Biblical-style flood tore Britain from France
This amazing discovery helps explain the abandonment of the British Isles that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago, and also joins the great ancient flood of the Mediterranean in lending credence to the ancient memories of peoples that speak of a great flood. There is hardly a civilization in the world that doesn't make mention of such an event. Perhaps there were similar floods thoughout history in many locations. Amazing stuff. What a wild and wonderful planet we are living on. It's amazing that humanity has been so persistent in the face of reapeated cataclysms.
Biblical-style flood tore Britain from France | The World | The Australian
SCIENTISTS have found that Britain owes its island status to a catastrophic flood that swept away in less than 24 hours the hills that once joined the land mass to France.
The flood, which took place between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, instantly turned Britain from being a peninsula of continental Europe into a separate entity, changing forever the way it would develop.
The finding has emerged from an advanced sonar survey of the sea bed of the English Channel that revealed huge scour marks, deep bowls and piles of rock that could have been created only by a giant torrent of water. If confirmed, it will force an important revision of British prehistory.
It had been thought the Channel had formed by slow erosion combined with rises in sea level that took place over millions of years, rather than by a sudden, biblical-style catastrophe.
"This could have been one of the most powerful flood events ever known on earth," said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. "It would have cut through the chalk hills joining Britain to Europe and created a Niagara-style waterfall 300ft (91.5m) to 400ft high."
Professor Stringer has been overseeing the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, which brought together researchers from a range of disciplines to trace how Britain first became populated. Among the researchers were a team from Imperial College, in London, led by Sanjeev Gupta, who used sonar to survey the sea floor several kilometres off the Sussex coast.
The equipment is able to see through thick layers of sediment to the sea bed lying beneath. The team was surprised to find the remains of a huge valley, partly hidden by accumulated mud, running southwest from the Strait of Dover.
"In places this huge, underwater valley is more than seven miles (11km) wide and 170ft deep, with vertical sides. Its nearest geological parallels are found not on earth but in the monumental flood terrains of the planet Mars," Dr Gupta said in an abstract published at an academic conference. "This suggests the valley was created by catastrophic flood-flows following the breaching of the Dover Strait and the sudden release of water from a giant lake to the north."
In the scenario, there was a high chalk ridge linking Britain and France running roughly between Dover and Calais.
Northeast of this ridge the land sloped down until it met the North Sea, which was much smaller then and was bordered by a shoreline that ran from Norfolk to northern Germany.
Several European rivers, including the Rhine, Seine and Thames, ran northwards to this shore, emptying into the sea.
Between 400,000 and 100,000 years ago, northern Europe suffered repeated glaciations. During one of these, an ice cap up to 1.6km thick reached so far south it stretched from Scotland to Denmark, damming the North Sea. This turned it into a freshwater lake that, fed by rivers, deepened over thousands of years.
"The lake would have been hundreds of feet above then sea level," Professor Stringer said. "One day it just overflowed the top of the chalk ridge and started pouring over. Once the torrent started it would have ripped through the chalk and poured down towards the Atlantic."
Global sea levels were far lower then than now because so much water was locked up in the ice caps. This meant that Britain was joined to France all the way along its south coast - and the cascading water had to carve its way across the landscape.
The discovery of the Channel flood may help to solve one of the enduring mysteries of British archeology - the apparent abandonment of the British Isles by humans for 120,000 years.
Researchers have found that humans first arrived in Britain at least 700,000 years ago. They were driven out by repeated glaciations but returned whenever the land warmed up. They vanished completely between 180,000 and 60,000 years ago.