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The Long-Forgotten Science of Polar Wandering (cont.)
By Kyle Bennett

Way back in 1866, Evans published a paper titled “On a possible Geological Cause of Changes in the Position of the Axis of the Earth’s Crust” [ref]. This set out almost exactly the same theory as Hapgood developed almost a century later. Just like Hapgood, he believed the most recent Ice Ages in Britain and North America could be explained by crust displacements, claiming that these lands were much nearer the North Pole in those times. A similar paper was written by John Lubbock, titled “On Change of Climate Resulting from a Change in the Earth’s Axis of Rotation”, which was also presented to the Geological Society.

Evans was convinced that evidence of extreme climatic change found in the geological record, including fossils proving that the Arctic was once tropical, could only be explained by polar wandering, with displacements of the whole earth’s crust being the suggested cause. As James Geikie described in The Great Ice Age (1887):

“Mr Evans has ingeniously sought to account for the remains of large trees that are found in Greenland, and for the traces of glacial cold in this country [i.e. Britain], by considering whether it might not be possible that the external crust or shell of the globe had actually slid round its fluid or semi-fluid nucleus, so as to bring the same areas of the external suface under very different conditions. Thus it was suggested that lands, which at one time basked under a tropical sun, might, in the slow course of ages, be shifted to some more northern region, while countries which had for long years been sealed up in the ice of the Arctic Circle might eventually slide down into tropical latitudes.”

Evans came to this opinion after studying the work of his colleague, Sir Henry James, who had also come to the conclusion that the only possible explanation for those tropical climates in the Arctic was polar wandering. As Evans explained in 1866:

“Sir Henry James….writing to the Athenseum newspaper in 1860, stated that he had long since arrived at the conclusion that there was no possible explanation of some of the geological phenomena testifying to the climate at certain spots having greatly varied at different periods, without the supposition of constant changes in the position of the axis of the earth’s rotation.”

Evans was highly convinced by this view, and went on to propose his theory of crust displacement, which would allow the parts of the earth surface to back and forth between the tropical and polar regions over the ages:

“this crust, from various causes, is liable to changes disturbing its equilibrium, it becomes apparent that such disturbances may lead, if not to a change in the position of the general axis of the globe, yet at all events to a change in the relative positions of the solid crust and the fluid nucleus, and in consequence to a change in the axis of rotation, so far as the former [the crust] is concerned.”

He proposed that rising mountain ranges may cause a gravitational imbalance in the crust, which would then act to slide the crust over the molten rock below, through the action of centrifugal force upon them. He then discussed how large ice caps, placed off-centre of the poles, would have a similar unbalancing effect. So here was Hapgood’s theory on the cause of Earth Crust Displacements, being seriously discussed a century earlier by the President of the Geological Society. And the arguments he used are still relevant today.

Evan even built a complicated model, with the assistance of Francis Galton Darwin, which he presented to the fellows of the Royal Society. It demonstrated, using weighted adjustable screws attached to a wheel – representing a section of the crust – how an imbalance in the spinning crust would cause it to rotate. The subject was then seriously discussed a decade later at a symposium of the Geological Society, on February 21st, 1877.

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