests not only the idea that the continents came from a single landmass placed on one “side” of the Earth’s surface some 200 million years ago, but that the continents continue to drift towards the formation once again of a single landmass some 200 million years from now into the future.
The reasoning behind Wegener’s thought process was simple enough. Upon observing the similarities in the fossil, animal, plant and soil records shared by Africa and South America, in conjunction with the apparent similarities in the coastlines of these two continents, Wegener proposed that these two continents must have been united in the past and had somehow come to be separated. The reasoning: if these two continents shared similarities of plants and animals, it was impossible for these animals and plants to have traversed the width and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean ---ergo, the continents must have been joined together once upon a time. Let me quote Wegener: “This is the starting point of displacement or drift theory. The basic ‘obvious’ supposition common to both land-bridge and permanence theory ---that the relative position of the continents, disregarding their variable shallow-water cover, has never altered ---must be wrong. The continents must have shifted. South America must have lain alongside Africa and formed a unified block which was split in two in the Cretaceous; the two parts must then have become increasingly separated over a period of millions of years like pieces of a craced floe in water. The edges of these two blocks are even today strikingly congruent.” [AW:17]
From its inception, the idea of the continents driftng was rejected by the scientific community, in favor of other interpretations based on the contraction/expansion of the Earth ---all in an attempt to explain the rifts and folds in landmass. Further, the idea was not new since it had been expressed in distinct forms prior to its launch in 1915. Similar interpretations proposed before by others were related to religious considerations. Wegener’s interpretation may not have been free of such purposes, as he argues against the idea of land bridges and sunken continents, all in favor of discrediting interpretations about the possible existence of a continent of Lemuria. Inspite of its debatable origin, the simplicity of the thesis about continental drift has become the dominant interpretation today.
The Earth consists of nearly 100% crustal mass at its surface consisting of the continental landmases and the seafloors ---technically absent within the openings of the midoceanic ridges and possibly the oceanic trenches. The visible continental landmass, which is above the waterline on Earth, represents around 30% of the surface area of the planet, with the oceans covering the remaining percentage. However, the continental-drift theorists speak as though the continental blocks drifted across the tectonic plates of the crustal mass, over and above the oceanic ridges, thereby circling the Earth ---when, in fact, those ridges are themselves part of the crustal landmass. In other words, the ocean basins and the continental blocks (i.e., the tectonic plates) are the landmass of Earth. The waters of the ocean rest upon that landmass.
The Physical Forces Behind the Drifting
The physics of the case, however, requires an explanation of the forces that could have broken up the singular landmass (the supercontinent) and ripped it apart causing its fragmented continental blocks to drift around the globe. If the thesis is posed where the continents drifted apart, along with the idea that they are still drifting, then someone had to come up with the idea that the continents will drift back together again. This is understandable given the fact that the continents are drifting on an enclosed spherical surface, on the face of an oblate spherical planet. Logically enough, the continents could not just drift apart forever at the rate of speed cited by the theorists of continental drift ---they must necessarily come together again somewhere on the face of the Earth.
Regarding the forces behind the horizontal displacement of the continental blocks, Wegener stated the following: “But if this is so and the continental blocks really do float on a fluid, even though a very viscous one, there is clearly no reason why their movement should only occur vertically and not also horizontally, provided only that there are forces in existence which tend to displace continents, and that these forces last for geological epochs. That such forces do actually exist is proved by the orogenic compressions.” [AW:45] Actually, the word “forces’ is mentioned throughout Wegener’s book, he even dedicates an entire chapter to the concept, but nothing is really decided about them.
The thesis about the horizontal displacement of the continents appears to be innocent enough. The vertical displacement of continents is obvious in the height and depth of mountain ranges. Problems in the analysis arise, however, when one inquires just how far are the continents horizontally displaced. According to drift theory, the continents of the Earth have been drifting across the face of the Earth for over 200 million years, while the supercontinent came into existence some 560 million years ago. Wegener, however, appears to have been unsure about whether the continents continue to be displaced in movement: “If continental displacement was operative for so long a time, it is probable that the process is still continuing…”. [AW:23] Upon reading this phrase, the word “probable” adds weakness to the theory and one immediately wonders what force caused the continents to initiate their horizontal displacement, as well as what are the forces that continue to cause the continental blocks to displace themselves or, if “probably” they have ceased in their horizontal movement, what forces have caused them to stop.
