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213 - Pangaea Ultima: Climbing the Mediterranean Mountains

December 4, 2007, 8:00 AM

 “Is this what will become of the Earth’s surface?” asks the entry for 22 September 2007 of Astronomy Picture of the Day, a website affiliated with Nasa (judging from its url).“The surface of the Earth is broken up into several large plates that are slowly shifting. About 250 million years ago, the plates on which the present-day continents rest were positioned quite differently, so that all the landmasses were clustered together in one supercontinent now dubbed Pangea*. About 250 million years from now, the plates are again projected to reposition themselves so that a single landmass dominates. The above simulation from the Palaeomap Project shows this giant landmass: Pangea Ultima**. At that time, the Atlantic Ocean will be just a distant memory, and whatever beings inhabit Earth will be able to walk from North America to Africa.”

  • Not only will the Atlantic Ocean disappear (and be replaced by an Atlantic Mountain Range), the Indian Ocean will become a large lake, bounded by the eastern coasts of South America and Africa, and the coast of southeast Asia. The protrusion of the Indian subcontinent is still recognizable.
  • Australia, Antarctica and New Guinea will be joined too; if present species persist and the resulting mountain range doesn’t prove impassable, Australia might be overrun by penguins or Antarctica by kangaroos. Or Austro-Antarctic Guinea might be ruled by a new species that’s a hybrid of both, a tuxedo-clad marsupial, hopping across the icy wastes.
  • The Hudson Bay and Alaska remain recognizable, but the Great Lakes appear to disappear.
  • Ireland and Great Britain obstinately refuse to merge – both with each other and with the Continent.
  • Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea will change position, but not shape.
  • The Mediterranean Sea will be squeezed out of existence by Africa pushing into Europe, giving rise – quite literally – to a mountain range where at present there’s still sea.
  • The Korean peninsula is still there, but Japan seems to be swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean, no longer content to be the biggest ocean in the world, it will be the world’s only ocean.


*: or Pangaea, in a more conservative spelling. This name for the supercontinent that existed around the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras was first used by Alfred Wegener in his 1920 book Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (‘The Origin of Continents and Oceans’), in which he first proposed the theory of continental drift.

**: or Pangaea Ultima, translatable as ‘the ultimate unified landmass’. The remaining sole body of water can then be dubbed Panthalassa Ultima. This map was sent in by Jenn Berg.


213 - Pangaea Ultima: Climb...

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