Four thousand miles

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Interspersed among the uplifted Andes are four thousand miles of volcanoes. The Pacific Ocean floor, going down to melt below that edge of the continent, has done much to help lift it twenty thousand feet. Seafloor-ocean crust-is dense enough to go down a trench, but continents are too light, too buoyant. When a continent comes into a trench, it will become stuck there, causing havoc. Even if part of it goes down some dozens of kilometres, it will eventually get stuck. Australia is such a continent, and where it has jammed a trench it has buckled up the earth to make the mountains of New Guinea, sixteen thousand five hundred feet. When two continental masses happen to move on a collision course, they gradually close out the sea between flexplek huren amsterdam them-barging over trenches, shutting them off-and when they hit they drive their leading edges together as a high and sutured welt, resulting in a new and larger continental mass. The Urals are such a welt. So is the Himalaya. The Himalaya is the crowning achievement of the IndoAustralian Plate. India, in the Oligocene, crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed in under the newly created Tibetan Plateau and drove the Himalaya five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat. When the climbers in i953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the flexplek huren eindhoven skeletons of creatures that had lived in the warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as twenty thousand feet below the seafloor, the skeletal remains had formed into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone. Plates grow, shrink, combine, disappear, their number changing through time. They shift direction. Before the Pliocene, there was a trench off California. Seafloor moved into it from the west and dived eastward into the earth. Big volcanoes came up.

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