A Contracting/Expanding Earth
Wegener was contending with the opposing thesis that the Earth had expanded and was contracting, shrinking, as a cooling sphere, which is purported to have caused the wrinkled nature of its mountain chains. Wegener’s thesis proposed the idea that the wrinkled mountain chains, such as the Himalayas were the result of colliding continents, resulting from their horizontal displacement. Both the expansion/contraction theory and the equally popular theory of Earth, whereby the continents were engendered from rifts in the landmass, were unacceptable to Wegener.
Wegener argues against the expansion/contraction theory and the theory of sunken land bridges with the concept of “isostasy”, where geophysicists “have decided, mainly on the basis of gravity determinations, that the earth’s crust floats in hydrostatic equilibrium on a rather denser, viscous substrate.” [AW:13-15] His argument flies in the face of theorists at the time who believed in the “theory of permanence” of the oceans, for example. [AW:16] And, Wegener then goes on to affirm that “the earth at any one time can only have had one configuration” [AW:17], as though all of the proposed interpretations were exclusive of each another.
In my mind, the expanding, contracting, horizontal, vertical motions of the earth’s continental blocks are not contradictory or exclusive of one another ---as though the Earth could have only one singular kind of movement. What is contradictory, however, is the fact that each partialized theory is posed as though it reflected the only movement that Earth could have, instead of considering how the landmass and water basins of the Earth move in different ways at different times.
Wegener presents his maps of the world according to drift theory with the splitting up of the supercontinent. What is striking is the fact that the maps do not take into consideration the midoceanic ridges. The presentation is obviously one of a superficial analysis of the visible surface of the globe. “…and the sub-blocks drifted away in all directions”…[AW:17-20] One is left to ponder what caused the continental blocks and the sub-blocks to drift off like that, and form the Himalaya and Andean mountain chains, as Wegener proposes in sweeping statements on a single page.
The superficial movement of the continental blocks is so commanding in his prose, that the different southern tips of the continents are said to have trailed behind the main blocks, sounding like the phenomenon of jet-lag. “In fact, all blocks which taper off towards the south exhibit a bend in the taper in an easterly direction because the tip has trailed behind them: examples are the southern tip of Greenland, the Florida shelf, Tierra del Fuego, the Graham Coast and the continental fragment Ceylon”. [AW:20-21] The prose is self-defining: a tip that tapers because it has trailed behind itself.
The imagery painted by Wegener is difficult for me to accept. “The outmost layer, represented by the continental blocks, does not cover the whole earth’s surface, or it may be truer to say that it no longer does so. The ocean floors represent the free surface of the next layer inwards, which is also assumed to run under the blocks. This is the geophysical aspect of drift theory”. [AW:21] Obviously, the continental blocks would not cover the entire surface of the earth, since with the maps he already established that the initial supercontinent covered the earth only partially. The maps as illustrated would suggest a partial outer layer of continental blocks, floating on a complete inner layer of ocean floors. So, why even pose the negative expression that the outmost layer of continental blocks did not cover the entire earth in the first place?!
All this discourse is to arrive at his singular conclusion: “If drift theory is taken as the basis, we can satisfy all the legitimate requirements of the land-bridge theory and of permanence theory. This now amounts to saying that there were land connections, not by intermediate continents which sank; there is permanence, but of the area of ocean and area of continent as a whole, but not of individual oceans or continents.” [AW:21] The flaws in reasoning abound. Wegener fights off concepts in opposing theories, such as that of “permanence” while counter-proposing ill-defined concepts of “drift” and “displacement”. The question remains, how much movement (drift or displacement) is involved in continental wandering. After citing periods of millions of years between the Tertiary and the post-Quaternary, Wegener states that “we can form a rough picture of the amount of annual drift, assuming that the displacements took place and are still taking place at a uniform speed”. [AW:25]
Wegener has not sufficiently explained one concept, when another is introduced. One might expect that if it is true that one could actually measure the “annual drift” of the continental blocks over millions of years, then it would be possible to project their movement backwards and forwards in time. And, even though he appears not to be certain yet about the fact whether the displacements actually occurred or not, (or, whether they are still occurring today), he attributes them the possibility of having a “uniform speed”. The concepts of “annual drift” (over millions of years) and “uniform speed”, in my mind, suggest the idea of a uniform force that would produce such a speed at a uniform rate in a given year. But, obviously, Wegener concludes what one can only conclude: “These two assumptions are of course rather difficult to test”. [AW:25]
Measuring Distances between Geographical Points
Wegener would expect to measure the “gap” between Madagascar and Africa, among other sub/continental blocks. In my mind, such a measurement is next to nearly impossible on a day-to-day basis when we are talking about geological time periods of millions of years and the dynamic interplay of landmass and water expanse. Further, the need to distinguish between the widening of the gap between Africa and Madgascar as being due to water and soil erosion, or due to actual displacement of landmass (soil) of the two (sub-) continental blocks, seems to me to represent an incommensurable phenomenon at least, outside of geological time-scales.
