RHS1 Connector – June 2008

RHS1 Connector – June 2008

In this issue...Fun Fact…TREASURE…Odyssey-Marine…FEATURE ARTICLE…STONE KNAPPING… THOM’S COLUMN… Rockhound Recipes and Tips… TRAVEL…Herkimer Diamond Country, New York….Earthwatch..MAGNETIC POLE SHIFT… FEATURE ARTICLE… Meet the members… —RHS1 News.


When you think of beach sand you probably think of perfectly formed little crystals of rock that resemble salt. Not so. Beach sand is composed of some very interesting microscopic wonders. Have a look at these pictures of magnified beach sand. http://todayilearned.co.uk/2011/07/18/grains-of-beach-sand-magnified-to-250-times-its-real-size/


STONE KNAPPING: Keeping an Ancient Art Alive

Midnight Lace Obsidian — Knapped Of Stone From Glass Buttes
In Eastern Oregon. This �Dovetail� Style Blade Is Backlit To Demonstrate
The Clarity And Transparency Of This Volcanic Natural Glass. 2005 A.D..
In the distant prehistoric past humans began to use stone as tools. Ancient craftsmen became adept at using one stone to chip another stone into shapes that made precision tools for different tasks, such as arrowheads for bringing down game animals and scrapers for cleaning skins. The art of chipping the stones into tools is known as “knapping”. This art has not died out.

This month F. Scott Crawford of StoneBreaker-FSC.com is reporting to you about the art of knapping. His report features a knapping class trip to Glass Butte, Oregon. Glass Butte is famous for it’s fine obsidians of many varieties, and obsidian is a highly workable and beautiful crafting stone.

Scott’s trip report also includes so many wonderful pictures of not only knapped items but of Glass Butte itself. The pictures you see here are just a few that you will see in his highly entertaining report. He’s got just as much of a knack with writing as he does for stone work. I had as much fun reading it as I did looking at the pictures. So enough chat already. To get to the report – just click the link

Thanks so much for this entertaining and informative report Scott. Be expecting many visitors to your site who will want to know much more about knapping.


Odyssey Marine Exploration:

Odyssey Marine Exploration Files Admiralty Arrests on Two Shipwreck Sites

Tampa, FL – May 29, 2008 – Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX), the world leader in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, today filed Admiralty Arrest Complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on two separate shipwreck sites recently discovered by the Company.

Both sites lie within the general area of the English Channel but are outside the territorial waters or contiguous zone of any sovereign nation. The sites both contain cannon and other artifacts which are believed to date from the Colonial period. Odyssey has conducted preliminary surveys but has not yet been able to confirm the identity of either site. The Company’s archaeological and conservation teams are currently developing archaeological excavation and conservation plans for both sites.

As with other shipwreck sites that the Company discovers, if either site can be identified, any potential claimants will be notified through appropriate private or public notices.

Odyssey’s core business is shipwreck exploration and archaeological excavation, so filing arrests on shipwreck sites to protect the Company’s legal interests occurs in the normal course of business. For security reasons, no additional information about these sites is being released at this time.

Odyssey Marine Exploration Responds To Recent Media Reports Following the Spanish Government’s “Black Swan” Press Conference

Tampa, FL – May 8, 2008 – Following a significant amount of international media coverage based on a press conference held by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in Madrid on May 8, 2008, Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) wishes to publicly address the most frequently asked questions by media and the public.

To clarify, Odyssey was not in attendance at the press conference, which was presided over by representatives of the Spanish government as well as Spain’s legal counsel. Our statements are therefore based on media reports of the actual event and Spain’s Responses to the Court’s Interrogatories that Spain filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on May 8, 2008.

What is Odyssey’s point of view regarding Spain’s definitive statement that the site code-named “Black Swan” is that of the “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes y las Animas”?

