Please join us in welcoming Kyle Bennett as December 2011 Author of the Month. Kyle is an independent researcher who works as a journalist by profession, specialising in commercial property and economics. He has been investigating the subject of polar wandering for over five years, and has recently published Polar Wandering and the Cycles of Ages (2011), which is an updated version of an earlier, unpublished work titled The Wayward Chariot (2007). He has also written a series of groundbreaking articles on the history of the idea of polar wandering within academia, including “Earth Crust Displacement and the British Establishment”, and an article on the 19th century intellectual Frederik Klee, one of the first men to claim that memories of polar wandering have been preserved within mythology.
The idea of polar wandering is most closely associated with an American professor called Charles Hapgood, particularly his theory of Earth Crust Displacement. He claimed that the polar axis periodically changes position upon the earth’s surface, and speculated that this was caused by the earth’s crust sliding as a whole over the semi-liquid layers below.
Hapgood believed that the last Ice Age in North America ended when this continent moved southward by around thirty degrees Latitude, while the once-temperate Arctic Ocean and Siberia moved up to the North Pole. He also claimed that a long term pattern of polar wandering, caused by successive pole shifts, causes parts of the earth’s surface to experience extreme climatic change, from polar to tropical. The evidence for these climatic changes has been growing steadily over the years, causing modern geologists to consider polar wandering as an explanation.
Unfortunately, the true history of the idea of polar wandering has been almost entirely forgotten, even by supporters of Hapgood’s work. Hapgood is partially to blame, as he failed to give an accurate history of the idea in his book Path of the Pole. Nowadays, polar wandering usually considered to a wacky, marginal idea, associated with occultists, Atlantis-hunters and New Age believers in 2012 millenarianism. Astonishingly, however, it was in fact developed and supported by some of the most influential men in the history of science: Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Comte George Louis Buffon (1707-1788), George Cuvier (1769-1832), Sir John Evans, Francis Galton Darwin, and Albert Einstein. It even gained popularity amongst the intellectual elite of Nazi Germany.
What is little known is that many of Hapgood’s ideas are becoming accepted within mainstream academia today, usually under the name of True Polar Wander (see Arthur Ryan’s sciencedoubts.com [here] for more articles on this subject). So polar wandering is becoming mainstream, and geologists’ theories are beginning to converge with Hapgood’s. Modern science is beginning to resurrect an old idea whose origins can be traced back to the 17th century.
The possibility that the earth may become unbalanced and then rotate, causing the position of the polar axis to change, seems to have first been mooted by none other than Sir Isaac Newton, in 1687. Newton explained in Principia Mathematica how the polar axis could change position:
“….let there be added anywhere between the pole and the equator a heap of new matter like a mountain, and this by its perpetual endeavour to recede from the centre of its motion will disturb the motion of the globe and cause its poles to wander about its surface,……”
In the following century, the idea of polar wandering was discussed by the French naturalist Comte George Louis Buffon (1707-1788). Buffon proposed this idea “not to justify the biblical stories but in order to account for the evidence of a warm climate having once existed in the Arctic, as shown by the fossils of trees and the bones of now tropical creatures”. A number of other well-known pioneers in science had similar ideas. George Cuvier (1769-1832) was one of the first to propose that some global event must have wiped out the mammoths of Siberia and caused them to freeze rapidly, allegedly before they even had time to decompose. Together with signs of great geological upheavals which he found in the rock strata, this led Cuvier to believe that life “…has been often disturbed on this earth by terrible events – calamities which, at their commencement, have perhaps moved and overturned to a great depth the entire outer crust of the globe,..”
Many years later, in 1847, a Danish intellectual called Frederik Alexander Gottlieb Klee came up with a similar idea (discussed in more detail here [ref]. He proposed in his book Le Déluge that at long intervals the whole surface of the earth shifts in unison, causing a “déplacement au l’axe du globe” – a displacement of the Earth’s spin axis, known today as a pole shift or polar wandering. According to Klee, warm-climate creatures found near the Arctic Ocean lived there when it was nowhere near the North Pole. Klee was the first to claim that memories of these pole shifts have been preserved in many ancient myths and historical texts – an idea which is generally believed to have been first proposed by Rose & Rand Flem-Ath in When the Sky Fell (1996).
A little known fact, which has escaped the attention of probably all commentators on the science of polar wandering, is that the theory now known as Earth Crust Displacement was first properly developed by Sir John Evans, the President of Britain’s Geological Society! He was also a Fellow and Treasurer of the Royal Society, the most prestigious scientific society in Britain, if not the whole world. It boasted Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell and many other greats among its fellows during Evans’ time as its Treasurer. And Evans was close friends with Lyell, who is usually considered the Father of Geology.
Way back in 1866, Evans published a paper titled “On a possible Geological Cause of Changes in the Position of the Axis of the Earth’s Crust” [ref]. This set out almost exactly the same theory as Hapgood developed almost a century later. Just like Hapgood, he believed the most recent Ice Ages in Britain and North America could be explained by crust displacements, claiming that these lands were much nearer the North Pole in those times. A similar paper was written by John Lubbock, titled “On Change of Climate Resulting from a Change in the Earth’s Axis of Rotation”, which was also presented to the Geological Society.
Evans was convinced that evidence of extreme climatic change found in the geological record, including fossils proving that the Arctic was once tropical, could only be explained by polar wandering, with displacements of the whole earth’s crust being the suggested cause. As James Geikie described in The Great Ice Age (1887):
“Mr Evans has ingeniously sought to account for the remains of large trees that are found in Greenland, and for the traces of glacial cold in this country [i.e. Britain], by considering whether it might not be possible that the external crust or shell of the globe had actually slid round its fluid or semi-fluid nucleus, so as to bring the same areas of the external suface under very different conditions. Thus it was suggested that lands, which at one time basked under a tropical sun, might, in the slow course of ages, be shifted to some more northern region, while countries which had for long years been sealed up in the ice of the Arctic Circle might eventually slide down into tropical latitudes.”
