'Norway-Svalbard' by Rob984, CCBYSA4.0

Note: The following essay is taken from a forthcoming book that will present compelling new evidence that the earth’s crust can move and has done so in the past, a theory first proposed by Charles Hapgood in the 1950s. My book, to be titled Deep History and the Ages of Man, will present multiple lines of evidence, including archeological data and hard science. In August 2019, I presented some of this evidence here, in an article titled “The Oldest Anomaly in Science.” That article discusses mollusk migrations known since the time of Darwin, but never explained. The scientific term for it is the “extralimital phenomenon”. This essay expands that discussion and will propose a simple means to put Hapgood’s theory to the test. (For the reader’s convenience, at the end, I have also included a chart of the geologic periods, some of which are discussed in the article.)

Why Svalbard?

The Svalbard archipelago is important because of its location and could soon become a test site for Hapgood’s theory of crustal displacement. Svalbard (74-81° N) is the warmest place on earth at this high latitude due to the moderating North Atlantic current which brings warm water from the mid-Atlantic Ocean northward along the coast of Norway. The warm water from the south mixes with colder Arctic water in the vicinity of Svalbard.

In 1906, the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess cited early explorers to Spitsbergen (the largest island in the archipelago) who found raised beds of mollusks there along the coast. Suess wrote: “A remarkable fact may be mentioned here. [The explorers] Nordenskiold and Drasche observed the shells of Mytulis edulis [common name: blue mussel] in great quantity a trifling height above the strand; they had preserved their color and ligament. This species, according to existing accounts, does not appear to live at such high latitudes. The remains are evidently quite recent, and the suggestion offered by some investigators, that they flourished during the warmer climate of an interglacial period which affected the extreme north, does not suffice to explain them.i [my emphasis]

Figure 1. The Svalbard Archipelago

Mytilus Edulis is a shallow water bi-valve well known in western Europe. The species is common in coastal waters from France all the way to the Russian subarctic, almost to Novaya Zemlya. In modern times, however, it was unknown in arctic Svalbard. Discovery of the anomalous Mytilus Edulis shell beds in Svalbard’s Isfjorden and Sorgfjorden fiords was first reported in 1861.ii (See Figure 1)

However, the first description of the extralimital phenomenon occurred many years earlier. Credit goes to Charles Darwin who published a data table documenting the phenomenon in his 1846 book about the geology of South America. An equal share of credit also goes to the French naturalist Alcide d’Orbigny, who did some of the fieldwork and subsequently passed the data to Darwin. In retrospect, it is apparent that Darwin failed to understand the significance of what had come into his hands. Insofar as I am aware, W.O. Addicott was the first to use the term “extralimital” (in 1966) though he credits the paleontologist Ralph Arnold with the original description, in 1908, of the extralimital fauna from the Quaternary beds at Santa Cruz and Point Ano Nuevo, California.iii Addicott was apparently unaware of the mollusk data from South America reported by Darwin.

In 1955, R.W. Fehling-Hanssen described the early Holocene presence in Svalbard of nine warm water mollusk species, including Mytulis edulis, all of which were locally extinct when he wrote.iv

Water temperature during summer is critical for mollusks because they spawn in the summer season. By one account, they are little affected by colder temperatures at other times of the year. However, I also read another opinion that repeated exposures to colder temperatures can prove fatal. Mytulis edulis is found in the intertidal zone and is considered a reliable indicator of marine climate and old shorelines. Its presence in Svalbard therefor points to warmer temperatures in the past. Studies of Svalbard’s recent glacial history indicate that glaciers retreated during the early Holocene. This is consistent with a warmer climate, and contrasts sharply with the well-documented expansion of glaciers throughout Svalbard during the last 4,000 years; which continued until very recently.v

In 2018, Jan Mangerud and John Inge Svendsen published an excellent summary of all of this research.vi Based on the evidence, scientists concluded that Svalbard enjoyed a warmer climate (by about 2° C) in the early part of the Holocene than at present.vii Why? The cause most often given was a greater flux of warm Atlantic water into the region during the early Holocene. Scientists also cited another likely reason: greater summer-season insolation at high latitudes, which refers to external climatic forcing a la Milankovitch. However, I disagree with both of these explanations and will now propose an alternative.

Whether glaciers retreat or expand is determined by the balance between the accumulation of snow on the one hand versus the melting or calving of ice on the other. Two key factors govern this balance: summer temperature and the amount of precipitation. Whichever one dominates will tip the balance.