Although Odyssey has identified the Nuestra Señoraa de las Mercedes y las Animas (the “Mercedes”) as a working hypothesis as to a vessel that could be related to the “Black Swan” site, the Company does not believe there is sufficient evidence to conclusively prove that the site is indeed related to the Mercedes or any other ship, and as we have previously mentioned, there is no hull of a shipwreck at this site. What we have found to date is apparently a cargo from a shipwreck as opposed to an actual vessel. It is surprising to us that the Spanish representatives who have viewed the photomosaics are not aware of this if they have any experience with shipwreck sites.It is also surprising that the Kingdom of Spain has asserted conclusively (“without a doubt”) that the “Black Swan” treasure is from the Mercedes after viewing site photomosaics and video that show no hull, ballast pile, keel or vessel, and only a statistically insignificant sample of the coins from the site. We believe that the scientific process, archaeological integrity, and historical accuracy are not served by jumping to conclusions and confirming the identity without conclusive proof.

Does Odyssey have a claim to the treasure if the “Black Swan” is indeed the “Mercedes”?

If the “Black Swan” coins are determined to be from the Mercedes, based on our extensive archival historical research, archaeological assessments and thorough legal analysis the Company is confident in its legal position. Of course, it is up to the U.S. District Court to determine the final disposition of the “Black Swan” treasure.

Can you address Spain’s accusations of Odyssey “disturbing war graves”?

Odyssey deeply respects the maritime heritage of all nations and the final resting place of any sailors or passengers that may have perished in a shipwreck. However, in the case of the “Black Swan”, no vessel and no human remains have been located, a fact that the Spanish experts are well aware of. If indeed it is confirmed that this site is related to the Mercedes, the ship was lost over 200 years ago and if the hull is ever actually located, it is unlikely that any human remains will be found at the site. Nevertheless, Odyssey agrees that all sites should be treated with respect and proper archaeological protocols, which have been carefully observed in the case of the “Black Swan” site.

Is Odyssey willing to settle the “Black Swan” case with Spain?

Odyssey has previously proposed to the Spanish Government on numerous occasions that Spanish archaeologists be allowed to participate in any expeditions that seek to explore shipwrecks which may be of Spanish historical interest.

As with our previous projects, including the SS Republic and HMS Sussex, Odyssey is diligent about notifying potential claimants when the ship’s identity is determined. When, and if, Spain is determined to have a claim or cultural interest in any shipwreck, Odyssey would propose to enter a relationship just as it has on previous projects.

There have been some individuals that have been working hard to vilify Odyssey rather than acknowledging our company’s repeated attempts to cooperate with Spain in any finds that may involve Spanish heritage. Odyssey has been and continues to be a steward of history. We bring stories of great cultural and historical significance to life, and we have always conducted our operations with archaeological integrity and technology that surpasses the capacities of many academic and governmental institutions.

Odyssey will continue to offer cooperation with Spain and any other government or potential owners of shipwrecks or cargo – and we hope that those who are concerned about underwater cultural heritage will see past the false representations about us by some who have a vested interest in seeing that Spain and Odyssey do not work together.

About Odyssey Marine Exploration

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) is engaged in the exploration of deep-water shipwrecks and uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive deep-ocean search and archaeological recovery operations around the world. Odyssey discovered the Civil War era shipwreck of the SS Republic in 2003 and recovered over 50,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the site nearly 1,700 feet deep. In May 2007, the Company announced the largest historic deep-ocean treasure recovery of over 500,000 silver and gold coins, weighing 17 tons, from a Colonial era site code-named “Black Swan.” Odyssey has several shipwreck projects in various stages of development around the world.

Odyssey offers various ways to share in the excitement of deep-ocean exploration by making shipwreck treasures and artifacts available to collectors, the general public and students through its webstore, exhibits, books, videos, merchandise, and educational programs. Odyssey’s “SHIPWRECK! Pirates & Treasure” exhibit is currently on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, FL. For details on the Company’s activities and its commitment to the preservation of maritime heritage please visit www.shipwreck.net.

For additional information, please contact Natja Igney, Odyssey’s Manager of Corporate Communications, at 813-876-1776.

