Yesterday, my day off to hike in the mountains got delayed by an unexpectedly big snow storm here in Denver. Instead, my friend and I headed to the nature and science museum, where retired scientists love to have conversations with interested adults. A geologist volunteering in the Paleozoic section turned us on to videos by Christopher Scotese. This one shows how today's geographic boundaries overlay onto yesterday's geologic movements. Super cool.
The little plot of land on which I'm sitting now was south of the equator and under water about 320 million years ago (MYA). Ten million years after joining the Northern Hemisphere, it bubbled up on an island with most of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The island got connected with the larger land mass and then turned back into an island again. And then all of today's major land masses emerged from the ocean about 240 MYA, just as the dinosaurs started stomping around. Today's continents had about about 50 millions years of togetherness (as Pangaea) until Central Asia and Scandanavia went their own way. Ten million years after that, today's Gambia separated from South Carolina as Gondwana Land floated off. And, at about 110 MYA, Brazil pulled its nose out of Nigeria as its respective continents parted ways. All of this cracking apart created a void in the Earth's crust into which new magma rushed in, spreading the sea floor and displacing ocean waters, forcing sea water inland and breaking up most of the continents with brand new internal sea ways running through the middle of them. Denver was coastal property for about 25 million years.
About 80 MYA, while the modern day Rocky Mountains were rising, India (which had broken off from Antarctica), set a course for Central Asia at ramming speed. The collision, 40 MYA, gave us the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. They are still gaining altitude today.
If you watch the video, keep a look out for the last 10 seconds. That's when homo sapiens first appear, walk across the newly formed ice bridge created by the most recent ice age, and the then glaciers recede. We are but a flash on the radar.
Not a bad way to spend a day off. #Denver