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William B Stoecker

Cracks in the Earth

March 27, 2014 | Comment icon 0 comments
Image Credit: CC 3.0 USDOI
The current reigning paradigm in geology and geophysics is plate tectonics, the belief that the Earth’s crust is divided into a number of “plates,” which are in a constant state of (very slow) flux. The line between a large earthquake fault and a true plate boundary is not perfectly clear, so there is some disagreement among geologists about some of the boundaries, some uncertainty. Initially it was supposed that the sole driving force behind the movement of plates was seafloor spreading caused by upwelling of magma from the mantle along the rift zones, but, while there are “hot spots” on the crust where magma plumes arise, there is no mechanism known that would cause magma to rise in long, thin sheets across great arcs of the crust. It now seems more likely that magma plumes play a role (like the plume under Iceland on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge), but vast sections of crust are pulled as much as they are pushed. Magma wells up along, for example, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, not due to an elongated plume of some sort, but simply because the crust is being pulled apart along that line. As cooled magma slides down the outer slopes of the ridge (a classic rift zone, it is a double line of undersea mountains with a valley between them) it cools and becomes more dense, and then, on the abyssal plain, it is gradually weighted down by the accumulation of sediments, until it sinks under a section of continental crust made of lighter granitic rocks floating on the heavier basaltic rocks which make up the sea floors and the lower part of the crust. In addition to spreading and subduction zones, there are also strike-slip faults, like the San Andreas Fault, believed to be the boundary between the North American and Pacific Plates.

What is less well known is that there is something strange, perhaps even paranormal, about plate boundaries and about earthquake faults in general. The mystery of earthquake lights, strange glows, sheets, and even moving balls of light (UFOs by definition) before and during tremors is still unexplained, as are the loud booming sounds often heard in fault zones. Mysterious balls of light have also been seen entering and exiting volcanoes, especially Mexico’s Mount Popocateptl. And most people are unaware that many major religions and many ancient civilizations were founded on or near plate boundaries, as if something about them inspires people…but no one knows how. For example, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all began on or very near the plate boundary extending up from the East African rift zone through the Dead Sea and up the Jordan Valley and on through Lebanon. The mysterious ruins of Baalbek are in this zone, built at an unknown time by an unknown civilization for an unknown purpose, using unknown technology. Also here we find the ruins of Jericho, a city some 10,000 years old, and the advanced ancient culture of the seafaring Phoenicians. Mount Hermon is directly east of the boundary, and it is here, according to legend, that the Elohim, or Sons of God (whatever that means) came down to Earth and mated with human women, giving birth to the Nefilim, or Watchers. But the rift zone also has a western branch, through the Red Sea, and just west of there, some distance from the rift but right on the Nile Valley earthquake faults, we find the ruins of the ancient civilization of dynastic Egypt (and some evidence for a much older pre-dynastic culture). The Persian Gulf rift zone extends northward through ancient Sumer, where the later culture of Babylon also developed. The 5,000 year old cities of the Indus Valley in Pakistan and western India are not far from another plate boundary, and Buddhism began in northern India, not far from another. There were farming cultures in southern Turkey some 8,000 years ago, and nearby are the 12,000 year old carved stone monuments of Gobekli Tepe, all just north of another plate boundary, which extends near Crete and Greece, where two more ancient cultures developed. The oldest reliably dated large manmade structures in the Americas are the pyramids, some over 5,000 years old, along the west coast of South America…right on a subduction zone plate boundary. It would seem that there is something more than coincidence at work here.

The Dead Sea rift zone is over 1,400 feet below sea level in the area of the Dead Sea itself, and a really large earthquake or series of them could conceivably breach the higher ground to the south and let the ocean pour in, producing a true inland sea over 1,400 feet deep and extending over an area much wider than the current Dead Sea. The same is true just to the southwest, where the plate boundary extends into Africa. The great East African Rift is below sea level in some areas, and in the Afar Triangle region, sea water from the Red Sea is already trickling in. So here, too, a massive earthquake could possibly flood a good deal of East Africa.