SS Republic is a registered trademark of Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc

Odyssey Marine Exploration believes the information set forth in this Press Release may include “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Act of 1934. Certain factors that could cause results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements are set forth in “Risk Factors” in the Part I, Item 1A of the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2006, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Odyssey Marine Exploration P.O. Box 320057 Tampa, FL 33679-2057 www.shipwreck.net

RHS1 Members News

Just a bit of news for this month. It’s been a busy couple of months for us at RHS1. Sometimes real life just intrudes on the building and maintaining of a website. I completely forgot that I had the free report on Mineral ID almost finished. Just a few touch-ups and we’ll have that online in the Learning Center (see the Main Menu) for anyone who needs a quick resource for mineral identification.

You can look for that at the learning center in about a week and a half. It’s next on my list, I promise. If you are living in the NE United States, it might even quit raining on weekends by then so you can hunt up some minerals to identify!


Recently, an acquaintance of mine who had seen my website brought me some curious stones that were found just “lying around a cave” by the dozens in an undisclosed New York location. He is eager to find out what they may be. The stones are pictured here.

I have sent pictures to Charles L. Christensen, President & CEO of K3 Tech in Kaysville, Utah to see if he can identify what the stones may be. You may never have heard of Chuck or of K3 Tech, but I can speak with certainty that you will soon. I had never heard of him before my article research led me to Steve Shaffer, the Utah Archaeologist searching for the Utah treasure corresponding to the Sun Rock featured in a past issue of the RHS1 Connector.

What Chuck has informed me is that the stones look like game pieces of Indian children. He is doing some research on the pieces and will know more later. If you think you have information about these stones we would be happy to include your input in the research. You can contact us simply by hitting the “contact us” button


Roast Beef Pita Bread Sandwich .

Sometimes you just don’t want to take the time to stop and cook a meal when you’re out and about. For those days I like to make a few sandwiches to take along on my hike or ride.

This one is easy to make and carries well wrapped in aluminum foil in your backpack.

  • 1 cup Plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Chopped fresh or
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon Prepared mustard
  • 1 cup Chopped red or green bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
  • 2 Pita breads (6 inches in diameter), cut in half
  • 1/3 pound Thinly sliced lean roast beef
  • 1 cup Alfalfa sprouts

Mix yogurt, dill weed and mustard. Stir in bell pepper Fill each pita bread half with l/3 cup yogurt mixture and 1/4 of the beef and alfalfa sprouts.

About Thom…

Thom Meyer is a retired professional chef who has a degree in Culinary Arts – Also an avid camper and most importantly a person who likes to eat. Lately he has been involved in marketing and building websites when not using WordPress for them, a process of which in some circles he is considered an authority. Among his many websites that he maintains are www.recipes-4-all.com and www.wp-revealed.com

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”
Hunter S. Thompson


Herkimer Diamond Country, New York.

Herkimer Diamond Country, New York. .

Herkimer diamonds.
This month I am going to deviate a bit from the present travel series to tell a bit about the Herkimer Diamond region of New York so I thought I would give a trip report and a bit of skinny on that area in this month’s issue so people can plan their trips accordingly.

Herkimer Diamonds are actually quartz crystals, but are referred to as diamonds because of their clarity and form. The highest quality of these crystals are glass clear and double terminated. The crystals do vary a bit from location to location. In some locations smoky crystals can be found, and some of the crystals have inclusions. Endryos (crystals containing water bubbles) are a coveted find among these gemstones. People travel from all over the Eastern states to the Herkimer Diamond mines of Herkimer, Fulton, and Monroe counties in NY to dig for these spectacular stones. Being that summer is getting into swing, I thought I would discuss this area a bit this month so you can be ready if you are planning a trip to hunt the coveted Herkimer Diamonds.

On my first trip out in search of Herkimers, I scoured the countryside to find public land that might render some of these stones. If you are planning to hunt freely, don’t waste your time. While there is some open park land here and there, there isn’t really much public property to be found. Hunting these particular stones is basically a matter of finding fee digs in these counties. While there are rumors of Herkimer locations in other areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills, unless you have major amounts of time for searching, you are going to go home empty handed if you rely on open hunting. Most of these stones are found within an area ten miles wide and about one hundred and fifty miles long, with the concentrations available for hunting being in the areas of the fee digs. If you know people living in the area you might be able to find private property with good hunting grounds that the owners will allow you to hunt.

