My friend brought to my attention this stunning collection of images by artist-geologist Ron Blakely, courtesy of this article in The Atlantic. The first shows how drastically North America has changed from 510 million years ago until the present day (which is in the bottom right corner). I tried to follow the location of Connecticut as I went backwards in time, but I lost it shortly after Europe smashed into the east coast of America.
It’s fascinating to see what seismic changes in geography occur even over the shortest periods of time. For example, looking at the three bottom panels, one sees the huge effect that the last Ice Age had on the continent. By the end of the Ice Age, Greenland had separated from Canada, the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay were formed, and the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska was severed. The farther back one goes, the more disorienting the continent becomes. Just look at that massive inland sea one row up from the bottom! The last remnant of that now is the Great Salt Lake in Utah, which explains how that Lake got its characteristic saltiness. Going back even further, we see continents join together and split apart again, forming new islands and closing familiar seas.
Blakey’s area of focus is North America, but he doesn’t stop there. He also has a series of images showing how the entire world changed from 600 million years ago to today. The last panel, showing the earth from 260 million to 600 million years ago, is below. But note that this is still not the beginning of the earth’s 4 billion-year-old story.
The Article has many more images of tectonic transformation, as does Ron Blakey’s website. He even has predictions for how the world will look 75 million years in the future, although it’s all very speculative. Thinking so far ahead in the future can make one’s head spin. Let’s not forget to live in the moment, folks!