It is important to note, then, some of the data of displacement as cited by Wegener in his study [AW:26].
Area Relative Drift Period since Displacement
to date separation, per year, average
(km) approx. (m)
Sabine Island-Bear Island 1070 0.05-0.1 21-11
Cape Farewell-Scotland 1780 0.05-0.1 36-18
Iceland-Norway 920 0.05-0.1 18-9
Newfoundland-Ireland 2410 2-4 1.2-0.6
Buenos Aires-Cape Town 6220 30 0.2
Madagascar-Africa 890 0.1 9
India-Southern Africa 5550 20 0.3
Tasmania-Wilkes Island 2890 10 0.3
It is interesting to note that no specific coordinates are offered for any of the above measurements; as though the “gap” between Madagascar and Africa were a particularly well-known and commonly defined distance-line. The vagueness and confusion regarding the impossibility of measurement of displacement is patent in the following statement, which in my mind is nearly indecipherable: “While it is true that all these comparisons suffer wholly or partly from the fact that they are based on lunars may therefore contain systematic errors that cannot be checked, this accumulation of similar results which do not stand in opposition to any others makes it highly improbable that it is all just a matter of an unfortunate combination of extreme errors of observation.” [AW:29]
Wegener’s writing is obviously based on probabilities. “As our table shows, circumstances are less favourable for measurement of the relative displacement rate of North America and Europe than was the case for Greenland. … Our table gives about 1 m/yr, but this is the average since the connection between Newfoundland and Ireland was severed. Since then, however, a change in direction of North America must have occurred as a result of the breakaway of Greenland, which is still in progress; it is probable that North America has since been drifting more towards the south relative to the substrate.” [AW:30] Wegener speculates about the different movements of different continental blocks. His concern for the distance between Madagascar and the southern part of Africa is determinant for drift theory, as he states: “These values indicate a shift of Madagascar relative to the Greenwich meridian of 60-70 m/yr, a large amount. In our table on page 26 the shift relative to Africa is assigned a much smaller figure. It therefore appears as though souther Africa, too, is moving in an easterly direction relative to Greenwich; drift theory can make no further useful pronuoncements of this because of the large separation of these areas from each other. It is to be hoped that the longitudes of southern Africa will also be surveyed in the future, so that the longitudinal difference between Madagascar and southern Africa, a matetr of the greatest importance to drift theory, can also be monitored.” [AW:32]
Undoubtedly, with the idea of “horizontal displacement”, Wegener and others became overzealous in wanting to see more movement among the continental blocks than what meets the eye. At the rates cited, since then, the displacement of the continents would be enormous, possibly even commensurable to the naked eye, not even requiring the assistance of today’s global positioning devices.