At the time there are a few different fee digs to choose from: Herkimer Mining Company, Ace Diamond Mine, and Crystal Grove. My choice was Crystal Grove just North of the town of St. Johnsonville. There were several groups and individuals at the mining area when I arrived. I chose a spot near a wall of rock with a good pile of rock chunks already broken off the wall to begin with. The rock is hard and it takes effort to break up even the chunks that the owners break from the wall for the customers to dig through. Some folks with heavier tools set into work on the wall itself, but I found that I wasn’t suited for being able to work the wall without power tools, which are not permitted. Some of the stronger men were seeming to be better equipped for chiseling at that block with some larger tools. If you hear someone talking about fashioning wedges out of car lief springs, that is the truth about the magnitude of tool you will need to work the actual wall of that rock. The bigger the tools the better your odds of getting to great crystals, but you also need some small tools to extract the crystals from the vugs.

Most of the diamonds available without large rock splitting tools are a bit smaller than I was hoping to find. The biggest I saw taken that day was about an inch. I actually found one of the biggest I saw that day but it broke during extraction. I had seen the crack in it, however, so expected as much and was not overly disappointed. The best of them were in the roughage from one of the claims, so I am sure the guys splitting the wall in the claim were getting some beauties considering the quality and size of what they were leaving behind.

Getting the diamonds out of the vugs without breaking them is not easy work. Some of them are not attached to the walls, or are attached only to softer material in the vug than the matrix rock itself and those can be extracted with some ease. Be ready to toss some rocks in your car to extract the gems later at home where you can spend more time on them. You will be able to increase your yield greatly by doing so. It takes time to get some of the crystals out safely.

It is also wise to take a classifier of some sort with you. Some of the nicest stones I found were those I sifted out of the sand at the base of the pit wall. Sometimes when the rocks are split, gemstones fall out into the sand where they go unnoticed and unretrieved, so you can actually win some prizes without too much heavy work involved. I watched one gentleman work on extracting a beautiful specimen from a vug for well over an hour. When it finally came free it popped out of the vug. He spent quite some time hunting around the rubble for it but finally spotted it and got his prize back. I wondered how many have been lost in such a manor and are still there waiting to be picked up.

If you are working on splitting the actual rock walls do take note that gemstones which are inside of these massive blocks of stone are fairly cold. If you lay them in the sun, they can break. You would do well to consider having a bucket of cool water handy to drop the stones into rather than leave them sitting in the sun when you first take them out of the rock. All of the gems I gathered during the day were either sifted or pulled from already exposed vugs, so there was no need of my water bucket (other than for my dog to drink from).

During my time at the mine I ran into a fellow I had “chatted” with via email about gem hunting about a year ago, Steve Cantiello You can find his stones at LocalGem on Ebay. He was familiar with RHS1 and gave me a tip on a mine in the area that was not publicized. It is on private property and the woman allows hunters for a small fee, but doesn’t advertise. I will be hunting there next time I go to the area. I had been through that town already and had asked people if there were other places available besides the publicized fee digs. No one mentioned this one. As I said – don’t count on just wandering into town and finding out about any off the map locations. If you are as lucky as I was, you might run into people who know something at the mines themselves. Steve was quite knowledgeable about the Herkimer digs and had been giving pointers to another hunter there, Sherry Berry of Meta-Physical.com. Sherry had been to the Ace Diamond mine before but had little luck at the mine. This was her second trip to Crystal Grove so it apparently was more productive for her. She was finding some nice crystals (one of which is on the front page of her site, which is still under construction).

From the gossip around the pit I didn’t find out much about the Herkimer Diamond Company mines other than it is a bit more family tourist service oriented than the others. Of course, campsites are available at the Ace and Crystal Grove for those that are driving too far to make it a one day activity.

I also was told that the further east you go the more likely you are to find smoky crystals. Crystal Grove is the furthest East of the Mines and I did pick up one small smoky during my day there. The Treasure Mountain mine is supposed to produce good smoky’s but it is closed now with no clues if it will reopen or not. I wasn’t able to find out the reason for the closure. That was my first choice of mines and I was disappointed to find it was closed.