Because of the dramatic warming throughout the Arctic in recent decades, experts were not surprised in 1995 when J.M. Weslawski reported the reappearance of Mytilus edulis on Bjornoya (Bear Island), the most southerly island of the Svalbard archipelago.viii Bjornoya is a very small island and is located about 142 miles south of Spitsbergen and 250 miles north of the Norwegian coast. Mollusks are able to ride ocean currents considerable distances during their larval stage. Evidently the blue mussel hitched a ride on the northbound current to Bjornoya. Based on Weslawski’s report, researcher Otto Salvigen predicted in 2002 that Mytilus edulis might once again show up in Svalbard proper.ix And, sure enough, two years later, in 2004, it did just that.x (See Figure 1)

The exquisite temperature sensitivity of mollusks in general, and of Mytilus edulis in particular, suggests a powerful means to investigate abrupt climate change. And this includes climatic shifts at the end of the Pleistocene set in motion, I would argue, by cataclysmic earth change events that radically rearranged continental landmasses with respect to the poles.

With the exception of a single Mytilus edulis shell recovered from a bed near Troms in northern Norway and carbon dated to 14,000 BP, there is no evidence the blue mussel inhabited sub-polar Norway or Russia before the Holocene. However, I believe this is a false impression. The lack of evidence in this case does not constitute evidence of absence.

Elsewhere, I have presented multiple lines of evidence that the north pole was located on Baffin Island (66° 06 N, 68° 28 W) during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).xi This would also mean, of course, that the Svalbard archipelago enjoyed a substantially warmer climate during the LGM than at present. Crucially, it would also have been warmer than during the Holocene. The climate was probably akin to that of present-day Norway just north of Trondheim (63.5° N). However, because the entire coast of Norway then varied by no more than 2° of latitude, relative to the pole, all of Norway would have shared a moderate climate. Today, the coast of Norway runs north-south, more or less. However, at that time it ran east-west, with respect to the pole. Svalbard’s resident population of mollusks probably included Arctica islandica and Modiolus modiolus, which prefer warmer water, and especially Zirfaea crispata, which is even more warm-water-dependent. Other warm water species may also have been present.

Surprisingly, the Barents Sea basin would have enjoyed an even warmer climate at this time. Novaya Zemlya was then at the latitude of central Britain. The mollusks listed above and probably other kinds that prefer even warmer water would have flourished along the balmy coast of Novaya Zemlya and Murmansk.

If I am correct about this, where is the evidence? Why has it not come to light? The answer is simple. Investigators have not found the evidence because they have not looked in the right place. Actually, I am a bit surprised no one has searched, because it is well known that when the huge Laurentide ice sheet retreated and disappeared from North America at the end of the Pleistocene, world sea levels rose by 350-400 feet. For this reason, the faunal beds from that period are presently underwater! Rising sea levels even affected some of the Holocene beds (in northwestern Spitsbergen and Bornoya) which has hampered collection.xii

An expedition should therefore be organized forthwith and dispatched as soon as possible to Svalbard and to sites along the Norway and Barents Sea coasts. A thorough survey will have to be made, beforehand, to identify the most likely submerged faunal bed locations. Whereupon, a qualified search team, using submersibles, should be able to locate the beds and recover the evidence without too much time or trouble. I predict the submerged beds will yield abundant evidence of long term habitation by a mollusk fauna which, although anomalous from the standpoint of the prevailing climate/earth model, is entirely consistent with a north pole position on Baffin Island. That the residence was long-term appears certain because the Baffin Island pole position was constant from roughly 48-52,000 years BP until the end of the Pleistocene, a period of approximately 37,000 years. So, the beds are likely to be large and plentiful. Of course, the resident mollusks no doubt relocated numerous times during this long period in response to temperature changes during interstadials.

Why a warm phase during the early Holocene?

But we have yet to account for the warm phase at the start of the Holocene. The hard evidence for such a warming is based on a 23-meter ocean sediment core (MD99-2304) recovered by a French expedition, IMAGES V.xiii The core was taken about 57 miles off the west coast of Svalbard. The drill site (77°37.26’ N, 9°56.90’ E) is located at the margin, that is, where the continental shelf of Svalbard meets the deep Atlantic waters. A team aboard the French ship Marion Dufresne recovered the core in 1999 using a high-speed modified piston-coring “Calypso” drilling apparatus.

Later, when core samples were examined, scientists identified and carbon dated several species of plankton.xiv The dominant plankton was a polar species, Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (s) (See Figure 5, A, B & C; from Hald et al, 2004) Notice from the table that between 11,000 and 8,800 years BP, N. pachyderma (s) virtually disappeared and was replaced by two sub-polar species, Globigerina quinqueloba and N. pachyderma (d). This shift in the dominant species indicates that water temperature changed during this 2,200 year period: from cold to warm.

