Mars crater (Image: WikiImages, Pixabay)

Fingerprints of the Gods Exhibit 10, Part B – Mars, Gondwana ice sheets, and Gothenburg excursion

The next part of Exhibit 10 in FOG jumps back and forth over an eclectic variety of topics from alleged Martian crustal displacement to continental glaciation in the prehistoric past, to Vedic mythology, and finally to magnetic reversals.

The Mars and Crustal Displacement

Hancock (1995:482) cites Schultz (1985) as evidence that the planet Mars has experienced crustal shifting. However, from what is known about the internal structure of Mars, e.g. Schultz (1985) and Zuber et al. (2000), it differs greatly from the internal structure of Earth. Mars is essentially a tectonically dead planet that lacks an asthenosphere and, thus, is unable to support plate tectonics much less Earth crustal displacement. The lithosphere of Mars consists of a single solid plate that has locally contracted and expanded during initial cooling to produce many fractured areas and an enormous rift canyon. Instead of by either plate tectonic or crustal displacement, the surface of Mars rotated relative to axis as the result of true polar wander, as described by Schultz (1985), which FOG confused with crustal displacement.

In the case of true polar wandering, the rotation of Mars is caused either by the redistribution of material within a planet or redistribution of angular momentum between the atmosphere and planet. The redistribution of material can occur either as magma plumes, other mantle flow, or the construction of massive volcanoes on the surface of Mars. The redistribution changes the moment of inertia of the planet, which changes the spatial orientation of the Euler axes. This results in the planet shifting its orientation in space without shifting the orientation of its spin axis in inertial space. In the case of “true polar wander” the angle of obliquity remains fixed in inertial space while the planet moves with respect to the spin axis (Spada et al. 1996). This is the mechanism proposed by Kirschvink et al. (1997) for changes in the orientation of the Earth surface during the early Cambrian which Hancock and Faiia (1998:210-211) also have hopelessly confused with Earth crustal displacement.

In addition, research by Laskar (1996) and Laskar and Robutel (1993) has established that the angle of obliquity of Mars, unlike the obliquity of Earth, is chaotic. They found that the tilt of Mars varies chaotically from 0 degrees to about 60 degrees. The obliquity of the Earth is presently stable only because of the presence of the Moon. Thus, Mars is an unsuitable analogue, in addition to its differing internal structure, for understanding plate tectonics, crustal displacement, and paleocliamtic changes related to them on Earth.

World Distribution of Ancient Ice Sheets

Having completely confused “crustal shift” with true polar wandering in his discussion about Mars, Hancock (1995:482) asked:

If crustal displacements can happen on Mars, why not on earth?

Citing Hapgood (1970:47-49) as the primary source, FOG incorrectly claimed that that one “one awkward fact” supporting the hypothesis of Earth crustal displacement is:

…that not a single one of the ice-caps built up around the world during the previous Ice Ages seems to have occurred at – even near – either of the present poles.

FOG further stated:

If we cannot assume crustal shifts, we must find some other way to explain why the ice-caps appear to have reached sea level within the tropics on three continents, Asia, Africa, and Australia

The only thing “awkward” about the glaciations in Africa, Asia (India), and Australia is that contrary to what is stated in FOG, the “other way” to explain the distribution of the ice sheets, plate tectonics, has been found and explains the distribution of ice sheets quite well. This “other way” has been extensively published in the literature and is well known to even undergraduate students as illustrated by undergraduate textbooks, e.g. Wicander and Monroe (1989:Figs. 11-1, 11-2, and 13-3) and Stanley (1985:Fig. 12-37), published several years before Hancock (1995:482).

When Hapgood (1970) discussed the occurrence of glacial tills in India, Australia, and Africa, it was a still somewhat of a mystery because detailed reconstructions of the movement of these continents due to plate tectonic were still in their infancy. However, in 25 years between when “Path of Pole” was published and FOG was first issued, paleomagnetic and research had demonstrated that both “ice sheets” were part of single ice sheet that covered the prehistoric continent of Gondwana during the Carboniferous. As illustrated by Wicander and Monroe (1989:Figs. 11-1, 11-2, and 13-3), a basic historical geology textbook published six years before FOG (Hancock 1995), this ice sheet covered the portion of Gondwana that was situated at the South pole, the same general location where Antarctica now lies. Similarly, many years before FOG was published, textbooks for undergraduate level historical geology classes, e.g. Stanley (1985:Fig. 12-37), showed that the Late Ordovician glacial deposits accumulated in northwestern Africa when it lay over the South Pole.

