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3.17: The Atlantic-Pacific Paradox

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    The Atlantic-Pacific Paradox

    Early exploration of Atlantic Ocean basin showed that it is surrounded mostly by gentle coastal planes and old, worn down mountain ranges, and had relatively little volcanic or earthquake activity in other regions. In contrast, the Pacific and other ocean regions were much less understood. In contrast, early exploration of the Pacific Ocean basin brought awareness of the region described as the Ring of Fire (see Figure 3.26). In most places around the Pacific Rim's Ring of Fire the transition zones of the continents to the deep ocean has large numbers of active or recently active volcanoes. This region also experiences large numbers of tremendous earthquakes. In most places where volcanic arcs (island belts and mountain ranges composed of volcanoes) appear on land, there are also very deep-water trenches located not too far offshore of the coastline.

    Why was Continental Drift rejected by the Scientific Community?

    Although Continental Drift intrigued the scientific community, it was largely rejected because there was no data to explain all the observable facts about how or why continents moved across ocean basin. This was largely because in the early 20th century very little was known about the nature of the world's ocean basins nor the physical characteristics of the structure of the Earth's asthenosphere and lithosphere. Many other hypotheses existed in the scientific community well into the late 20th century, but these conflicting ideas have faded in significance with the advances of the newer Plate Tectonics Theory. Wegener's hypothesis was rejected because he proposed a mechanism for continental drift, which turned out to be wrong.

    • His mechanism was complicated and involved the force of the earth spinning and the tides.
    • He was dismissed as a crank and his detractors said that he carefully picked his data to fit his hypothesis.
    • At this point in time the entire Earth was solid, so it was difficult to formulate a mechanism for continental drift.