Figure 5 (taken from Hald et al, 2004)

Here, I must digress to explain why two of the above species share the same name, N. pachyderma. Foraminifera are tiny crustaceans that generally live on the ocean floor. However, long ago, some forams evolved into planktonic species, meaning they have the capacity to float and inhabit the water column. Some of these plankton species became widely distributed, even global, although each type evolved its own unique habitat requirements. As with mollusks, water temperature is the single most important factor. This is where the plot thickens, because certain kinds of plankton, such as N. pachyderma, evolved two different forms. One type developed a left-coiled calciferous shell and the other a right-coiled shell. The left or sinister form (hence, the “s” following the name) prefers cold water, while the right or dextral form (hence, the “d” following the name) lives in warm water.xv

But why a warm episode at the start of the Holocene? If I am correct that a crustal displacement event at the end of the Pleistocene moved Svalbard 900 miles to the north, we should expect colder conditions during the Holocene––not warmer. Indeed, we would expect to find evidence of a sharp drop in water temperature around Svalbard. But what if the crustal displacement event triggered world-wide collateral effects like earthquakes and underwater vulcanism? It stands to reason that a global event of this magnitude would probably trigger various types of secondary and tertiary effects. I believe this is exactly what happened: when the crust moved, long dormant underwater volcanoes became active again and produced a 2,200 year-long episode of oceanic warming around Svalbard. This happened despite the latitudinal shift to a more northerly climate. After the undersea vulcanism ran its course, the climate chilled. Water temperature decreased and glaciers began to grow in Svalbard.

The case for underwater vulcanism appears strong. A few years ago, scientists learned that submarine volcanoes cause El nino warming episodes in the Pacific.xvi In fact, evidence has been mounting for years that volcanic activity is much more extensive under the oceans than was formerly believed. In the early 1990s, scientists at the University of California found a previously unknown cluster of volcanoes in the Pacific. Using sonar scanning devices to peer into the depths, the team was surprised to find 1,133 seamounts and volcanic cones concentrated in an area the size of New York state. Many of the volcanoes rose more than a mile above the ocean floor, and some were almost 7,000 feet tall, with peaks rising to within 2,500 to 5,000 feet of the ocean surface. “We thought we would find a few dozen new volcanoes” researcher Ken McDonald from UC Santa Barbara explained during an interview. “Instead, we found over 1,000 that had never been mapped before.”xvii And new cases keep coming to light. In 2017, scientists discovered 91 previously unknown volcanoes beneath the Antarctic ice sheets.xviii And, in 2019, scientists reported six new underwater volcanoes near the coast of Italy.xix By one estimate, there are more than a million submarine (underwater) volcanoes on earth.xx

Furthermore, Svalbard, like Iceland, has a long history of vulcanism dating back 130 million years.xxi So, it would be naive to suppose that the magmatic sources deep in the earth are no longer operative. It stands to reason that a crustal displacement event affecting the entire planet would set in motion powerful world wide collateral effects. In fact, it is possible that some of these are still playing out even in our time, more than ten thousand years later. Continuing research will decide the matter.

Finally, after reviewing a number of scientific papers about the status of northern Europe during the LGM, I must say I am surprised that so many scientists continue to embrace the view that the entire region (including Svalbard) was under ice during the LGM, and only de-glaciated between 13,000-10,000 BP. One encounters this view again and again in the scientific literature. I find it surprising because there is now compelling evidence (which I will present in my forthcoming book) that northern Europe de-glaciated long before the start of the LGM. The deglaciation probably had run to completion by 45,000 BP. Why is this not more widely understood? Well, probably because past glaciations are nearly impossible to date. This is another reason why we owe a deep debt of thanks to the late Andrew Currant and Roger Jacobi for their splendid work in the bone caves of Britain. Their synthesis published in 2001 finally provided a sound means, i.e., isotopically dated fossils cut from stalagmites, to properly date the last European Ice Age.xxii

Mark H. Gaffney is the author of six books. He can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net


i Eduard Suess, The Face of the Earth Vol. III, (Oxford, Clarendon Press: 1906), p. 486.

ii C.V. Blomstrand, “Geognostika iakttagelser under en resa till Spetsbergen ar 1861”, Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademien Handlingar N.F., 1864, Vol. 4, Stockholm; also see K. Chydenius, “Svenska expeditione n till Spetsbergen ar 1861 under ledning av Otto Torell” 1865, Norstedt & Soner, Stockholm.

iii W.O. Addicott, “Late Pleistocene Marine Paleoecology and Zoogeography in Central California”, Geological Survey Professional Paper 523-C, US Government Printing Office, 1966; also see Ralph Arnold, “Descriptions of New Cretaceous and tertiary Fossils from the Santa Cruz Mountains, California”, US National Mus. Proceedings, 1908, Vol. 34, No. 1617, p. 345-390.