Only during the period from 750 to 570 million years ago did two of four continental glaciations extended into low latitude. All of these glaciations were centered on the Earth’s poles. However, based on paleomagnetic data, two of these glaciations extended from the poles into anomalously low latitudes. Since there was synchronous glaciation of the contemporaneous poles and the low latitudes, these anomalies cannot be explained by Earth crustal shift. The glacial deposits of these glaciations are characteristically overlain globally by younger carbonates that are paleoclimatically dichotomous with the underlying glacial deposits and characterized by negative carbon isotope anomalies. Recent research, e.g. Hoffman and Schrag (2000) and Hoffman et al. (1998), has explained the anomalous presence of ice sheets at low latitudes and carbonate caps with their snowball Earth model and its ultra-greenhouse aftermath.

Finally, Hancock (1995:482) stated:

The logic is inescapable. Either we accept that the Antarctic ice cap is the first continent size sheet ever to have been situated at a pole – which seems improbable – or we are obliged to suppose that earth-crustal displacement of similar mechanism, must have been at work.

The inescapable answer is that this is a false dilemma. The simple fact of the matter is that Antarctica is beyond a shadow of a doubt is **not** the first continent size sheet ever to have been situated at a pole. Other continental ice sheets, as discussed above, have been situated at a pole but are no longer situated there as the result of being moved about the world by plate tectonics. Sufficient evidence exists of plate tectonics that it is not even necessary to “suppose” anything about it being the mechanism that has been at work. That FOG even suggested that modern East and West Antarctic ice sheet was the first “first continent size sheet ever to have been situated at a pole” shows the almost complete lack of research in terms of the geological aspects of the Earth crustal displacement theory that it presents.

Memories of the Polar Dawn

In an abrupt change of subject that characterizes Exhibit 10, Hancock (1995:482-482) at length discusses how various interpretations of the Mahabaratha and Surya Siddhanta, Vedic religious texts written in India a long, long way from the Arctic, allegedly preserve memories of polar conditions prior to a Earth crustal displacement. Much like Young Earth creationists, FOG resorts a materialistic interpretation of religious text that disregards their spiritual context. Here passages are quoted out of their spiritual context in order to fabricate evidence for completely materialistic scientific theories.

It is true that religious mythology might preserve record of prehistoric geological and astronomical events. In addition, conventional scientists recognize the basic premise that myths **might** preserve records of ancient geologic and astronomic events witnessed by prehistoric people. In fact, numerous geologists have used mythology as an indicator of what such events, e.g. hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunami, might have happened in the recent past.

A basic problem is that it impossible to determine which events in a myth represents real events versus ones that are included either for purposes of simple storytelling or as a metaphor for a spiritual truth or instruction. Also, it is very easy for people ignorant of the way, sometimes deliberately hidden from the general public and outsiders, a specific cultural or religious group interprets symbols and phrases to interpret the symbols and words, in terms of their own culture and learning. It is impossible to know solely from the text of the Mahabaratha and Surya Siddhanta whether the passages that FOG quotes are either accurate descriptions of events that happened in the past, fiction created for purposes of advancing the story, exaggerations created for dramatic effect, or even metaphors or phrases that contain covert spiritual messages. The problem is that FOG and the other authors cannot know, from simply reading a myth, whether it represents either real events or ones created for purposes of either story telling or religious instruction.

Many factors conspire to greatly obfuscate the descriptions of ancient geologic or astronomic events witnessed by prehistoric people and preserved in ancient records or mythology. First, because ancient peoples lacked a detailed scientific understanding and terminology for the geologic and astronomical events that they witness, their descriptions are often vague and lack critical details needed to conclusively identify the event. Thus, from the very start, the record of an event can be quite ambiguous and open to any number of interpretations depending on the prejudices of the person interpretation them. Second, a myth often presents a chronology that is very vague to point that it refers to a relatively long span of time. Finally, the description of an event can be further modified by later mistranslation of text and embellishments added either for purposes of improving how the story is told or the political or religious content of the myth. As a result, the limitations of the author and later editors and nature of the record itself further obscure the actual description of an alleged event making the interpretation of such writings quite difficult, including deciding whether a specific myth is allegorical or historical or awkward mixture of the two.

