Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Vanished Ocean: How Tethys Reshaped the World

Synopsis

This is a book about an ocean that vanished six million years ago - the ocean of Tethys. Named after a Greek sea nymph, there is a sense of mystery about such a vast, ancient ocean, of which all that remains now are a few little pools, like the Caspian Sea. There were other great oceans in the history of the Earth - Iapetus, Panthalassa - but Tethys was the last of them, vanishing a mere moment (in geological terms) before Man came on the scene. Once Tethys stretched across the world. How do we know? And how could such a vast ocean vanish? The clues of its existence are scattered from Morocco to China. This book tells the story of the ocean, from its origins some 250 million years ago, to its disappearance. It also tells of its impact on life on Earth. The dinosaurs were just beginning to get going when Tethys formed, and they were long dead by the time it disappeared. Dorrik Stow describes the powerful forces that shaped the ocean; the marine life it once held and the rich deposits of oil that life left behind; the impact of its currents on environment and climate. It is rarely realized how very important oceans are to climate and environment, and therefore to life on Earth. The story of Tethys is also a story of extinctions, and floods, and extraordinary episodes such as the virtual drying up of the Mediterranean, before being filled again by a dramaticcascade of water over the straits of Gibralter. And in the telling of that story, we also learn how geologists put together the clues in rocks and fossils to discover Tethys and its history.

Excerpt

This is the story of a lost ocean, which is known to geologists as the Tethys Ocean. It lasted for 250 million years of Earth history, dominating the equatorial world and playing host to the changing life and events that have shaped the world we inhabit today. As continents moved and sea levels rose, Tethys waters swept north across large tracts of Europe, Asia and North America, and south over Africa and South America. As sea level fell so Tethys receded. Continent ground against continent and Tethys was finally squeezed out of existence just 5½ million years ago. But there is a very rich legacy from this past ocean hidden in the rocks of many continents and buried deep beneath the ocean floors of the present-day world.

For many years of my professional career as a geologist and oceanographer, I have worked on rocks on land or drilled into sediments beneath the seas that were once a part of the Tethys Ocean. Slowly and carefully, I have gathered countless clues and amassed a large body of evidence. Sometimes I was looking directly for such evidence, but equally often I was working on some altogether different topic when a new piece of the jigsaw puzzle appeared and neatly slotted into place. That is the way of science. A great many other scientists over many years have been involved, directly or indirectly, in research on the Tethys. The results of their research, like my own, are published in scientific journals and books across the world.

The evidence is incontrovertible. This is a true story – or at least as true a rendition of the scientific facts as we can produce from our . . .

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