Evans came to this opinion after studying the work of his colleague, Sir Henry James, who had also come to the conclusion that the only possible explanation for those tropical climates in the Arctic was polar wandering. As Evans explained in 1866:
“Sir Henry James….writing to the Athenseum newspaper in 1860, stated that he had long since arrived at the conclusion that there was no possible explanation of some of the geological phenomena testifying to the climate at certain spots having greatly varied at different periods, without the supposition of constant changes in the position of the axis of the earth’s rotation.”
Evans was highly convinced by this view, and went on to propose his theory of crust displacement, which would allow the parts of the earth surface to back and forth between the tropical and polar regions over the ages:
“this crust, from various causes, is liable to changes disturbing its equilibrium, it becomes apparent that such disturbances may lead, if not to a change in the position of the general axis of the globe, yet at all events to a change in the relative positions of the solid crust and the fluid nucleus, and in consequence to a change in the axis of rotation, so far as the former [the crust] is concerned.”
He proposed that rising mountain ranges may cause a gravitational imbalance in the crust, which would then act to slide the crust over the molten rock below, through the action of centrifugal force upon them. He then discussed how large ice caps, placed off-centre of the poles, would have a similar unbalancing effect. So here was Hapgood’s theory on the cause of Earth Crust Displacements, being seriously discussed a century earlier by the President of the Geological Society. And the arguments he used are still relevant today.
Evan even built a complicated model, with the assistance of Francis Galton Darwin, which he presented to the fellows of the Royal Society. It demonstrated, using weighted adjustable screws attached to a wheel – representing a section of the crust – how an imbalance in the spinning crust would cause it to rotate. The subject was then seriously discussed a decade later at a symposium of the Geological Society, on February 21st, 1877.
Back in the Victorian Era, more and more evidence was turning up that the Arctic was tropical not too long ago. This has been proved beyond doubt in recent years by modern explorations in this Ocean. It was tropical in the Eocene (about 50 million years ago), and was subtropical a mere 3 million years ago. But modern geologists simply refuse to even consider the possibility that the Arctic was actually near the equator in those times (although many accept polar wandering occurred much earlier, in the Palaeozoic Era). And they ridicule those who consider it, calling them cranks, conspiracy theorists, etc., etc. So what did Evans say?
“Without in the slightest degree undervaluing other causes which may lead to climatal changes, I think that possibly we may have here a vera causa such as would account for extreme variations from a Tropical to an Arctic temperature at the same spot, in a simpler and more satisfactory manner than any other hypothesis.”
And it is now known – as modern exploration has discovered – that the Arctic flipped between a glacial and almost tropical climate a number of times during the Eocene, as well as later on. So what does that suggest? Evans was even more confident that his theory was correct when discussing the remains of tropical plants found in the Arctic:
“The former existence of cold in what are now warm latitudes might, and probably did in part, arise from other causes than a change in the axis of rotation, but no other hypothesis can well account for the existence of traces of an almost tropical vegetation within the Arctic circle…..
….they seem to afford conclusive evidence of a change in the position of the pole since the period at which they grew, as such vegetation must be considered impossible in so high a latitude”.
During the twentieth century, the idea of rapid polar wandering turned up amongst the Nazis and their ideologues (see [here] for more details). The belief in a northerly, Arctic Aryan homeland was propounded by men like Herman Wirth in Der Aufgang der Menscheit (The Rise of Mankind, 1928). Wirth studied the work of Alfred Wegener – the creator of the theory of continental drift – and came to believe that the Arctic homeland of the Aryans flourished at a time when that region was much further south. None other than Alfred Rosenberg, author of the infamous and hugely influential The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930s), was supportive of this belief in polar wandering. In this book Rosenberg states:
“The geologists show us a continent between North America and Europe, whose remains we can see today in Greenland and Iceland. They tell us that islands on the other side of the Far North (Novaia Zemlya) display former tide marks over 100 metres higher than today’s; they make it probable that the North Pole has wandered, and that a much milder climate once reigned in the present Arctic..”
This was the conclusion that Hugh Auchincloss Brown came to in the 1940s, in Cataclysms of the Earth. This was followed by Charles Hapgood in the 1950s, in Path of the Pole. The foresight of Sir John Evans in 1866 is truly amazing, and helps put into a proper historical context the oft-quoted remark of Albert Einstein regarding Hapgood’s theory of Earth Crust Displacement:
“I find your arguments very impressive and have the impression that your hypothesis is correct. One can hardly doubt that significant shifts of the crust of the earth have taken place repeatedly and within a short time.”
To repeat: “..one can hardly doubt..”. This is the conclusion I come to in Polar Wandering and the Cycle of Ages [http://pathofthepole.yolasite.com/], based on the findings of up-to-date research by top geologists and climatologists. But the adoption of the idea by occultists – both by Nazis, and by later New-Agers – which has helped to discredit it, and given academic an easy excuse for ignoring it.
In recent times the ideas of scientists have been steadily converging with those of Hapgood. His ideas on long-term polar wandering are now accepted by many under the name True Polar Wander. Scientists are considering faster and faster, and more and more recent, movements of the polar axis upon the earth’s surface. A scientific revolution has been silently and steadily underway, and it is only a matter of time before the public becomes aware of the true history of polar wandering.