Despite the fact that some of us were getting some good finds here and again, many people were not so lucky. Apparently, it is not the mines themselves, but your own hunting abilities that determine whether you are going to pocket some crystals or not. The choice of mines seems irrelevant other than the size of the mine itself and the type of atmosphere you are looking for. If you know how to spot seams and pockets in a rock or are able to split large chunks off a rock wall or even have a sense of where to pan the dirt, you will probably find diamonds. The trick is to walk around and look a the piles of rock chunks. The companies will split some off the walls and break them up so everyone has something to hunt even if they aren’t armed with massive tools and years of experience. If you walk around the mining area you will find areas where the rocks have more seams and more vugs – and sometimes overlooked diamonds staring you in the face. Those are the areas you want to do your hunting at any of the mines you choose to visit. When panning, staying close to the rock walls is a good idea as many diamonds will inadvertently fall out of vugs into the dirt when the major chunks of rock are split from the walls and broken up for less heavy hitting hunters like myself.

The mines are open to the sun so digging is hot work during the summer. It was only in the 70’s during my visit but it got quite warm in the pit during the afternoon. New York is also prone to summer showers, so you might want to have some rain gear and a dry change of clothes with you. Make sure you take plenty of water to drink with you. At Crystal grove the mine pit is right at the edge of the parking field so any supplies you carry in your car will be easily accessible to you when you want them. It is my understanding that the access to your car is not as handy at the Herkimer mines and the Ace, so if you go to either of those mines you may have to carry your daily supplies with you into the pit. Also make sure you wear glasses in the pit. Chips of rock will be flying anywhere anyone is hunting so it is not just your own hammering you have to watch out for.

If you are taking a trip to New York from elsewhere to hunt, you might want to check out some of the areas North of the Herkimer areas in the Adirondacks during your visit. In the Gore Mountain area you can find garnets. While many are industrial quality, there are some nice gem quality stones there as well. The Natural Bridge area Near Lake George is known for its geodes, and there are quartz crystals scattered in many locations throughout the mountains. The areas Northwest of Herkimer are dotted with mineral locations of all sorts so if you want to explore a bit while in New York, there is plenty of potential for the avid hunter.



This month we have an introduction to RHS1 member “Mystic Crystal Mining Co”, Sean Dougherty. He’s also included some pics of some of the crystals that he finds on the field trips he leads.

My name is Sean, I got into rockhounding when I was about 12. I lived about 25 miles from Tombstone Arizona. I collected fossils and won the school science fare. Started digging and collecting quartz crystals and I was hooked. I have been collecting for over 30 years. I have been taking people to southern Arizona since 2005 to dig for quartz crystals. I teach them how to find quartz veins and how to remove crystals without harm. I get a few more people each year, this fall over 30 people have already signed up.

My favorite crystals are double-term and lazerwands. The wife likes crystals, but not digging for them. She likes to come and take her share right after we split them up, so she has a really nice collection. This April we had a small trip and I hit a really nice smoky pocket. The best one was a double-term and is over five inches long and over a inch around. When I pulled out that big smoky D-T, that made my day. The thrill for me is the chase, I like the work involved in hunting and digging the most. Its a great exercise program.

When I take people out, the fee includes travel to dig sites, tools needed. I will dig with you all day and you will learn the best way to hunt for crystals. You get to keep all that you find and most of what I find. I keep the nicest D-T that I find, you guys split up the rest. Everyone leaves happy with lots of goodies. If we hit a trophy pocket you will get a cut so you may leave VERY happy. On these trips there is hiking ( some say its bushwhacking ) to get to digs so you will have to be in pretty good shape. The nice smoky pocket I hit was about a mile from truck and they came from about two feet under ground.


The Geographical pole and the Magnetic pole.


In an earlier issue some time back, I discussed a bit about pole shift. Since that time I found there was general confusion about pole shifts. The following information should clear up confusions as to the nature of the beasts.

There are actually 2 types of pole shifts. One is geographical and the other is magnetic.

Geomagnetic variations since last reversal.

