Traces of prehistoric supercontinent discovered off the coast of BrazilIs it the lost city of Atlantis?
|Photo credit: atlantis.haktanir.org |
| Rick Docksai | Wednesday, May 08, 2013
It’s not the legendary Atlantis, but researchers are claiming to
have found traces of a long-lost continent buried in the Atlantic Ocean
near Brazil. The researchers announced on Tuesday that samples of rock
from the site appear to be remnants of Pangea, the prehistoric supercontinent from which the Americas, Africa, and other present-day land masses eventually emerged.
A Brazilian-Japanese team that included researchers from the
Brazilian Geological Survey, the Oceanographic Institute of Sao Paolo,
and Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology found the
rocks during an expedition to study the Rio Grande Elevation,
a high-rising mass of ocean floor about 930 miles from the shore of Rio
de Janeiro. Over a month of study, the team examined the formation up
close through a series of dives in a three-person submersible craft to
as far down as 21,000 feet below the surface.
It was on these dives that the team noticed that the rock’s composite
minerals included granite, iron, and cobalt, none of which were present
in the surrounding seabed. The granite was a particularly noteworthy
find, since this rock usually only appears on land.
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The researchers drilled into the rock and extracted a few samples,
which they brought samples up to the surface and subjected to deeper
chemical analyses. They now hypothesize that the rock may have been an
island that existed alongside Pangea until 100 million years ago, when
the land masses that would become South America and Africa started
breaking off of the supercontinent. The island may have gotten caught in
between these fissures and pulverized into the ocean floor.
Roberto Ventura Santos, director of the Brazilian Geological Survey,
and other observers have already dubbed this theoretical island “Brazil’s Atlantis,”
in allusion to the island of ancient Greek lore. However, this
real-life island would presumably have disappeared beneath the waves
millions of years before there were any Greeks—or any humans, for that
matter—around to see it and write tributes to it.
No one expects to find any ancient cities within this granite, but
Santos does suggest that the rock’s discovery may have significant
implications for our understanding of the formation of the continents
and the evolution of Earth’s crust.
The team is now gathering samples of rock previously found in other
portions of the southern Atlantic for cross-comparisons. It expects to
return to the Rio Grande Elevation and conduct further drilling along
the site later this year.
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