iD magazine

Questions & Answers


Marvels that can change our perception of the world

Every schoolchil­d knows that there are seven continents. But recently geologists have discovered an eighth—and it’s directly beneath Europe. For 10 years an internatio­nal team of researcher­s led by Douwe van Hinsbergen at Utrecht University took more than 2,300 rock samples from European mountain ranges. Then they used special plate-tectonic reconstruc­tion software to re-create Europe as it was in the Triassic Period about 240 million years ago. It wasn’t easy. As van Hinsbergen explains: “The Mediterran­ean region is quite simply a geological mess. Everything is curved, broken, and stacked. Compared to this, the Himalayas represent a rather simple system.” But the work paid off: The scientists discovered that a chunk of continenta­l crust about the size of Greenland became separated from the northern portion of the African Plate approximat­ely 120 million years ago and gradually slid into Earth’s mantle beneath Southern Europe. The dislodged mass has been dubbed Greater Adria. Today most of the lost continent lies beneath the Mediterran­ean, but the top of the continenta­l plate was scraped off and is now part of mountain ranges from Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans to Italy. “Forget Atlantis,” says van Hinsbergen. “Without realizing it, vast numbers of tourists spend their holiday each year on the lost continent of Greater Adria.” He says his team used seismic waves to find the undergroun­d portion of the missing continent. “The use of seismic waves made it possible for us to trace the rest of the continenta­l plate—which was about 60 miles thick—to a depth of almost 1,000 miles.” The research team has created an animation that shows the formation and movement of the continenta­l plate from 240 million years ago down to the present day.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States