Geomagnetic Pole Shifts

The geomagnetic field terminates in North and South poles which roughly correspond to the geographic poles. . These poles drift almost continually. Pole shifts occur fairly regularly and on occasion these poles will actually completely reverse (geomagnetic pole reversal). These pole shifts are not known to shift instantly, but rather shift over time spans of up to a thousand years. Small, more rapid, shifts have taken place as recently as a few hundred years ago, but “rapid” was also over the course of several hundred years. Reversals, in which the North and south poles of the field change place have also taken place in the past and can be studied via the imprint they leave in rocks. Currently our North magnetic pole is traveling rapidly. It has covered 900 miles in just the last hundred years, and is currently moving toward Siberia at a clip of around 25 miles per year. Because of the speed of this migration, it is posited by many scientists that we are currently undergoing a magnetic pole shift.

Just as the magnetic poles of the sun reverse every 11 years, the earth’s magnetic poles do reverse. Reversals happen around once every 500,000 years. The last know reversal was around 700,000 years ago and another is expected in about 1000 – 2000 years, but it is impossible to put a date on the occurances.

During a reversal magnetism doesn’t just disappear as may be assumed. While the main field will weaken, it also becomes complex, developing several more poles and areas of magnetic complexity. In these complex areas the magnatism may actually be quite strong. The sun’s magnetic field is not of the same construction as the one on earth so while we can look to effects of the sun on our own magnetic fields, we cannot liken the activities of it’s field to our own. There are many misconceptions about a magnetic pole shift, including an idea that life as we know it will cease to exist.

Regarding the dangers of sun particles hitting the earth during a reversal, Dr. David P. Stern, a pysicist retired from Goddard Space Flight Center whose research area has been the electrodynamics and magnetic field of the earth’s magnetosphere, writes:

Some people worry that during magnetic reversals the Earth would receive a higher dosage of high-energy ions and electrons (“radiation” in common terms), which might affect us and any living creatures on Earth. This is not so. Even today, the magnetic shield is not effective near the magnetic poles, yet the radiation received there on the ground is only slightly higher than anywhere else. The reason is that our main shield against such particles is not the magnetic field of the Earth but the atmosphere, equivalent to some 10 feet of concrete.

It is possible that migrating animals may be effected by a pole reversal, depending on how strongly magnetism is found to correlate with their migration habits. Human organs are not magnetic and will probably not be effected directly by either a shift or a reversal. It is possible that some gases and elements effected by magnetism would be effected, but the scale of the effect or any chain reactions is not fully understood at this time. No indications throughout history have been found that extinctions have correlated to magnetic shifts or reversals though, so it is highly likely that a flip at this time would result in such an event.

Our dependence on technology might just take a beating during a reversal, however. Disruptions of the magnetic field can cause disruptions of appliances such as televisions, telephones, and satellite communications and functions. If the disruption is large enough, we can have quite a problem with these items. How long effects will last will depend on how long the fluxuations in the field continue.

Because of localized agitations in the magnetic field during a magnetic reversal some earth events, such as earthquakes, may become more active, but our magnetic field naturally fluxuates rather than maintaining a standard even flow such as you might liken to the flow of a river current. Localized magnetic anomolies are the usual state of affairs – they will just become more predominent during a reversal.

All in all, magnetic polar wandering, migration, and even reversals are all very usual activity of the magnetic poles. Business as usual actually stops when the poles stand still. Which brings us to a good spot to discuss the geographic poles a little bit.

Geographical Pole Shifts: True Polar Wander

These are the shifts that will turn the actual land mass of earth. It should be noted here that our polar axis itself wanders, and this is not quite the same thing. The inclination of the earth wobbles continually due to gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. This wobble does not change the position of the axis relative to land masses, it is a change of the inclination of the planet. The axis will always remain fairly fixed within this wobble. Continental drift is also a movement of the crust, but this drift moves crust regionally does not involve a change of the entire axis point of the crust

. True polar wander changes the the position of the axis and the equatorial line relative to land mass. The axis does not actually move to a different position, the crust itself moves to a different position relative to the axis. The crust may shift so that a new continent is sitting where the North Pole now is, but the spin axis itself remains in pretty much the same position. This type of polar wandering is called True Polar Wander. So while called polar wander, the actual situation is not representative of the title. For ease of discussion I will still refer to the axis shifting, but remember that it is the crust that is moving relative to the axis and the axis is not changing places.

