Looking back at Plate Tectonics

I must be getting old, at least I’m starting to feel that way with this article from the BBC:

Plate tectonics: When we discovered how the Earth really works

While I’m too young to “remember the day” (I was only five, after all), I do remember the enthusiasm of my Grade 11 Physical Geography teacher, Karl Krumins, for this new theory he was teaching us called Plate Tectonics. I was spellbound. Finally it all made sense. I try to convey to my students the same enthusiasm for Plate tectonics as a simple explanation for some very complex and diverse Earth phenomena. They, too, see the simplicity of it.

While on the BBC site, have a look at this link to some of the background on Dr. McKenzie’s research: McKenzieArchive.org

Then, swing over to the Geologic Society’s Plate Tectonics page. It is an excellent resource for Earth Science students. As a Canadian, I was pleased see J. Tuzo Wilson celebrated as one of the Pioneer’s of Plate Tectonics.

Lots of great reading about a fascinating chapter in scientific discoveries.


Oldest evidence of life on Earth found in Canadian rocks

CBC News link

Fascinating! Carbon, in the form of graphite, that’s 3.95 billion years old – only 500 million years younger than the formation of Earth. Some great scientific ex0lanations in this article, too – rare for pop journalism. Congrats, CBC, for not dumbing it down!

Weekend Wandering 10: Reading the ABCs from Space


Back in December of last year, one of the most visually interesting of NASA Earth Observatory’s Features was released – Reading the ABCs from Space. Initially, it sounds a bit juvenile, like being back in Primary School, but when you start looking at the satellite images and the captions below, one becomes more and more engrossed (at least, I did!)

It got me thinking about how to use a resource like this for more than its face value. Right now, my students are working through constructive and destructive geologic processes that form the various types of landforms around the world and it occurred to me that they should be able to make some connections between what they are learning and what the various images show. It needs more thought and a more robust framework. but it’s an idea that will simmer quietly in the background between now and when I present the course again next year.

As my wife Laurie said, “There’s a children’s book in this!” Hmmmmmmm.


Journey to the Centre of the Earth

 BBC Journey to the Centre of the Earth Have you read Jules Verne’s landmark Victorian novel? If not, as a geographer, you must! Add it to your summer reading list.

In the meantime, check out the BBC’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth webpage. It’s built on the same principles as the How Big is Space page and Into the Ocean Depths and provides a somewhat interactive view into Earth’s lithosphere alongside the ocean depths (to 11 000m, that is). The Lithosphere continues right down to the core.

Along the way you’ll learn about the depths of Lakes Superior and Baikal, the effects of nitrogen narcosis, the depth of the Chilean miners (OMG,) as well as the deepest mines and caves, the depth of the Grand Canyon, the bottoms of all the oceans and Xenophyophores (look that one up!). You’ll pass through all the layers including the Mohorovićič Discontinuity (saying/writing the “Moho”, just doesn’t cut it!). Thank goodness, the scale changes as you go deeper or you could be at this all day!

Besides it edutainment value, “Journey” certainly reinforces the fact that we have barely scratched the surface of what we know about Earth (pun intended!). Enjoy and “Discover what lies beneath!”

Nepal Earthquake

Sermathang playground and school after the nepal earthquake
 Over the past 12 years, our school – St. John’s-Kilmarnock School – has developed a very close relationship with two villages in the Himalayan foothills northeast of Kathmandu: Sermathang and Thakani. Every two years a team of teachers and senior students travel to Nepal to help maintain the schools: building latrines, refurbishing classrooms and playground areas, painting, and, perhaps most importantly, assisting financially with salaries for teachers. The whole school gets behind the fundraising, 100% of which goes directly to assisting the schools (and none towards the trip itself – those fees are entirely paid for by the families involved). This year we raised over $20,000 to assist the schools over the next two years until we return again.

Sermathang school after the earthquake
So, you can imagine our immense sadness to learn of the impact of the earthquake on the two villages. Both villages and their schools have been razed by the initial earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. We have not yet heard news of deaths, however those with whom we’ve formed close relationships have, as far as we know, survived. Sermathang has begun to receive aid: one helicopter drop and very limited supplies via jeep as the road is near impassible. The residents are currently living in makeshift tents. Thakani residents have had no aid as of yet as they seem to be completely cut off. Update: Food supplies to last a week have been air-lifted into Thakani, thank goodness.

As a school, we have begun a re-newed fundraising campaign to assist our friends in Nepal. Their losses have been complete. With so little to rely on for income, they will be destitute before long. As a community, we have the resources to make a significant contribution to their immediate daily needs and to their long-term re-building projects. In fact, members of our Trek Nepal team have already started the process of collecting aid and making arrangements to have it transported, through various connections with airline industry and people in Nepal, to Sermathang, and, hopefully, to Thakani. The best way to contribute is through financial donations, but they have have also been collecting specific items that are inexpensive to transport, for example, servings of dried soup, water purification tablets and tarpaulins.

If you are so moved to assist with the rebuilding of the schools and villages, then please consider a donation. Small or large, every little bit helps. You can donate directly to the SJK Nepal Fund through CanadaHelps. At the web page, please select “Other” and add a note to say the funds are for SJK Nepal Fund. 100% of the money received by SJK will be directed to assisting the two villages, Sermathang and Thekani.

UPDATE: We now have direct link for donations to the Nepal Schools’ Rebuild Fund.

Donations can also be made to the Canadian Red Cross, UNICEF and the Mennonite Central Committee. This money will assist people across Nepal. As well, donations made prior to May 25 will be matched by the Canadian Government. Please be aware, though – the matching funds, while directed to Nepal, are not necessarily given to the agency you donated to. Rather, it is used at the government’s discretion and may be donated to an outside or international charity for work in Nepal.

Please consider helping, if only a little. If everyone in Canada were to give even $1 – that’s $30 million more than our government has pledged! And, let’s face it, how much is $1 or even $10 to the average Canadian? For more information about Sermathang and Thakani, and updated photos, please visit the SJK Trek Nepal Facebook page.

For more information in Earthquakes, please visit GeoKnow.net > Lithosphere > Earthquakes.