Note some of the data cited by Wegener:
1. Oceanic Number of measurements
Californian earthquake, 18 April 1906 v = 3.847 ±0.045kms/s 9
Colombia, 31 Jan. 1906 3.806±0.046 18
Honduras, 1 July 1907 3.941±0.022 20
Nicaragya, 30 Dec. 1907 3.916±0.029 22
California, 18 April 1906 v= 3.770±0.104km/s 5
Philippines I, 18 April 1907 3.765±0.045 30
Philippines II, 18 April 1907 3.768±0.054 27
Bokhara, 21 Oct.1907 3.837±0.065 19
Bokhara, 27 Oct. 1907 3.760±0.069 11
“In spite of the fact that individual figures overlap here and there, on the average there is a significant difference in that the velocity of superficial propagation of waves across the coean floors is about 0.1km/s higher than that for the continents, and this agrees with the theoretical value expected from the physical properties of volcanic (plutonic) rock.” [AW:47, Wegener cited data from E. Tams, “Über die Fortpflan-zungsgeschwindigkeit der seismischen Oberflächenwellen längs kontinentaler und ozeanischer Wege”, Centralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie, 1921, pp.44-52, 75-83.] “From velocity values of 38 Pacific quakes he obtained the mean velocity of 3.897±0.028 km/s; from 45 Eurasian or American quakes, 3.801±0.029.” [AW:47]
With these data, Wegener is attempting to prove that the floors of the continental blocks and those of the ocean floors “are of fundamentally different material” [AW:51]. Wegener discusses the different layers underlying the continental blocks and the ocean floors and their geological composition. The continental blocks are said to be floating on a viscous material, and they are made up of different layers, with a granite layer at 30-40 km depth as their lower limit. While the ocean floors are made up of basalt, although at that time the final picture of the composition of the continental blocks and the ocean floors was not yet fully discerned. “…the velocity at which a continent can move under the influence of a given force depends, after all, not on the plasticity (stiffness) of the sima but on another, independent property of the material, “internal friction” or “viscosity”, or on its reciprocal “fluidity”. [AW:54]
The Astronomy of Geography
Wegener did, however, inject certain astronomical factors into his interpretation. “All that can be said with certainty is that the earth behaves as a solid, elastic body when acted upon by short-period forces such as seismic waves, and there is no question of plastic flow here. However, under forces applied over geological time scales, the earth must behave as a fluid; for example, this is shown by the fact that its blateness corresponds exactly to its period of rotation. But the critical point in time where elastic deformations merge into flow phenomena depends precisely on the viscosity coefficient”. [AW:55]
Under a general discussion of astronomical factors upon the geological structure of the earth, Wegener reviews the work of various authors regarding such concepts as “the periodicities of the sun and moon”; “polar wandering”; displacement towards the equator under the “contra-polar driving force; the earth’s rotation as being nonuniform; “the movement of mass towards the axis of rotation”; “a marked acceleration of the earth’s spin”; convection currents, and the like. Wegener cites Joly who states in 1925 that “below the continental blocks excess heat is generated by radioactivity and that therefore the temperature is continuously rising; this reaches the point where melting occurs and the blocks are floated” [AW:59]. The interesting point of referencing the 4th edition of Wegener’s work is that he is citing other authors/scientists who support or reject his ideas of drift theory.
“At this point, we should mention the authors who attribute the phenomena of the outmost crust to ‘undercurrents’, such as Ampferer…and Schwinner…, among others. According to Ampferer, undercurrents have dragged America westward; Schwinner believes that there are convection currents in the liquid layer caused by nonuniform output of heat, and that these currents draw the crust along and compress it at areas where they take a downward path”. [AW:59-60] Further, Kirsch, Wegener states, “has made extensive use of the idea of …[radioactive] thermal convection currents in the fluid layer. He assumes that the continents were at one time joined together and that excess heat was generated beneath them…; this led to circulation of the fluid substratum, which flowed outward everywhere towards the ocean basins and there moved downwards due to increased thermal loss, while rising under the centre of the continental region. The continental platform was finally broken up by the friction and the fragments were separated in all directions by the current.” [AW:60]
After all the citations of authors who seem to be supporting the drift theory, previously forwarded by himself, Wegener states that “we still know nothing about... the viscosity coefficient” and that “the possibility of drift therefore does not depend on the ultimate correctness of those authors who have recently championed the existence of a fluid layer beneath the continental blocks, at least in certain regions and at certain periods”. [AW:60] So, even though other scientists are getting on the band-wagon of Wegener’s drift theory, Wegener himself continued to be the one who would mark the correctness or not of the propositions that appeared to lend support to his theory.
“By comparing the geological structure of both sides of the Atlantic, we can provide a very clear-cut test of our theory that this ocean region is an enormously widened rift whose edges were once directly connected, or so nearly as makes no difference.” [AW:61] “Since, the reconstruction itself is necessarily unambiguous because of the well-marked outlines of the continental margins and allows no scope for juggling, we have here a totally independent criterion of the highest importance for assessing the correctness of drift theory.” [AW:61] This statement is apparently tautological, since Wegener is utilizing the very proposition of his thesis about drift theory (the coincidental outlines of the coastlines of the two cited continents) as the basis for proving that very same thesis. In a word, he is affirming that the continents were joined together because their coastlines coincide in shape.