During the Early to Mid Cambrian period the axis is seen to have shifted about 90 degrees within the short time of 15 million years. India, for example, was at one time South of the equator. It is also estimated that 84 million years ago the axis were shifting at a rate of 3 to 10 degrees  every million years. These large and rapid shifts coincided in time with magnetic field reversals. The axis has been migrating at a rapid pace for the last 200 million years, but it would take a movement of several feet per year to accomplish the 90 degree roll seen in the Cambrian period. What is the current “rapid” pace? It is around 5 cm per year. The resulting changes will occur over time and will cause localized climate changes, and subsequent extinctions or migrations of animals and plants which cannot adapt to new climates in their region.

The popularly publicized dangers associated with True Polar Wander are to be seen only during an instantaneous or extremely rapid shift. These include catastrophic storms, floods, crustal break-up, instantaneous climate changes, mountains evolving overnight, etc. Whether the axis can actually shift instantaneously is a highly debated issue.

Some scientists think that instantaneous shifts have happened in the past. One of the more well publicized evidences for the idea of instantaneous shifting is the findings of Mammoths frozen in ice almost completely free of decomposition and with tropical plants still undigested in their stomachs. Debunkers of this evidence say that quick burial in mud or drowning and preservation in cold waters which later froze could also accomplish this state of preservation. These criticisms neglect the fact that the animals were found frozen in ice, not under a mud layer and that there was no forensic evidence of drowning. The debate whether instantaneous polar shift has happened before will rage for some time yet, it can be assumed.

External forces have been cited to possibly cause an instantaneous polar shft. The gravitational pull of a large body passing very close to the planet is seen as a danger just as is the collision of a large body with the earth. Is this possible? Sure it is. Some scientists also theorize that such events have taken place in the past and were causes of some of the mass extinctions earth has experienced in the past. If we want to worry about extraterrestrial caused disruption, though, we could also worry that something large enough will come along that we can’t deflect and knock us right out of our path of orbit around the sun. When we look to the sky, just about anything is possible. What happens on our own planet that allows for the true polar wander we experience, though?

Planet earth is not one solid mass, but layers of different composition and activity. In the center we have a molten core which is surrounded by a hot, convecting mantle which rotates around the core. On the mantle sits a top layer, the lithosphere. The lithosphere is composed of plates and the crust resting on the plates. These plates are not attached to the mantle and are pulled and shifted across the mantle by a few different forces. Only if the mantle were to cool and harden would the plates become fixated to the mantle.

The rotation of the planet causes centrifugal force. Matter will distribute itself at the center of this force (at the equatorial line) as the planet spins. As shifting occurs land masses will move back toward the new center of the centrifugal force. The lithosphere moves because it is dragged by the friction of the rotation of the mantle, pulled by the gravitation of the moon and the sun, or because of redistribution of mass on the planet.

Convection in the mantle is also a catalyst for polar wander. As the plates move, they grind against each other. At points, called subduction zones, one plate moves under another plate. The matter being forced down into the mantle heats up and melts. As minerals in the mantle heat, hot spots are formed and plumes rise to the surface of the mantle. Some of these spread like mushrooms warming the plates and crust above them. Some of them form volcanoes and spew hot material onto the continents where it cools and hardens into rocks. in some rifts in ocean floors, volcanic hot spots spread the floor and cause further movement of plates, pushing on subduction zones and sending more material into the mantle where it melts as it sinks toward the molten core. This process of volcanism can cause a massive redistribution of matter on the crust.

At times the material in the mantle is cooler than other times as well. When the mantle is hotter, the materials are more liquid and the rotation will cause less drag upon the plates. When the mantle is cooler, the material is thicker causing more friction to move the plates, so that it is actually times of cooling under the lithosphere that the plates move more rapidly.

The movement of the plates then, is an everyday occurrence. There have been a few times in history that polar wander has stopped completely for short periods, and this is an anomaly that scientists are studying with much interest at the present date.

