On the Possibility of Instantaneous Shifts of the Poles (cont.)
By Flavio Barbiero
On the Possibility of Instantaneous Shifts of the Poles
The hypothesis that the position of the poles - and as well the inclination of the terrestrial axis in relation to the ecliptic - might change first began to be given serious consideration during the 19th century. Some of the greatest scientists of the time, including J.C. Maxwell and Sir George Darwin (son of the famous Charles Darwin), considered this problem and decided that the stabilising effect of the equatorial bulge was so great that no conceivable force could make the Earth shift on its axis, except for a collision with another planet. They therefore dismissed the idea of any shift of the poles as impossible and, in fact, not worth discussing. Their influence has been so strong that to this day no one has seriously contemplated such an hypothesis again.
Hapgood too accepts un-critically the assumption that only a "planetary collision" is capable of displacing the axis of rotation. Therefore he proposes a theory that explains the shift of the poles as the result of the shift of the whole Earth's crust. Based on the research of the Russian scientist V.V. Beloussov, he assumes that at a depth of approximately one hundred miles in the upper mantle there is a layer of liquid rock which behaves as a bearing allowing the whole crust to "shift" when subjected to a displacing force. In Hapgood's opinion this force is provided by the centrifugal momentum of ice caps positioned eccentrically with respect to the poles. In this way the Earth would keep its axis of rotation unchanged, but the poles and the whole Earth's surface would shift and change latitude.
The evidence proving that the poles where in different positions during the Pleistocene era is quite impressive, and this explains why Hapgood's theory was approved by scientists of the calibre of Einstein and K.F. Mather. But it meets with so many difficulties that it appears highly controversial. Above all, it does not seem to be compatible with other geological theories which are widely accepted today, notably plate tectonics and continental drift.
Furthermore the theory does not explain some of the key peculiarities of the climate changes of the late Pleistocene - most significantly the speed with which these changes appear to have taken place. According to Hapgood's theory it took the north pole at least two thousand years to move from its previous position to the present. The evidence we have, however, supports a much faster climatic change. It was Hapgood himself who underlined a great amount of data proving the high speed at which the shift of the poles appears to have happened; yet the mechanism he proposes does not explain this speed.
It appears that we can explain completely and coherently what took place at the end of Pleistocene by admitting the possibility of a shift of the poles of the same magnitude Hapgood hypothesises, but in a much shorter time: not more than a few days. This possibility is generally rejected because no convincing explanation for such a phenomenon has been brought forward so far. According to scientists, the only way to make a planet change its axis of rotation is that of "adding" to it a mass comparable to its own. But it is my view that at least one other way exists, one that has not been considered yet -- that of "re-shaping" its equatorial bulges around a different axis.
If Earth was a perfectly rigid and spherical body, a single man walking on its surface could make its poles shift. In fact, the stability of the Earth is provided only by its equatorial bulges, some 12 km thick, very small with respect to the Earth's radius. Move the equatorial bulges and the poles will move accordingly. Impossible? Not really, if you consider that two thirds of Earth's surface is covered with water; and every naval engineer knows that free liquid surfaces induce instability (experience shows that a simple tsunami is enough to make the poles shift of by measurable amount). Let's see how this instability can result in a wide and permanent shift of the poles.