Abstract

Until a little more than a century ago the land surface not only was the only part of the Earth accessible to humans but also was the only part for which geophysical and geochemical methods could then provide any details. Since then scientists have developed ways to study the ocean floors and some details of the interior of the Earth to ever greater depths. These discoveries have followed one another more and more rapidly, and now results have been obtained from all depths of the Earth.New methods have not contradicted or greatly disturbed either old methods or old results. Hence, it has been easy to overlook the great importance of these recent findings.Within about the last 5 years the new techniques have mapped the pattern of convection currents in the mantle and shown that these rise from great depths to the surface. Even though the results are still incomplete and are the subject of debate, enough is known to show that the convection currents take two quite different modes. One of these breaks the strong lithosphere; the other moves surface fragments and plates about.It is pointed out that if expanding mid-ocean ridges move continents and plates, geometrical considerations demand that the expanding ridges must themselves migrate. Hence, collisions between ridges and plates are likely to have occurred often during geological time.Twenty years ago it was shown that the effect of a "mid-ocean ridge in the mouth of the Gulf of Aden" was to enter and rift the continent. This paper points out some of the conditions under which such collisions occur and in particular shows that the angle of incidence between a ridge and a coastline has important consequences upon the result. Several past and present cases are used to illustrate that collisions at right angles tend to produce rifting; collisions at oblique angles appear to terminate in the lithosphere in coastal shears, creating displaced terrane, but in the mantle the upward flow may continue to uplift the lithosphere far inland and produce important surface effects; collisions between coasts and mid-ocean ridges parallel to them produce hot uplifts moving inland. For a time these upwellings push thrusts and folds ahead of them, but they appear to die down before reaching cratons.

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