Catastrophic change

 
Published: Tuesday 31 March 1998

Continents break up, move away and rejoin again. Such unsteady phenomenon on the Earth has been happening for ages. Recently, scientists have predicted that in 50 million years from now, the continents that broke away from one large landmass and formed Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas, would merge back. According to them, the last time a break-up occurred was 200 million years ago. But what happened before that, how many times the 'break and make' of the continents occurred and how they looked like during the 4,500-million-year history of the Earth, is still not known to them. Scientists are now trying to collect data from the depths of the ocean floors and continental edges. Hans Upadhyay of the North Eastern Illinois University, Chicago, USA, says that the search for these elusive episodes may provide an insight into valuable mineral deposits, oil finds and rare materials. The discovery of North Sea oil was one such great find as earth scientists were chasing clues to put together continental drift theories. According to Upadhyay, it is possible to locate mineral deposits by tracking the movements of the continents over a long period.

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