Dancing Elephants and Floating Continents: The Story of Canada Beneath Your Feet
Key Porter, 2003 (2003)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
o you know what a Canadian elephant is? I didn't either. According to John Wilson, it's a 25-ton truck, nicknamed a '
' because it pounds the ground with huge hammers. Why would you want to do that, you ask. Apparently, it creates powerful shock waves in the Earth's crust, which give pictures '
of a world beneath our feet
' to Lithoprobe, a project looking at how Canada formed over 4 billion years!
ilson, a former geologist, introduces the story of continents '
crashing into each other, crushing islands, raising mountain ranges, and opening and closing vast oceans
'. He then heads back in time to 1497 when John Cabot charted a small section of the coast of Newfoundland (the beginning of the mapping of Canada). He tells us that changes that occurred to the continent through Earth's history (shown in a 4.6 billion year timeline) have left their tracks beneath our feet.
e move on, somewhat shakily to British Columbia, its mild weather and its earthquakes. A sidebar talks about '
Rating a Quake
', and there is a historical account of a 1700 quake that wiped out a First Nations' village on Vancouver Island (which we are told is currently bulging up 4 millimeters a year from pressure in the mantle). The cause of quakes is explained in terms of '
', and we learn that the story of future mega-quakes began '
tens of millions of years ago.
ext we head East to learn that much of Nova Scotia is, geologically speaking, part of Africa. Over to Africa to learn about the formation of '
', and that there used to be a rift valley under Lake Superior, which '
almost ripped North America apart
'). Mountains next - the Himalayas naturally - but what about the Grenvilles north of Toronto that a very long time ago were the highest on the planet? And did you know that mountains have '
'? The tour of Canada past would not be complete without Alberta and its dinoaurs - and of course the meteors that wiped them out. The good news is that meteors can also leave a legacy of valuable metals when they crash.
ontinuing efforts to understand the jigsaw puzzle of North America are discussed, simple experiments are interspersed through the text - used to better understand the ideas - and links to various online resources are included at the end, for further exploration. It's hard to believe that the excruciatingly slow story of continent shift could be made exciting, but John Wilson brings it alive beneath all our feet.
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