Book Two – The Four Forces, opens in one of the least explored areas on Earth—Antarctica. It’s here that Alexa discovers the Finos living deep under the ice sheet next to the Shackleton Mountain range.
Antarctica wasn’t always a frozen desert. Five hundred million years ago, it was part of the supercontinent, Gondwana. Let’s take a look at how Antarctica became what it is today.
The Paleozoic Era (541 mya – 252 mya)
The Paleozoic Era, meaning ancient life, consisted of dramatic geology changes, climate, and evolution on Earth. It began with the Cambrian explosion, a period in Earth’s history during which many modern-day life forms first emerged. Life began in the oceans and transitioned to land towards the end of the Paleozoic era. The continents were covered by forests of primitive plants, which were the source of today’s coal beds in Europe and North America. The Paleozoic Era ended with the Permian-Triassic extinction, the largest extinction event in history. During this extinction, 80% of marine life, 70% of terrestrial species, and 60% of all insect’s biological families became extinct. This event is also referred to as the Great Dying. The cause of this extinction is still debated but falls into three possible categories:
- One or more large meteor impacts.
- A period of massive volcanic eruptions, which released extreme quantities of greenhouse gases.
- A significant release of underwater methane or the combustion of fossil fuels.
Ironically, these risks still exist today and are included as part of the Tuar Tums Trilogy.
Where on Earth was Gondwana during the Paleozoic Era?
Five hundred mya Gondwana had a mild climate. West Antarctica was partly in the northern hemisphere, while East Antarctica was located at the equator. Four hundred mya, Gondwana had moved into southern latitudes and had a milder climate. Around 360 mya, glaciation appeared on Gondwana, and it was centered over the south pole. Over the next 100 mya, Earth warmed, and Gondwana had a hot, dry climate.
The Mesozoic Era (252 mya – 66 mya)
The Mesozoic Era, meaning middle life, was characterized by the dinosaurs’ rise and fall, but many other life forms emerged, including the first birds and mammals. It was a period of intense tectonics, climate, and evolutionary activity. This era ended with an event called Chicxulub when a large asteroid collided with Earth, resulting in the fifth and last mass extinction event. Over 75% of life became extinct, and it’s estimated that anything over ten kilograms became extinct, ending the dinosaurs’ rule of planet Earth. The Chicxulub event was what brought the Tuar Tums to Earth and how the trilogy begins.
Where on Earth was Gondwana during the Mesozoic Era?
Around 160 mya Gondwana began to break apart. Africa separated first, followed by the Indian subcontinent. By the end of the Mesozoic Era, Antarctica and Australia were still connected and had a subtropical climate despite their extreme southern location, but that was about to change with the Cenozoic Era.
The Cenozoic Era (66 mya – Present Day)
The Cenozoic Era, meaning new life, is also called the Age of Mammals because mammals were the dominant terrestrial animal after the Chiicxulub event. It is during this era that the continents took their familiar shape and location. For the first 32 million years of this era, Earth had a remarkably consistent temperature from pole to pole of 800 Farhenheit. As Earth began to cool, seasonal rains gave birth to extensive grasslands and forests. Five million years ago, Earth again underwent substantial climate change, experiencing a series of ice ages that shaped the land into what we know today.
So how did Antarctica become the frozen continent we know today?
Around 40 mya Australia-New Guinea broke away from Antarctica and moved to where they are today. Around the same time, continental spread changed ocean currents from longitudinal (equator to pole) to latitudinal (east to west), resulting in a substantial decrease in water temperatures as you moved toward the poles, causing ice to appear on Antarctica. Approximately 25 mya, the Drake Passage opened between Antarctica and South America, which sealed Antarctica’s fate. Separated from any other landmass resulted in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which keeps warm ocean water away from Antarctica. Ten million years later, Antarctica was covered entirely in ice.
Fun Facts about Antarctica!
- Antarctica is 45% larger than the United States and nearly twice as large as Australia.
- The ice cap covering Antarctica averages 6,200 feet in thickness.
- The coldest temperature ever recorded on Antarctica was -128.60F, or -89.20C.
- Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth
- Antarctica is a polar desert, yet it holds 80% of the world’s freshwater. If the ice cap were to melt, Earth’s sea levels would increase by 200 feet.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Want to learn more about me and my process?
Some people were born to be writers; I wasn’t one of them. What I do have is a great sense of curiosity and adventure. As a kid, I built miles of paths through the woods, always searching for what was just over the next hill. I don’t know how many miles of trails I created or the number of forts I built, but I remember the fun I had imagining new worlds in my mind….