It was nothing less than tumultuous and on a scale that almost defies comprehension. In relatively recent times probably only the eruption of Krakatoa affords us the opportunity to grasp the full impact of the events.
In 1883 the Indonesian volcano of Krakatoa erupted with such force that 36,000 were killed, while the explosion itself was heard 3,000 miles away. The eruption triggered tidal waves 100 feet high that swept across the Java Sea and caused flooding as far away as East Africa and the Western shores of America. Vast quantities of volcanic rock and dust were spewed into the atmosphere; so much so that average global temperatures dropped over the following few years as the suns rays were screened by a lingering curtain of volcanic dust particles.
Now imagine not one Krakatoa but many, and all at the same time.
Of course you may think that it can’t happen: but it already has. We know because spread across the planet there are graveyards that bear witness to just such a catastrophe. In the La Brea tar pits in modern Los Angeles, for example, the remains of a variety of animals was unearthed: including bison, horses, camels, sloth, mammoths and at least seven hundred sabre tooth tigers; all of them completely and suddenly engulfed in a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Amongst their number researchers also found a disarticulated human skeleton, enveloped in bitumen and mixed with the bones of a now extinct species of vulture.
Elsewhere vast herds of animals were caught, not in volcanic eruptions, but by sudden and catastrophic climate change. The remains of sabre tooth cats, and herds of deer and horses lie solid beneath the frigid wastes of Alaska and Siberia. Many have been almost perfectly preserved, as if they were frozen in an instant. Indeed some mammoth carcasses have even been thawed out and fed to sled dogs.
But more than volcanic activity and climatic change has swept the planet: cataclysmic geophysical change has also left its mark, drowning whole stretches of terra firma or conversely raising mountains out of level plains. As witness the ruined Bolivian port city of Tiahuanaco. Located high in the Andes, at nearly 12,500 above sea level, it is testimony to the sheer power of the geophysical forces that have shaped the face of this planet.
That such cataclysms have been a periodic event in our planet’s past is beyond question. The relative calm of recent millennia tends to make us forget that 15,000 years ago the end of the ice age brought with it a string of mass extinctions as sabre tooth tigers, mammoths, mastodons and numerous other species were wiped out in a series of planetary upheavals. Along with various animal extinctions the evidence is also mounting that whole civilisations may have been destroyed too, and the mechanism behind all this was a simple one; one that would account for the sudden geophysical shifts, the abrupt climatic changes and the succession of volcanoes and earthquakes that shook the globe.
Quite simply the earth’s rotation, acting on its unsymmetrical polar ice caps, produces a centrifugal momentum that is gradually conveyed to the rest of the planet’s crust. With time and as the ice slowly accumulates the momentum steadily increases, ultimately causing the earths relatively thin crust to slide over of its molten inner core. At least that was the idea put forward by Professor Charles Hapgood nearly half a century ago when Albert Einstien, who called for its further investigation, enthusiastically endorsed it.
Despite Einstien’s enthusiasm the scientific and academic establishments have studiously ignored the theory, or so it would appear. Yet even supposedly simple, unscientific peoples have intuitively recognised its potential, as one ancient Native American prophecy puts it:
“There are two water serpents, one at each pole with a warrior sitting on his head and tail. These command nature to warn us by her activities that time is getting short and we must correct ourselves. If we refuse to heed these warnings the warriors will let go of the serpents, they will rise up and all will perish.”
Ancient Hopi prophesy.
According to Einstien, the momentum built up would eventually result in a dramatic shift of the Polar Regions toward the equator. And it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in the wake of such a shift would come flooding and inundation, as the icecaps melted and the sea levels rose. So even those areas unaffected by seismic activity and volcanoes would be inundated with tumultuous floods, which may also account for the ancient stories of a great flood, they may indeed be the half forgotten folk memories of just such an event.
However, even before then other cataclysms had virtually extinguished all life on earth. For example, fossil records indicate that nearly 250 million years ago the Earth was teeming with life, and then during a brief window of geologic time, virtually all of it was wiped out. Only recently palaeontologists came across evidence of this, noticing a distinct difference between fossil layers: at one level in the rock stratum there are indications of an ancient world swarming with life. In more recent layers, just above that point, all signs of life suddenly vanish. No class of life was apparently spared: trees, plants, lizards, proto-mammals, insects, fish, molluscs, and microbes – nearly all were wiped out. Roughly 9 in 10 marine species and 7 in 10 land species vanished. Life on our planet almost came to an end.
Then, 65 million years ago another great cataclysm swept the planet; taking with it the dinosaurs, the reptilian giants that once ruled the earth.
These latter two catastrophes, added to the cataclysms at the end of the last ice age, add up to three; which by strange coincidence recall the Native American Hopi traditions that there were three worlds before this one. The first, say the tribal traditions, was destroyed by an all-consuming fire that came ‘from the ground below and the sky above’. The second world ended when the planet toppled from its planetary axis and everything was covered with ice, and the third world ended in a universal flood. While the fate of this world, the fourth, now hangs in the balance. Likewise the ancient Mayan teachings spoke four worlds, or ages, that the gods had ordained for mankind.
So the Billion Dollar question is: could it happen again?
See part II for a possible answer