Wegener, nonetheless, does measure some distances between the continents that, according to him, seem to confirm his drift theory. He cites a few: “The Atlantic rift is widest in the south, where it first started. The rift here is 6220 km”. [AW:60] Now, here one wonders how did Wegener know the rift started in the south. “Between Cape Sao Roque and the Cameroon there is a gap of only 4880 km, between the Newfoundland Bank and the shelf of Great Britain only 2410 km, only 1300 km between Scoresby Sound and Hammerfest and probably only 200-300 km between the shelf margins of northeastern Greenland and Spitsbergen, where the rift appears to have occurred only in relatively recent times.” [AW:61] From here, Wegener chose for his analysis the sub-strata of the different southern regions on both sides of the Atlantic, in an attempt to prove that these two continental blocks separated where the proof would lie within the layers of sub-strata as they would be quite similar to one another. “All this is an indication that we have here an elongated, ancient fold that traverses the southern tip of Africa, then is continued across South America south of Buenos Aires and finally turns north to join the Andes. Today the fragments of this fold are separated from each other by an ocean more than 6000 km wide. In our reconstruction, which here in particular permits of no manipulation, the fragments are brought into direct contact; their distances from Cape Sao Roque in one case and the Cameroon in the other are equal. This evidence for the correctness of our synthesis is very remarkable, and one is reminded of the torn visiting card used as a means of recognition.” [AW:62] Why not use the two banks of a river, a geographical example!?
The Match Between the Coastlines of South America and Africa
The perfect match between the eastern coastline of South America and the western coastline of Africa is purported by Wegener and his followers (especially the work of A.L. du Toit, “A Geologial Comparison of South America and South Africa”, the Carnegie Institution of Washing, 1927, 157 pages.) “The whole work [of du Toit] is a unique geological demonstration of the correctness of drift theory so far as these parts of the globe are concerned.” [AW:68] The findings in Du Toit’s work even surprised Wegener: “I must admit that du Toit’s book made an extraordinary impression on me, since up till then I had hardly dared to expect so close a geological correspondence between the two continents”. [AW:72] As I mentioned, the apparent match between the coastlines that is so neatly drawn in du Toit’s work and cited by Wegener, is evidently not the case, given the fact that today scientists place the 90-percent match between these two continents at the level of their continental shelves not at their coastlines. This fact alone should be reason enough to scuttle the entire reasoning of Wegener. But, instead of that, scientists see no problem in maintaining the initial premise of drift theory, bolstered now by a computer rendering of the supposedly matching continental shelves.
And, so it goes with many other symmetries of geography on the Earth. Wegener’s thesis is based on an apparent superficial identification of reflective symmetry between the east coast of South America and a part of the west coast of Africa. To improve upon his thesis, the union of the two coasts has said to make a better ‘fit’ at the level of their continental shelves. In my view it is still much more difficult to argue a match at the level of continental shelves. In my mind, had Wegener discovered a match at less obvious level of the continental shelves covered by ocean water, with the not-so-apparent coastline match, then that may have been more logical. But, to see an apparent match; find out that is no match; and, then shift the interpretation of the match to the underwater shelves, seems to be a face-saving device to me, i.e., forcing the issue of the originally perceived superficial match.
When one considers the outline of the continental shelves of the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa, it becomes quite apparent that there is no match. The continental shelf of the east coast of South America is nearly a straight line from its northeastern extremepoint (around Joao Pessoa) until it reaches the curved extremepoint of the Falkland Rise. Further, the west coast of Africa barely reveals a continental shelf, and where that shelf is present its outline is quite jagged from the Gulf of Guinea to Cape Rise. Computers can do wonders however. There is no reason why a computer programmed properly could not find a match between a straightedge continental shelf and a jagged-edge continental shelf. Furthermore, why would the shelves remain nearly 90 percent intact, and yet be divided by a span of ocean floor that changed so much into jagged sea-mounts. It is simply too suspicious to propose a theory of a changing earth based on an unchanging landscape (the match in coastlines).
A 90-Percent Match
Within drift theory, there is no mediating event cited to account for the apparent similarity between the two distinct coastlines ---other than the basic idea that the two continents somehow broke apart at their dividing line [sic] around 200 million years ago. On the other hand, again, the theory of continental drift must maintain that the two coastlines have remained relatively intact for the past 200 million years, inspite of soil erosion and weathering. The cited coastlines of these two continents are said to conjoin in such a perfect match at their continental shelves, that the match is cited at being around 90 percent. Bring in a computer printout and a 90 percent fit, and that should be enough to discourage anyone from contesting such an idea.