A map of the U.S. and Mexico shows the Sea of Cortez between mainland Mexico and the Baja California peninsula; in this highly seismic zone, with its many volcanoes, Baja is slowly splitting away from the rest of the continent. Here, too, parts of the continent some distance inland are below sea level; California’s Salton Sea is, at its surface, 226 feet below sea level, and, with a depth of 52 feet, the bottom is 278 feet down. There are geologically recent volcanoes here; the Salton Buttes, small islands in the lake, last erupted within the last 9,000 years, and possibly in the last 3,000. There are thermal “mud volcanoes” in the region that continue to steam and bubble. The rift zone extends northward and branches into two main faults; the western one is the famed San Andreas Fault, and the eastern one forms Death Valley, which, at Badwater Basin, is some 282 feet below sea level, but, beneath that there are 9,000 feet of sediments…the crack is nearly two miles deep. Here are the geologically recent Ubehebe Craters, and numerous other recent cinder cones dot the Mojave Desert. As if that wasn’t enough, the mysterious Racetrack Playa is in the valley just west of Death Valley; here large stones move about, scraping shallow trenches in the soil…and they only move when no one is watching. The complex fault zones extend even further north along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which are a tilted block formation. East of Yosemite is the volcanic Mammoth Mountain and several hot springs; here, too, are Mono Lake, the Mono Craters, and the dangerous Long Valley Caldera, a mega-volcano. The cracking apart of the continent is still going on in this region, extending slowly further north, and here, too, we cannot rule out the possibility of sudden and catastrophic change.
But there are other, less well known faults in North America, and at least two of them may be budding or failed plate boundaries. The Rio Grande rift zone extends from southern Colorado down across New Mexico, to the El Paso area. To the east it is flanked by high mountains: the jagged Organ Mountains, the San Andres Mountains, the Sandia Crest (a tilted block), and the Sangre de Christo mountains. To the west are geologically recent cinder cones, larger volcanoes, and lava beds, like the ones just west of Las Cruces. Further north, the Jemez Mountains surround Valle Grande, an immense volcanic caldera, and then the San Juan Mountains of Colorado are ancient volcanoes. Author and researcher Christopher O’Brien has documented the mysterious events taking place in the zone, including UFOs, cattle mutilations, and hauntings. The rift is part of a larger pattern of generally north to south earthquake faults in the mountainous western parts of the US.

There are many other major faults in the U.S., such as the ones in Alaska and the dangerous fault in the Pacific Northwest. Less well known, however, are the faults on the East Coast, and the major fault zone just west of the Appalachian Mountains, which it roughly parallels. Then there are the north-south faults extending from Kansas down through Oklahoma and well into Texas. These faults, ominously, have become much more active in recent years. Some find it mystifying that major fault zones could develop in the heart of a continent, far from any plate boundaries, but when you consider that the North American Plate (to cite but one example) is being pushed in one direction from the east and in another from the west, it seems obvious that something has to give somewhere.

And this brings us to one of the strangest structures in North America. A map shows that the lower St. Lawrence River valley is far too wide to have been produced by the river. Nor does glaciation during the last ice age fully explain it, for it is flanked by low mountains on each side…like a classic tectonic spreading zone, although there is no evidence of volcanism. Earthquakes are fairly common along the St. Lawrence, and there is an arc of low ground extending southwest and then south from the valley, along Lake Erie, the Wabash River, the Ohio River, and, finally, the Mississippi. There are earthquakes all along this line, but by far the most prominent faults are those in the New Madrid area, within the Mississippi valley. Here some of the most massive tremors ever recorded in North America struck in the early eighteen hundreds. It looks as if the entire arc, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi, may be a budding (or failed) rift zone, that, conceivably, could split the entire continent. This, even if it happens, will not likely happen overnight; the process would probably take thousands or even millions of years. Yet some super-massive quakes might well occur, perhaps widening and deepening at least parts of the river valleys quite suddenly. The truth is that we just don’t know what is going to happen.

And then there is Lake Baikal in Siberia. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake on Earth…5,387 feet, or over a mile. Below the bottom are 4.3 miles of sediments, for a total depth of almost six miles. The lake is 395 miles long and 49 miles wide, and its depth makes it the most voluminous fresh water lake in the world, holding some twenty percent of the Earth’s liquid fresh water. It may be the boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the Amur Plate, but geologists are not sure if the Amur Plate is really a separate plate or not. There are old volcanoes nearby, and many hot springs. The only outlet is the Angara River, which flows some 1,105 miles from the lake before emptying into the Yenisei River, which flows roughly another thousand miles before reaching the Arctic Ocean. That makes some 2,000 miles of river between the lake and the sea…yet there are freshwater seals in the lake. There are only two other species of freshwater seals in the world, and they are found much closer to the sea. So how could seals have swam two thousand miles upstream to reach Lake Baikal? And, if they did, why are there no other freshwater seals in the Angara and Yenisei Rivers on the way to the lake? One theory is that they swam into Lake Baikal about 80,000 years ago during the last ice age, when the West Siberian Glacial Lake was suddenly released by the collapse of the ice dam which formed it and flowed into the Arctic Ocean. But this was a transient event, and the seals would have to have swam against the ferocious current of a mega-flood. Even the river theory is better than this. So did the seals swim 2,000 miles and not settle anywhere until they reached the lake, or is this yet another case of mysteriously out of place animals (like tapirs in Southeast Asia and the tropical Americas and nowhere else)?

There is one thing that we often forget. The world today is not as it was in the distant past, and it will change again in the future. The cracks in the Earth may widen and deepen quite suddenly, flooding sizeable areas with sea water, and some fairly dramatic change could conceivably happen in our lifetimes. And these catastrophes may be accompanied by a variety of seemingly paranormal events. We may succumb to the Chinese curse and find that we are living in interesting times. Comments (0)

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