An Epoch of Turmoil and Darkness

For the final part of Exhibit 10 of Chapter 51 of FOG, Hancock (1995:484-485), abruptly shifts his discussion from Vedic mythology to reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field. He starts with a few basic facts about the Earth’s modern magnetic field and then proceeds to discuss past reversals of the magnetic fields.

After this introduction, FOG quotes Runcorn (1955:162) from Hapgood (1970:61) as having stated:

There seems to be no doubt that the earth’s magnetic field is tied up in some way to the rotation of the planet. And this leads to the remarkable finding about the earth’s rotation itself…[The unavoidable conclusion is that] the earth’s axis of rotation has changed also, In other words, the planet has rolled about, changing the location of the geographic poles.

FOG failed to note two major problems. First, the quote is from an article published in 1955 some 40 years prior to the initial publication of Hancock (1995). In choosing this reference, FOG ignored over four decades of research by Earth scientists that have answered many of the questions that Runcorn (1955) raises in his article. Second, Hapgood (1970:61) edited this quote in the manner of Young Earth creationists as to completely alter its meaning. In the full quote, Runcorn (1955:162) stated:

There seems to be no doubt that the earth’s magnetic field is tied up in some way to the rotation of the planet. And this leads to the remarkable finding about the earth’s rotation itself. Aside from the complete magnetic reversals, or flip-flops, of the magnetic fields, the magnetic poles have wandered gradually throughout the period of magnetic history readable in the rocks. We can only suppose from this that the earth’s axis of rotation has changed also, In other words, the planet has rolled about, changing the location of the geographic poles [see map on page 154].

From the complete quote it is quite clear that FOG is completely wrong when it states:

Runcorn appears to be envisaging a complete 180-degree flip of the poles, with the earth literally tumbling – although similar palaeomagnetic readings would result from a slippage of the crust over the geographic poles.

In the full quote, Runcorn (1955:162) specifically excluded magnetic reversals from his hypothesis that the wandering of magnetic poles was caused by the “gradual” changes in the position of the Earth’s axis in relation to magnetic poles. The discussion by FOG about whether Runcorn (1955)’s ideas are right or wrong is moot because the way that FOG interpreted them is wrong in itself.

The same year that FOG, (Hancock 1995) was published, Glatzmaier et al. (1995) published a landmark paper that proposed a non-catastrophic explanation to the origin of magnetic reversals. It provides a far superior explanation of magnetic reversals. Unlike the catastrophic origin of magnetic reversals proposed by FOG, predictions made by the model of Glatzmaier et al. (1995) have been confirmed by later research by Earth scientists such as Song and Richards (1996). Revealingly, later editions of FOG have ignored the research that Glatzmaier et al. (1995) and Song and Richards (1996) have published despite its applicability to their discussion about the origin of magnetic reversals.

The Gothenburg “Flip”

In the case of the Gothenburg “flip,” which Hancock (1995) misidentified as a “magnetic reversal, FOG again provided a poorly researched analysis. The still unproved Gothenburg “flip,” if real, was a rapid and brief change of magnetic field that occurred about 12,350 BP. It was not a real magnetic reversal. The last true magnetic reversal occurred 730,000 years in the change from the reverse polarity of the Matuyama Magnetic Epoch to the normal polarity of the Brunhes Magnetic Epoch. The Gothenburg “flip,” as proposed by Morner (1971) and reported by Anonymous (1972), is more properly called a “magnetic excursion” because the Earth magnetic field did not reverse itself permanently but briefly changed without complete reversal over the period of a few years. For this event to represent Earth crustal displacement, the Earth’s crust at about 12,350 BP would have to shift 180 degrees one direction and shift another 180 degrees back to its exact original position within the space of a few years. The timing of the Gothenburg “flip” fails to match any proposed Earth shift by either Hapgood (1970) or Flem-Ath (1997) in either timing or amount of predicted shift. Also, the validity of the Gothenburg excursion has been challenged by a number of studies which repeated have failed to detect its presence in a number of paleomagnetic records that cover 12,350 BP. At this time there is considerable question that the Gothenburg excursion even occurred and, in fact, the result of soft sediment deformation (Jacob 1994:103-107).

