This week, a group of geologists report that they’ve found a lost continent off the coast of Scotland. 55 million years ago, about 10 million years after dinosaurs died out, a chunk of the seafloor erupted from beneath the water. It created a small continent that existed for at least a million years, covered in dramatic mountains and valleys, and irrigated with streaming rivers. Eventually the landscape sank back beneath the waves, its once-sunny mountains buried beneath 2 kilometers of seabed.
How did this happen? The answer reveals that our planet is even more dangerous and magnificent than we knew.
In Nature Geoscience, Earth scientist Ross A. Hartley and colleagues describe their discovery, and offer some theories about how an entire continent could rise and fall in a million years — a brief moment in geological time. Above, you can see the image they created of part of the continent, including its coastline and a mountain whose slopes were deeply cut by rivers. Write Hartley and his team:
This image was constructed from sound waves which are bounced off different rock layers at depth. An ancient meandering riverbed can easily be seen.
They found this lost continent after using sound waves to map a volume of 10,000 square kilometers on the northwest continental shelf of Europe. Based on the weathering of rocks the researchers studied beneath the waves, it’s clear that a huge chunk of the seafloor was once above water, being eroded by wind and sun.
Read how it happened here The lost continent off the coast of Scotland