Image: Natural Resources Canada
Speaking of legends, West and Firestone recount many ancient tales as veritable eyewitness accounts of the North American comet strike. In Earth Under Fire, Paul LaViolette cites even more material, like this ancient story from the British isles:
"The profligacy of mankind had provoked the great Supreme to send a pestilential wind upon the earth. A pure poison descended, every blast was death... Presently a tempest of fire arose. It split the earth asunder to the great deep. The lake Llion burst its bounds, and the waves of the sea lifted themselves on high around the borders of Britain, the rain poured down from heaven, and the waters covered the earth."
The comet hypothesis has history detectives drooling, since the time frame for all this dovetails nicely with Plato's 9300 B.C. date for the sinking of Atlantis. The disappearance of this utopian continent at the end of the last ice age has been debated ever since Ignatius Donnelly published his runaway bestseller, Atlantis - The Antediluvian World, in 1882. More than a century later, Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, Patrick Geryl, Rand Flem-Ath, Robert Bauval and a host of other commentators have proposed that Atlantean civilization succumbed to an unprecedented planetary upheaval.
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock elucidated on the theory that Atlantis was dislodged from its perch during a cataclysmic that shifted the entire Earth's crust around the mantle. Instead of sinking, however, Atlantis drifted south to the place we now call Antarctica. Because that polar land mass is buried under a mile-thick ice sheet, no one has ever been able to excavate the continent for signs of past habitation.
The theory is tied to the principle of "pole shift", which was first advanced by Charles Hapgood in the 1950's. The Harvard-trained professor of science thought the weight distribution of the planet fluctuated from time and time, based on such variables as ice deposition at the poles and climate change. A realignment of the north-south axis, for instance, might cause the tectonic plates to shift en masse atop the viscous, molten layer that comprises the Earth's mantle. In their own book about Atlantis, When the Sky Fell, Rand and Rose Flem-Ath explain what would happen next:
"As the earth's crust ripples over its interior, the world is shaken by incredible earthquakes and floods. The sky appears to fall as the crust shifts position. Day after day the sun seems to rise and set over an altered horizon, until finally the crust grinds to a halt. Beneath the oceans, earthquakes generate massive tidal waves, that crash against coastlines, flooding them. Some lands are shifted to warmer climates. Others, propelled into the polar zones, suffer the direst of winters. Melting ice caps, released from the polar areas, raise the ocean's level ever higher. All living creatures must adapt, migrate or die."
Pole shift has also been proposed to account for those hundreds of thousands of mammoth carcasses frozen in time along the Arctic Circle. Under Hapgood's theory, Siberia and Canada were pushed up into the Arctic Circle during the same tumultuous shift that booted Atlantis down to the South Pole.
A key piece of evidence offered in support of the idea is the legend Piri Reis map. The map was drawn on a zebra skin by a Turkish admiral from the Ottoman Empire, and clearly shows the correct outline of Antarctica as it would appear without an ice cap. In a note written on the zebra skin, Admiral Reis credited much older maps as his sources. The fact that ancient mariners could have accurately drawn the shoreline free of ice does seem to bolster the contention that Antarctica once lay far closer to the Equator. (It's not the only map of its kind, either. Hapgood's book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings discusses several others.)
The Piri Reis map, prepared by a Turkish admiral during the Ottoman Empire, shows Antarctica without an ice cap. In addition to the pole shift theory, it's also conceivable that a comet strike may have been responsible for a temporary disappearance of ice along the shoreline. Yet even if the land mass were visible to the naked eye, the ancient cartographer would still have required a chonometer to measure longitude. And that instrument was invented in the 17th century.