FOG claimed that the Gothenburg excursion corresponds to an abnormal number of abrupt rises in sea level, hurricane-force winds, electrical disturbances, volcanic disturbances, or extinctions indicative of a planetary catastrophe. However, Hancock (1995:485) offered no hard evidence that the Gothenburg excursion is specifically associated with any of these. FOG also associated Gothenburg excursion with the disproved claim that Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaca) is as old as 12,000 BP and speculative and unproved hypotheses that parts of the Giza complex are that old as well. Abrupt changes in sea level occurred through terminal Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs while the frequency of volcanic activity has remained the same throughout that period of time. There exists a noticeable lack any identifiable peak in activity at the time of the Gothenburg excursion. For example, no tsuamni deposits have been dated to the specific time of the Gothenburg excursion although tsuamni deposits dating from Early Holocene to the last interglacial now recognized in various parts of the world. There is a remarkable lack of any evidence of any planetary scale catastrophe associated with the Gothenburg excursion.

The extinction of Pleistocene megafauna in North America occurred at a dates unrelated to the 12,350 BP age of the Gothenburg excursion. Dr. Holmes Semken (University of Iowa), Dr. Russell Graham (Denver Museum of Natural History), and radiocarbon dating expert Dr. Thomas Stafford (Stafford Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado) conducted 140 AMS dates on protein extracted from bones of Pleistocene megafauna collected from sites from all over North America. From these data, Elias (1999:3) reported:

It now appears that the major megafaunal extinction event took place at 11,400 14C yr B.P. This event included the extinction of camels, horses, giant sloths, Pleistocene bison, and all other genera of megafaunal mammals that did not survive beyond 11,400 14C yr B.P., with the exception of the proboscideans. Mammoths and mastodons persisted beyond 11,400 yr B.P. Stafford et al. have dated the extinction of North American mammoth and mastodon to 10,900-10,850 yr B.P. So it now appears that there were two distinct extinction episodes. Each event took less than 100 years.

Thus, as in case of other physical events, there is no correspondence between the extinction of megafauna in North America and the Gothenburg excursion.

The “Predicted Magnetic Reversal of 2030 AD

The final item in Exhibit 10 of FOG involves the sentence:

Scientists expect the next reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles to occur in AD 2030.

There are several problems with this interpretation. First, the paper is about the westward drift of the Earth’s magnetic field, not about any predictions of impending magnetic reversals. Harwood and Malin (1976:470) mention only in passing that “if” the dipole field keeps decreasing at its present rate, it would attain zero intensity and might reverse. However, as explained in Chapter 4 of Merill and McElhinny (1983), this is a fallacious use of extrapolation in which a trend is assumed beyond a point permitted by the data. The Earth’s magnetic fields fluctuate in intensity to the point that such extrapolation is not scientifically defensible. Finally, FOG has the year for the attainment of “zero intensity” wrong by 200 years as the exact year mentioned by Harwood and Main (1976:470) is 2230 not 2030. In this case, Hancock (1995:485) is prematurely worried about “planetary disaster.”


A detailed inspection of the evidence presented by FOG shows that Hancock (1995) failed to produce any substantial evidence for Earth crustal displacement having every occurred in the prehistoric past. For example in Exhibit 10, FOG presented as evidence for Earth displacement an eclectic, disjointed rehash of obsolete research and religious mythology and science fiction that includes:

1. Young Earth creationist hearsay about tropical fossils;

2. an interpretation about Baffin Island lacking an ice cap that has been soundly refuted since Hapgood (1970) made this interpretation;

3. a very obscure, 47 year old Russian article that actually supports conventional glacial models and refutes Earth crustal displacemnt;

4. Young Earth creationist folklore about flash frozen mammoths;

5. a discussion that completely confused true polar wander and Earth crustal displacement;

6. discussion of ancient ice sheets that completely ignored plate tectonics;

7. Vedic mythology used to interpret prehistoric paleoclimates;

8. misquote from an almost five decade old article by Runcorn (1955); and

9. a magnetic excursion, which many geologists don’t accepted as even being real, is greatly exaggerated and falsely portrayed as a magnetic reversal and associated with false claims of extinction and catastrophic events.

In Exhibit 10, obsolete science is repeatedly and confused with modern state of art geology in the worse fashion by its heavy reliance on Hapgood (1970) for supporting evidence. Hapgood (1970) is not only over 30 years old but predates many tremendous advances in geology, specifically plate tectonics, paleomagnetism, and Quaternary geology. These advances not only showed that Hapgood (1970) not only had many of his facts, e.g. the glacial history of Baffin Island, wrong but also consigned Earth crustal displacement to being nothing more than a disproved historical curiosity. By focusing on Hapgood (1970), FOG overlooked more recent theories that far better explains the evidence presented in Exhibit 10 than Earth crustal displacement. Unlike the Young Earth creationist material, which consisted of “science fiction” when it was written, Hapgood (1970) was moderately good science at the time it was written. However, research over the last thirty years in various disciplines of geology has proved the ideas proposed and a number of observations used by Hapgood (1970) to be wrong beyond any salvation or current use. The one advantage of citing Hapgood (1970) as an authority is that a person can pretend that decades worth of research refuting Earth crustal displacement doesn’t exist while maintaining the appearance of a scientific article.

