Multiple strike/slip faults in the lower western side of North America will have
caused the characteristic ‘staircases’ to develop. The western passive margin became
fragmented into rectangular slabs which then moved at different rates to each other,
and some were rotated in the process. These slabs were jostled about by the opposing
tectonic forces indicated in the previous diagrams.
Once a fault line is established, a crust segment can move at a different rate to
another or in an opposite direction to another. These direction flows can even reverse
and the San Andreas fault, for instance, has movements which are contrary to movements
which took place many millions of years ago.
The Alaskan peninsula was pushed round in an anti-clockwise direction as the Atlantic
Ocean-bed pushed north-westwards. This rotation movement has been confirmed by researchers
(Embry, 1998) using magnetic anomaly data and geographical positioning.
Simple Stretching of the Crust
Before the crust ruptured in the western hemisphere and the Atlantic Ocean bed had
started to form, much of the crust of western Europe had been stretched to thinner
depths. There is now a gradient of crust thinning which runs westwards.
By then the British Isles had been dragged, in a south-west direction, away from
its former neighbours in France and Germany. At the same time, the Scandinavian peninsula
had skewed westwards as the Baltic Sea bed formed by the stretching of its crust.
We can trace these movements by sedimentary geology. Chalks and limestones which
had formed in water filled basins, being brittle by nature, fragmented as the more
ductile platform rock beneath them stretched under tension. Some of these fragments
were carried considerable distances away from their original positions, riding piggy-back
on the stretching crust.
Formation of the Mediterranean Basin
The Mediterranean area will have looked like the following image - until about 20
million years ago.
Notice that the northern part of the African continent was much more eastward with
respect to the European land mass.
The peninsula of Morocco fitted snugly into the area near Corsica.
The Canary Islands were near the southern tip of Spain.
Sicily was much further east and attached to Crete.
The Black Sea was much narrower, there was no Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey,
and the land space for Libya and western Egypt was not in existence.
It can be seen from the following images that crustal stretching in the eastern Mediterranean
created new areas of land mass and at the same time allowed the African plate to
move westward, taking with it the Canary Islands and the Island of Sicily.