But the idea of the nearly perfect 90-percent match is highly suspicious to me, for it appears to disregard the changing face of the globe. The continental drift thesis would have us believe that all of the continents changed form and drifted apart, while the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa remained 90 percent intact. Today we are losing thousands of miles of shoreline on almost every continent within extremely short time spans. Slumps occur constantly all along the continental shelves and the shorelines of the continents. Add these up for the past 200 million years and, by mere probability theory, it seems doubtful that one would expect the outlines of shelves and shorelines to remain 90-percent intact anywhere on the globe over a 200-million year span of water and soil erosion and weathering. The filaments along shorelines today, a distinct form of soil erosion along the coasts of continents, bring into question whether the shorelines of Africa and South America were ever united at any time in their history. For example, there are no filament-like shorelines along Africa.
Obviously events exist that might explain the path between the two continents cited. Such answers must be sought elsewhere, away from the radical idea of the continents having once been conjoined, then broken apart, and now drifting back together again ---without ever specifying a particular reason of causation. In his book, Wegener discounts too many obvious events that require explanation, in favor of a single, omni-determinant act: the breaking up of the supercontinent.
Wegener sees no match between the Iberian peninsula and the opposite American coastal region, “a constrast which makes it most unlikely that the coastlines were formerly in direct connection. In any case, however, drift theory would not imply such a view, because between Spain and America there lies the broad submarine massif of the Azores.” [AW:73] The split picture of continental blocks becomes even more unique in this thesis by Wegener: “According to drift theory, the American landmass once again must be displaced sideways and rotated so that it joins directly onto the European continent and appears as an extension thereof (in the reconstruction picture).” [AW:76] Now that is some random movement of drifting continents. One can only imagine the kinds of physical forces required to produce such movements of the continents. One might ask why North America had to do all the “displacing sideways” and “rotating”, and why it was not stationary while Europe accomplished all of the apparent movements; the idea would probably be the fact that Europe is connected to an immense landmass (the rest of Asia) that would be more difficult to conceive of as having carried out such contortions. [An aside towards the end of his book, Wegener finally recognizes the relational concept of movement and explores the idea in terms of reference frames, ergo somewhat late in the analysis.]
The Island Complexes
According to Wegener, the island complexes are probably “fragments of continents” [Ibid]. In this manner, the somewhat distant island complexes from the various continents are considered by Wegener to have been closer to the continental blocks. “…these factors are not only not unfavourable to the view that these islands were once much closer than they are today, but on the contrary, are corroboration of the theory.” [AW:74] As shall be observed below in this study, the island complexes reflect such similar distances among themselves, that one would have to consider the possibility that many of the island complexes drifted into nearly exact relationships of distance from one another or from the continental blocks…for some unknown reason of random drifting.
At one point, Wegener appears to suspect the worse for his drift theory: “Even though the theory in certain individual cases may still be uncertain, the totality of these points of correspondence constitutes an almost incontrovertible proof of the correctness of our belief [sic] that the Atlantic is to be regarded as an expanded rift.” [AW:76; emphasis mine.] Knowledge is not believing, but rather simply knowing. So, it would appear that little is really known about the subject at hand. The hypothetical map offered in Wegener’s book [AW:77] says it all.
It would be necessary to conceptualize a movement of such torsional proportions and magnitude that would defy all of the cosmo-events in the sky. The continental block of North America would have had to have moved sideways and rotated northwesterly away from Europe, while the continental block of South America would have had to have moved in a similar fashion away from Africa, but in a southwesterly direction ---all the while, Europe, Asia and Africa would appear to have remained relatively stationary to such movements.