In summary, Exhibit 10 failed to present any credible evidence for Earth crustal displacement. If anything, the way that Exhibit 10 ignored thirty years of scientific research in places like Baffin Island and the Arctic Ocean clearly illustrates that Earth crustal displacement is a viable hypothesis only if a person simply ignores geologic research that has occurred over the last 30 years.

References Cited:

Anonymous, 1973, A cold time to switch poles. New Scientist, p. 7 (January 6, 1972)

Elias, S. A., 1999, Quaternary Paleobiology Update Debate continues over the cause of Pleistocene megafauna extinction. The Quaternary Times: Newsletter of the American Quaternary Association. vol. 29, no. 1, p. 3 (May 1999)

Flem-Ath, R., and Flem-Ath, R., 1995, When the Sky fell: in Search of Atlantis. St. Martin’s: New York.

Glatzmaier, G. A. and Roberts, P. H., 1995, A three-dimensional self-consistent computer simulation of a geomagnetic field reversal. Nature, vol. 377, no, ???, pp. 203-209.

Hancock, G. 1995. Fingerprints of Gods. William Heinemann Ltd, New York.

Hancock, G. and Faiia, S., 1998, Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the Lost Civilization. Crowns Publishers, New York.

Harwood, J. M., and Malin, S. R. C., 1976, Present trends in the Earth’s magnetic field. Nature. vol. 259, no. 5542, pp. 469-471.

Hoffman, P. F. and Schrag, D. P., 2000, Snowball Earth. Scientific American. January 2000, no. 1, p. 68-75.

Hoffman, P. F., Kaufman, J. A., Halverson, G. P., and Schrag, D .P., 1998, A Neoproterozoic snowball Earth. Science. vol. 281 (5381), pp. 1342-1346.

Jacob, J. A., 1994, Reversals of the Earth’s Magnetic Field. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kirschvink, J. L., Ripperdan, R. L., and Evans, D. A., 1997, Evidence for a large-scale reorganization of Early Cambrian continental masses by inertial interchange true polar wander. Science. vol. 277, no. 5325, pp. 541-545.

Laskar J., 1996, Large scale chaos and marginal stability in the solar system. Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. vol. 64, no. 1-2, pp. 115-162.

Laskar, J., and Robutel, P., 1993, The chaotic obliquity of the planets. Nature. vol. 361, no. 6413, pp. 608-612.

Merrill, R. T., and McElhinney, W. M., 1983, The Earth’s Magnetic Field. Academic Press, New York.

Morner, R. A., 1971, Late Weichselian paleomagnetic reversal. Nature Physical Science, vol. 234, no. 52, pp. 173-174 (December 27, 1971).

Runcorn, S. K., 1955, The earth’s magnetism. Scientific American. vol. 193, no. 3, pp. 152-154.

Schultz, P. H., 1985, Polar wandering on Mars. Scientific American. vol. 253, no. 6, pp. 102.

Song, X., and Richards, P. G., 1996, Seismological evidence for differential rotation of the earth’s inner core. Nature. vol. 382, no. 6588, pp. 221-224.

Spada, G., Sabadini, R., and Boschi E., 1996, Long-term rotation and mantle dynamics of the Earth, Mars, and Venus. Journal of Geophysical Research, E, Planets. vol. 101, no. 1, pp. 2,253-2,266.

Stanley, S. M., 1985, Earth and Life Through Time. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York.

Wicander, Reed, and Monroe, J. S., 1989, Historical Geology: Evolution of the Earth and Life Through Time. West Publishing Company, Los Angeles.

Zuber, M. T., S. C. Solomon, R. J. Phillips, D. E. Smith, G. L. Tyler, O. Aharonson, G. Balmino, W. B. Banerdt, J. W. Head, C. L. Johnson, F. G. Lemoine, P. J. McGovern, G. A. Neumann, D. D. Rowlands, and S. Zhong, 2000, Internal structure and early thermal evolution of Mars from Mars Global Surveyor topography and gravity, Science. vol. 287,  Issue 5459, pp. 1788-1793, 2000.

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