"The State of The World" Number 11
Complete Index Of All Issues
The Greatest Islands Of Earth
In earlier times, "world" was simply taken to mean a country, or an empire e.g. "the Roman world." When humanity began exploring however, it became evident that all countries exist on a planet. The world didn't really end at the horizon, or at the shore.
Along with exploration came maps. As the maps became more accurate, people were startled to see that all of the continents could be fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. But, since the pieces were now widely separated by oceans, what was obvious was rejected - for lack of an explanation. It was a matter of "If we don't know, it must not be so."
By the 1800s, maps had become so accurate that the answer was obvious - the continents must, at some time in the past, have been together in one. A number of independent scientists offered theories about it, but most were quietly ignored, while others were mocked and ostracized for their scientific heresy." Some of them, those who steadfastly refused to abandon the truth, had their scientific careers destroyed.
The illustration below was produced by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini, a French geographer, in 1858. He was ignored.
In 1912, little over only a century ago, Alfred Lothar Wegener, a scientist in Germany offered, not only the same observation, but an accurate explanation of how it's still happening - the continents are slowly drifting around the Earth, a process known today as continental drift.
Wegener was also ignored until as late as the 1950s when science had advanced to the point that the movement could actually be measured. It could be denied no longer.
A further proof was found by oceanographers who mapped the seafloor. As shown below, there is a ridge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, running the entire distance from Iceland in the north to the extreme south Atlantic, that perfectly matches the coastlines of Africa and Europe with North and South America. That "mid-Atlantic ridge" marked the tectonic starting point of the ongoing drift of the continents.
Geologists now know that the interior of the Earth is liquid rock (as seen in molten lava that flows down the side of a volcano) and that the cooled solid-rock continents are floating atop that sea of rock. While the continents are very big, the molten ocean below them is vastly greater in size and power.
The lesson isn't just about geology. It's about not letting dogma, of any kind, blind one to what is now plain for all to "sea."