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Years of research, thought lead geologist to propose new supercontinent Columbia

CHAPEL HILL In 1912, German meterorologist Alfred Wegener proposed a theory that first angered and then intrigued scientists and others ever since.

Continents shifted around at far slower than a snails pace throughout Earths history like pieces of a puzzle, drifting together and pulling apart to form oceans, he said. Part of the eventual fascination with his idea came from globe-gazers observation that continents such as Africa and South America look like they could fit together snugly.

Following up on Wegener and others work, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill geologist believes he has discovered a new, long-vanished supercontinent. That early amalgamation of most of the world's continents in one vast land area later split up several times, reformed and divided again to begin shaping Earths current continents.

The primeval supercontinent, which Professor John J.W. Rogers named Columbia, existed more than 1.5 billion years ago and is older than any of several giant landmasses previously proposed.

I named the supercontinent Columbia because some of the best evidence for its existence is in the Columbia River region of western North America, Rogers said. Starting at about 1.8 billion years ago, all of the continents existing at that time began to collide into a single land area.

Rogers describes his ideas in a scientific paper with fellow geologist Dr. M. Santosh of Kochi University in Japan published in the current issue of the Gondwana Research, a quarterly journal devoted to studies of Earths early land masses.

The east coast of India became attached to western North America, with southern Australia against western Canada, he said. Most of present South America rotated so that the western edge of Brazil lined up with eastern North America, forming a continental margin that extended into the southern edge of Scandinavia.

This formed an area that stretched about 8,000 miles from southern South Ameri
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
18-Mar-2002


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