Connections Among the Continental Blocks
Wegener, in his search for land connections among the continental blocks, reviews such a situation between Greenland and the North America continent, which he apparently sees connected. But, that is not what is so intriguing about his discussion, since just by looking at a map of the globe one can imagine all kinds of land connections between the symmetries of shorelines. What intrigues me in Wegener’s work is his language describing the apparent movements of landmass: “Therefore the Newfoundland shelf suffers a double positional correction, a rotation and thrust to the northwest; this reconstruction matches it more closely with the shelf line of Nova Scotia, whereas it now extends far beyond it”. [AW:80]
Now, how does Wegener account for all the other continental linkages within his drift theory? Well, he summarily dismisses them. “Geologically speaking, there is less to be said on the subject of the other continental connecting links that we have assumed than on the Atlantic side”. [AW:81] Wegener cites another supporting author to his drift theory: “…Evans has stressed many points in favour of drift theory, especially the following: ‘Much of the structure of the African continent has yet to be determined; but, so far as it is known, it appears everywhere to support the view that there is evidence of the prevalence of tension directed outwards from the centre. This is in accordance with Wegener’s contention that at the beginning of the Mesozoic times there was a great ‘Ur-Kontinent’ of which Africa was the centre, and that it has since been broken up by a relative movement of South America to the west, of West Antarctica to the southwest, of India to the Northeast, of Australia to the east, and East Antarctica to the southeast’.” [AW:81-82] Wegener further clarifies: “It is assumed in our reconstruction that the west coast of India was joined to the east coast of Madgascar.” [AW:82]
As shall be observed in the measured distances of my study, such movements were made in a precise and coincidental manner that somehow defies the concept of random continental drift and rift theory. According to the measurements of coordinate points cited in this book, the original rifts and the subsequent drifts appear to produce distances among the continental blocks and sub-blocks that behave in a most symmetrical and scalar proportional manner. It is important to see how Wegener reasons the idea of rift, drift and interconnected linkages of the continental blocks in terms of specific distances: “If we limit ourselves to considering the highest region of the Asiatic block, which lies on an average about 4000 m above sea level and which measures 1000 km in the direction of the compression; and if we assume (dispite the greater altitude) only the same foreshortening as in the case of the Alps, i.e., to a quarter of the original extent: then we obtain a 3000-km displacement of India, so that before the compression it must have been alongside Madagascar. There is no room here for a sunken Lemuria in the old sense of the term.” [AW:83-84] Here, the cat is out of the bag; drift theory enshrouds a motive of anti-Lemurian ideas of sunken continents, and the like. There can be no Atlantis, no Lemurian continent because there is no room for such landmasses, given drift theory which purports that all these landmasses were once connected among themselves as they exist now. “Where the ocean basins are involved, it is not a question whether drift theory or the theory of sunken continents is to be preferred, because the latter idea just does not come into the picture. It is simply a matter of choosing between dirft theory and the theory of permanence of the ocean basins”. [AW:98]
The forced nature of the interconnectedness of the continental blocks can be observed on a tectonic chart of “Gondwanaland” cited by Wegener drawn according to Argand [AW:85]. One distinguishing point to note, aside from the fantastic movements required to get from that picture of an “Ur-Kontinent” to today’s placement of continental blocks, is the fact that the continents of North America and Europe/Asia are left out of that chosen picture. Argand affirms about his own analysis: “The elegance with which drift theory explains these significant facts, which were not known when the theory was originated, is certainly a strong point in its favour. Strictly speaking, none of these facts really proves drift theory or even the presence of sima, but they all fit in excellently with both ideas to an extent that makes them highly probable.” [AW:87]
“Even if we neglect the fact that the theory of sunken continents is untenable on geophysical grounds, this explanation is still inferior to that given by drift theory, because it must interpolate a very long hypothetical bridge in order to connect the two small areas of distribution [on either side of the Atlantic Ocean]; with the accumulation of cases [as shown by Ökland] it becomes increasingly unlikely that the eastern and western boundaries of the distribution would have lain on today’s continents rather than on the wide continental bridge ---that is, in today’s ocean”. [AW:102] In other words, as Wegener contemplates the distribution of a garden-snail on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, as shown in Ökland’s work, he emphasizes the unlikely possibility that a landbridge once existed between the vast Atlantic Ocean which has now sunken or disappeared. Ergo, he finds this vast space reason enough to postulate the idea that the continents were conjoined at one time, whereby the garden-snail’s original home ground became separated on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. In my mind, one does not have to have extreme positions of either seeing a sunken landbridge or a conjoined match of different continental blocks. A third possibility is the wearing down of the landmass that once lay between the now two continental blocks. In fact, this third supposition is actually a combination of the three possibilities: landmass once existed between the two continental blocks, some of this landmass either “sank” or was eroded/weathered away; and then there may have also existed a rift between the two continents to a certain degree. All events are possible; none are exclusive of the others.
“One need only look at the three reconstruction maps on page 18 and the explanation will be immediately forthcoming. These very circumstances show in the clearest possible way the great superiority of the drift theory over that of the sunken bridges even in purely biological matters. The distance between the points in South America and Australia, nearest to each other, Tierra del Fuego and Tasmania, today amounts to 80o along a great circle, as large as that between Germany and Japan; central Argentina is as far from central Australia as from Alaska, or as South Africa from the North Pole. Can one really be expected to believe that a mere land bridge is enough in this case to ensure the interchange of biological forms?” [AW:110] It seems to me that Wegener should have continued with this venue of inquiry regarding the distances among the continental blocks and sub-blocks. This book does precisely that, and the measured distances between landmass and water basins appear to answer many of the questions posed by the drift theorists.