iv Feyling-Hanssen R.W. “Stratigraphy of the marine late-Pleistocene of Billesfjorden, Vestspitsbergen”, Norsk Polarinstitutts Skrifter, Vol. 107, p. 1-226.

v Morten Hald et al, “Holocene paleoceanography and glacial history of the West Spitsbergen area, Euro-Arctic margin”, Quaternary Science Reviews, 2004, Vol. 23, p. 2078-2088.

vi Jan Mangerud and John Inge Svendsen, “The Holocene Thermal Maximum around Svalbard, Arctic North Atlantic; molluscs show early and exceptional warmth”, The Holocene, Vol. 28 (I), p. 65-83.

vii Birks, H.H. “Holocene vegetational history and climatic change in west Spitsbergen – plant macrofossils from Skardtjorna, an Arctic lake” The Holocene, Vol. 1, p. 209-218.

viii J.M. Weslawski et al, Tidal Zone Project 1994: Bjornoya. Report from study supported by Norsk Polarinstitutt, Oslo, and Institute of Oceanography PAS, Sopot, Gdansk, 1995.

ix Otto Salvigsen, “Radiocarbon-dated Mytilus edulis and Modiolus modiolus from northern Svalbard: climatic implications”, Norwegian Journal of Geography, 2002, Vol. 56, p.56-61.

x J. Berge et al, “Ocean temperature oscillations enable reappearance of blue mussels Mytilus edulis in Svalbard after 1000 year absence”, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2005, Vol. 303, p. 167-175.

xi The Oldest Anomaly in Science. Posted at https://grahamhancock.com/gaffneym2/

Also see: Do ancient sites point to the old north pole? https://www.jmccanneyscience.com/MarkGaffneySub-Page.htm

xii S.L. Forman et al, “Postglacial emergence and distribution of late Weichselian ice-sheet loads in the northern Barents and Kara Seas, Russia”, Geology, 1995, Vol. 23, p. 113-116; also see O. Salvigen and K. Hogvard, “Glacial history, Holocene shoreline displacement and paleoclimate based on radiocarbon ages in the area of Bockfjorden, north-western Spitsbergen”, Polar Research, 2005, Vol. 25., p. 15-24.


xiv “Holocene paleoceanography and glacial history of the West Spitsbergen area, Euro-Arctic margin.”

xv For an excellent discussion about right and left coiled plankton, see David B. Erickson and Goesta Wollin, The Deep and the Past (New York, Grosset & Dunlap: 1964), p. 88-95 and 168.

xvi “Volcanic eruptions can trigger El Nino events”, The Economic Times, October 4, 2017.

xvii Nathaniel C. Nash, “Massive volcano cluster found on Pacific floor Scientists discover 1,133 peaks, cones”, Baltimore Sun, February 14, 1993.

xviii Robin McKie, “Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet”, The Guardian, August 12, 2017.

xix Maya Wei-Haas, “Six underwater volcanoes found hiding in plain sight”, National Geographic (on line), August 2, 2019. Posted at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/08/six-volcanoes-found-hiding-plain-sight/

xx http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/book/export/html/138

xxi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Arctic_Large_Igneous_Province

xxii Andrew Currant & Roger Jacobi, “A formal mammalian biostratigraphy for the Late Pleistocene of Britain”, Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 20, 2001, pp. 1717-1716. Also see: Mabs Gilmour et al, “Recent TIMS dating results from British Late Pleistocene vertebrate faunal localities: context and interpretation”, Journal of Quaternary Science, 2007, Vol. 22 (8), p. 793-800.

4 thoughts on “Svalbard: a proving ground for the next earth paradigm?”

  1. Daniel Moore says:

    Specialized yet interesting hypothesis on crustal shifting. Hapgood’s “Path of the Pole” introduced me to this idea. I’ve found Allan and Delair’s “Cataclysm!” to be a fascinating study of the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. Massively annotated, too.

  2. Mark Gaffney says:

    hi Daniel,

    Thanks! Yes, I have both of those books. Both are excellent resources.

  3. Mark Gaffney says:

    The insight that will cause the change to the new earth-climate paradigm is the correlation between the 5 mammalian assemblages identified by Currant and Jacobi (see note 22 above) and the five former N pole positions. Hapgood identified several of these though he did not always identify the positions. Mark Carlotto has also done some nice work on this in his book Atlantis Rising.

    The dating of fossils from the bone caves of Britain by Currant & Jacobi gives the proper sequence. Each assemblage correlates with a different pole position. It’s a stunning correlation – and mainstream science completely missed it.

  4. Mark Gaffney says:

    oops. My Mistake. The title of Carlotto’s book is Before Atlantis.

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