It is of further consequence that hot spots or plumes that spread beneath the surface of the lithosphere will heat it and can lead to regional climate changes. This is interesting to note as during the last winter when the North polar cap was re-freezing, the south polar cap has continued to melt. Scientists believe that this melt is due to volcanic activity (i.e. mantle plumes) beneath the surface. How this can impact a polar shift is by making the earth top heavy. A massive warming at the south pole during a very cold winter in which much snow mass collects at the top of the planet can throw the earth off balance and create a polar shift. Exactly how rapid a shift such an imbalance could cause is not immediately known. If the imbalance of matter is great enough, a quite rapid shift could result.

A complete turn over of the mantle would cause such a shift and is thought to have done so in the past. Whether this process can happen instantaneously, however, is extremely doubtful. Studies of the mantle are very new and our understanding of the construction is too limited to absolutely include or exclude any possibilities as of yet, but at this time what knowledge has been acquired would led scientists to believe instantaneous overturning of the mantle in not very probable, even if possible at all.

Volcanoes also have an effect on polar wandering, both magnetic and geographical. Volcanoes are the result of mantle plumes. As the hot spots of materials become buoyant they plume to the surface, where it either spreads or is expelled in volcanic activity. Heavy metals which react to magnetism will cool and align with the current magnetic poles. This is the reason we can read the positions of the poles throughout the earth’s past. Magnetic field shifts correspond to activity in crustal movement, so when the magnetic fields change, we can presume there has been corresponding geographical shifting even if it is slight enough to only cause changes over long periods of time.

An extremely large volcano may also result in an imbalance which could upset the moment of inertia. The Yellowstone volcano is one such super-volcano. While it is known that the volcano is large enough to cause mass death and destruction on it’s own, it is yet unknown whether enough mass may be ejected from it to cause a rapid shift.

Another factor in the shifting of the poles is the shape of the earth itself. The earth, while pictured as round, is not actually round. It is more elliptical with a central bulge created by centrifugal force. Changes in climate are seen to effect the lithosphere by condensing or expanding matter. Shifts in the concentration of distributed matter not only cause the planet to change shape, but can lead to imbalances in the moment of inertia which result in true polar wander as well.

Studies regarding the effect of concentrations of mass via the building of cities containing billions of tons of people and construction have not been undertaken, but may turn up some interesting results about the impact of such concentrations of mass on plate movement. Hardcore proponents of polar shift apocalypse may want to take up advocating that evenly-sized, major cities should be built only along equatorial regions and at evenly spread intervals. (Yes, sometimes it is hard to tell if someone is joking. Earth science is a complex subject. You ask can cities of large mass distort the balance or was I joking?)

While scientists are relatively certain that instantaneous pole shifts are unlikely, these events cannot be ruled out of the picture completely. An instantaneous shift would necessarily cause major upheavals as land, water, and air caught in an imbalance in the moment of inertia move to recenter according to changed centrifugal force centers. For a brief time water and wind would continue on it’s original course across shifting land masses, causing storms and floods. Plates would crash together crushing some in plate subductions while folding upward into mountains in others. Faults would crumble matter across continental regions All natural disaster events and storms would occur across the planet in an instant. While this is the scenario pole shift apocalypse theorists fear, it might be well noticed that any force strong enough to cause such a shift would be so calamitous in it’s own right that a resulting polar shift would be only a secondary problem.

Volcanoes large enough to move the orientation of the lithosphere enough to cause immediate radical shifting would bring destruction, first by the explosion and expulsion of matter itself, and secondly by thickening the atmosphere and disallowing light for the growth of plants for food or for warmth. Snow and ice masses at the North polar region heavy enough to cause an imbalance sufficient to roll the crust instantly would most likely only be achievable in ice age like conditions which would kill major masses of population via starvation and freezing. Also, anything that strikes the planet with enough force to achieve a crustal roll isn’t going to do the planet or us much good whether it actually causes a roll or not. Perhaps in the next issue of the connector we will discuss conditions which offer a more immediate and real threat such as that we are full into a new sun cycle which is to this date completely void of sun spots! What percentage of the human population can survive an ice age?


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Image and info credits for this edition:

Wikipedia: Odyssey Marine Exploration: Nasa: F. Scott Crawford: Sean Dougherty:

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