Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Young Appearance of the Earth

During a recent trip to Latangai island in New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea, I had some thoughts about the young appearance of various landforms and of human society in general in the region.

For example, I was told that near Rabaul there is an island which came up out of the sea in one day, as a result of volcanic activity. This happened only decades ago. Volcanic activity has formed an island in a single day.

From the plane I could see a coral reef. The reef had the distinct form of a river flowing through it. No doubt the form of the river had been forged by the sea.  I imagined what might happen if volcanic activity was to force the reef above sea level and form an island similar to what occurred in the sea near Rabaul. I realized that the form of the river in the midst of the reef would also rise above sea level together with the coral reef itself. Thus the form of the river above sea level wouldn't require a long period of time to be forged - instead the river would be there from day one. Not only can an island appear in a day, but also a river can exist from day one.

Then I thought about the languages on the island. 22 languages are spoken. One of the languages sounds similar to Samoan. Other languages share identical vocabulary with some Filipino languages. One of the words shared with a Filipino language is a word that was borrowed from Spanish. I thought that the influence of Filipino words on the region must therefore have happened during or after the period of Spain's rule in the Philippines. Thus we're talking hundreds, not thousands of years ago.

The dominance of Tok Pisin is an example of how quickly languages can emerge, dominate and then change, in society. The language didn't exist 200 years ago. But now it's spoken all over Papua New Guinea. The language has already undergone significant change, as you can see by comparing a newspaper printed in the 1940s. It made me think that societal changes often thought to require long periods of time can actually take place very very quickly.

I also thought that the human population in the area ought to be much larger if humans had been there for millions of years. There is still plenty of unoccupied fertile land to sustain far larger populations.

We flew over some volcanoes on our way home. Much of what comes out from volcanoes is water vapour. The water vapour comes up from deep underground. Where a continent or island meets sea bed, the sea bed tends to be heavier, because the seabed rock contains water. Because it's heavier, the drier landform might slide above it. So the water-logged rock ends-up underneath the drier landform. As it heats up and comes under pressure, the water is forced out of the rock, and heats up the rock around it, and forces its way up in the form of a volcanic eruption.

It made me think that in the event of large volumes of water going back down under the earth, such as after Noah's flood, there could have been a lot of sudden volcanic activity - like within a hundred years or so - a lot of sudden new islands being formed, a lot of sudden shifts of continents and islands, and a lot of division between landforms by water. I thought I saw evidence that this could happen quickly rather than slowly, especially if we're dealing with the subduction of an extraordinarily large volume of water.

The speed with which I observed processes occurring in Papua New Guinea could also mean that the Himalayas, for example, may have formed far quicker than was thought. India and other landforms may have separated and moved quickly.

The process could explain the existence of wallabies in the mountains of Latangai island. 

I felt I saw evidence that changes occurred quickly.

No comments:

Post a Comment