Wegener adheres to the idea that the Pacific Ocean is considerably older than the Atlantic Ocean. Further, “Drift theory holds that the Pacific islands and their submarine foundations are marginal chains detached from the continental blocks, gradually lagging behind in the east during the general movement of the earth’s crust over the mantle in a predominantly westerly direction…”. [AW:112] Finding little or no botanical connection with continental blocks, Wegener affirms that “it should be emphasized here that the biological phenomena on islands are generally harder to interpret than those on larger areas of land”. [AW:113]
Wegener, after realizing that the theory regarding the permanence of landmass means “continental immobility” and that these concepts are without merit, states the following: “As far as we are concerned, it is not now a question of whether the continental blocks have moved; doubt is no longer possible. It is rather a question of whether they have moved in accordance with the particular assumptions of drift theory”. [AW:132-133] The main issue could not have been posed more effectively. Everything moves, every form of matter-energy is movement. The defining question concerns the degree of movement that occurs.
“The assertions of drift theory relate entirely to relative displacements of the continents, that is, to displacements of portions of the earth’s crust relative to an arbitrarily chosen portion. In particular, the reconstructions of Figure 4 …show continental drift (displacement) relative to Africa, so that Africa has the same coordinates in all reconstructions. Africa was chosen as the reference area because this continent represents the core of the formed primitive block. If consideration is confined to one portion of the earth’s surface, it will be natural to locate their reference system at a limited zone of this portion, and then to present this reference zone as constant in position. The choice of zone is a matter of pure convenience. Because of the recently introduced monitoring of geographical longitude changes, the system may later be changed so that continental drift is presented everywhere as relative to the Greenwich Observatory.
“In order to free oneself from arbitrary selection of a reference system, one could perhaps define balanced continental displacements which would be determined relative to the whole earth’s surface instead of merely to a portion thereof. However, their determination would be fraught with great practical difficulties, and at the moment cannot be considered.” [AW:117]
Finally, Wegener is offering a perspective that begins to reflect spacetime/movement postulates. “It is important to realise the complete arbitrariness of the African reference systems we used.” [AW:148] “When, for example, Molengraaff… stresses that the mid-Atlantic ridge shows that Africa drifted from there towards the east, I cannot discern any disagreement with drift theory in his statement. Relative to Africa, America and the mid-Atlantic ridge drifted westwards, the former at about twice the rate of the latter; relative to the ridge, America drifted westwards and Africa eastwards at about the same rate; relative to America, both the ridge and Africa migrated eastwards, the latter twice as fast as the former. On the basis of relative movements, all three statements are identical. But once we choose Africa as the reference system, we cannot assign a displacement to this continent, by definition.”. [AW:148; emphasis mine] So the Atlantic mid-oceanic ridge existed back then. Then, one must question why would the left side of the ridge, or the ridge, and the South American continent migrate distinctly from the right side of the ridge and the African continent.
I see no physical reason to consider the mid-Atlantic ridge moved westward with the South American continent while developing a perfectly symmetrical right side of the ridge moving slower, or why Africa should have remained at relative rest. Neither can I understand that by definition Africa had to remain at relative rest since it was chosen as the reference frame as Wegener states...meaning he could have possibly chosen South America to be the reference frame and then all of Africa, the mid-Atlantic ridge and its right side, along with Euroasia would have moved eastward. A third option could be to consider that both the South American continent, Africa and everything involved thereof were all in relational movement to one another ---the reference frame being the oblate sphere of the earth.
Book: Eventpoint Cosmogeography
Essay: Mt. Aconcagua and Mt. Everest in Symmetry to the West Coast of Africa
Eventpoint Cosmogeography, a new study, opens up a distinct line of inquiry into the geography of the Earth. Charles William Johnson, from Earth/matriX, Science Today, questions the theory of continental drift by examining the distances between geographical extreme points and selected cosmogeographical event points. The translation and centrosymmetries of geographical coordinate points suggest the fact that the continents undergo movement, but that they have not drifted randomly on the face of the Earth for the past 250 million years as proposed by Alfred Wegener nearly a century ago. The symmetry between extremepoints and eventpoints illustrated in this study suggests that continental drift theory must be reconsidered, possibly abandoned.