Naturally, the mainstream scientific community scoffed at Hapgood’s hypothesis within hours of its publication. After all, they argued, his PhD was in history, not geology. Still, whenAlbert Einstein wrote the forward to Hapgood's 1955 book, Earth’s Shifting Crust, the father of modern physics thought the idea warranted further investigation:
"A great many empirical data indicate that at each point on the earth's surface that has been carefully studied, many climatic changes have taken place, apparently quite suddenly. This, according to Hapgood, is explicable if the virtually rigid outer crust of the earth undergoes, from time to time, extensive displacement over the viscous, plastic, possibly fluid inner layers. Such displacements may take place as the consequence of compartively slight forces exerted on the crust, derived from the earth's momentum of rotation, which in turn will tend to alter the axis of rotation of the earth's crust."
Einstein went on to express his personal doubts about the theory. And while the movie 2012 premised its own crustal displacement scenario on a subatomic, nuclear meltdown of the mantle caused by a rare planetary alignment generating an influx of neutrinos, other researchers have suggested less exotic triggers. These include global warming's effect on the Earth's interior, a dwindling magnetic field in the atmosphere (one that threatens of a north-south reversal), and an unstable geosphere caused by the mass extraction of iron, copper and other metals.
In 2006, a Princeton University study added fuel to the speculation, announcing the discovery of equatorial flora and fossils in present-day Alaska.
The Big Five Mass Extinctions
Besides the nearer-to-present-day cataclysms described so far, larger extinction events aare thought to occur periodically over the course of millions of years. U.C. Berkeley physicists Richard Muller and Robert Rohde have verified five major extinctions in the life of the planet.
By far the most famous episode involves the extinction of dinosaurs. In The Shiva Hypothesis, written in 1996, authors M.R. Rampino and B.M. Haggerty argue that recurring galactic fluctuations generate increased comet/asteroid activity and other interstellar interference.
According to Muller and Rohde's computations, we're due again for another big hit soon. See "Something Gamma This Way Comes" for more on this.
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Next topic: Geologic Upheaval on Tap
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2012 Guide Home
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"Was a Giant Comet Responsible for a North American Catastrophe in 11,000 BC?" Science Daily 4/1/10.
"The truth behind Noah's Flood."By Jacqueline S. Mitchell. PBS.
"Major Climate Change Occurred 5,200 Years Ago." Ohio State University news release 12/15/04.
"Geologists Link Black Sea Deluge to Farming's Rise," New York Times, 12/17/96.
"'Noah's Flood' Not Rooted in Reality, After All?" National Geographic News 2/6/09.
"Chevron-shaped Accumulations Along the Coastlines of Australia as Potential Tsunami Evidences?", Science of Tsunami Hazards, 2003.
"Meteor 'misfits' find proof in sea." New York Times News Service 11/14/06.
"Ice Age Ends Smashingly: Did a comet blow up over eastern Canada?" Science News 5/30/07. Note: Requires paid subscription.
"Comet impact theory disproved." University of Bristol January 2009.
"Extinction of Wooly Mammoths may have happened as recently as 7,600 years ago." LiveScience.com 12/15/09
Cataclysm! Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. (1995) by D. S. Allan and J. B. Delair
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: How a Stone-Age Comet Changed the Course of World Culture (2006) by Richard Firestone, Allan West and Simon Warwick-Smith
When the Sky Fell: In Search of Atlantis (1995) by Rand and Rose Flem-Ath.
Atlantis - The Antediluvian World (1882) by Ignatius Donnelly
Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History. (1997) By Walter Pitman and William Ryan.
Earth Under Fire: Humanity's Survival of the Apocalypse (1997) by Paul A. LaViolette
A History of the End of the World (2006) by Jonathan Kirsch.
Earth's Shifting Crust (1955), Paths of the Pole (1958) and Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of advanced civilization in the Ice Age (1966) by Charles Hapgood
The Orion Prophecy (2001) by Patrick Geryl and Gino Ratinckx.
DVDs and TV Programs
DVD - SuperComet: After the Impact. Available at the Science Channel Store. (Check TV schedule for future airings.)
History Channel documentaries include Comet Catastrophe, Noah’s Great Flood, and Journey to 10000 B.C.,
DVD - NOVA: America's Stone Age Explorers. (2004) Research into the origins of the Clovis people, circa 15000 - 11500 B.C.