Plate tectonics and our dynamic continents for Mrs. Yollis and class

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NUMBER 100: As the recipient of my 100th Extended Comment, Mrs. Yollis and class will be receiving a copy of “Wombat’s Secret” book, Bruce the Wombat, a Potoroo Palace souvenir (where I take many animal photos) and postcards of New Zealand including Mt. Cook mentioned in this post.

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To view the original post from Mrs. Yollis and class...

National Geographic's Giant Map of Asia

Dear Mrs. Yollis and class,

Your map is most certainly not the size to put up on a wall in class.  🙂

When looking at your map of Asia, the continent closest to Australia, it made me think of the long history of the various cultures of Asia, the diverse landscapes, and the interesting people who have added so much to our world. I know my family can trace some of my ancestors back to Asia as would be true for so many of us.

Looking at the map, it also made me consider what has often been called the Indian Subcontinent. Perhaps some of you have heard of continental drift? It’s where the surface of the world is really a series of “plates” floating on the magma (lava) layers below the surface. Scientists call the plates, tectonic plates.

India is on a separate plate to much of Asia, as is much of what many call the Middle East. Over many millions of years what was thought to be one large mass of land has broken up with sections drifting away. Some call that ancient land mass Pangaea. Here is a Wikimedia Commons graphic of Pangaea showing the positions of where today's tectonic plates might have been.

Pangaea continents

This is a Wikimedia Commons graphic.

For more information about Pangaea, here is the Wikipedia link.

According to Wikipedia, Pangaea started breaking up about 200 million years ago.  At that time, what was to become India was closer to Africa, Antarctica and Australia. India’s plate broke away and headed north eventually running into the Eurasian plate where we see it today. It’s this very slow collision of the plates that caused the great mountains of the Himalayas to rise, including Mount Everest.

I have read the Himalayas are still rising at about 15mm (0.6 inches) a year. It may not sound like much but, over 10,000 years, that would be 150,000 mm or 15,000cm or 150m (that is about 6000 inches or 500 feet).

Don’t you love the numbers involved? A small amount can, given time, become a big amount.

If you look at the following picture from Wikipedia, you can see the positions of the modern tectonic plates. You will see you’re on the North American plate and it is pushing along the Pacific plate. You would all know one of the places where this is happening. Have any of you seen the San Andreas Fault?

Plates tect2 en

This is a Wikimedia Commons graphic.

Looking at some of your buddy classes in “Our World, Our Numbers” you can see Canada is also along the same plate border with you. Your New Zealand buddies are also on a border but their border is between the Australian and Pacific plates. Your Australian and United Kingdom buddies aren’t on the border of their plates.

Imagine, without this movement we wouldn't have magnificent mountains like New Zealand's Mt. Cook...

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Location: Mount Cook, New Zealand

Here are two videos showing information about plate tectonics. The first link is to an easy to understand animation.

The second video gives extra, harder information…

This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.


11 thoughts on “Plate tectonics and our dynamic continents for Mrs. Yollis and class

  1. Daniel and Nate

    Dear Mr Mannell,

    We enjoyed your magnificent videos and post!

    Nate: Before I watched the easy video, I thought that when the plate collided together, it connected them. It does connect them, but it can also cause earthquakes or build a mountain range.

    Daniel: I never knew that the continents used to be connected in a giant island!

    What’s your favorite continent that’s not Australia?

    Nate and Daniel

    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Dear Nate and Daniel,

      We are discovering more and more about our amazing world. It wasn’t that many hundreds of years ago people thought the world was flat and Earth was the centre of the universe with the sun and stars orbiting it. We know these not to be true. There are some people who don’t believe in moving plates on the Earth but I believe the evidence shows us this is true,

      What is my favourite continent apart from Australia? I suppose I would choose Antarctica because it is so different to the other continents. It was once covered by forests when it was warmer but continental drift carried it into the south polar regions. Much plant and animal life died out leaving only fossil remains with only a hint of what was in some of the ancient forests of New Zealand and southern Australia. While there are people living down there, they don’t stay. They tend to be scientists. Of course there are the species of penguins you find but I don’t have to go too far to see some. There is a small colony of little penguins not all that far from my town. You also find seals and whales visiting the shores.

      Can you imagine the amazing photos I could take down there?


  2. Mrs. Yollis

    Dear Mr. Ross Mannell,

    We love your post! It is interesting that mountains are formed by plates hitting together. I think it is very cool that you have a blog where you extend comments. We learned a lot. For example, we learned that one of the safest places to go during an earthquake is outside, with no trees.

    One of our classmates, Parsa, told us that he left a comment on your blog once! Mrs. Yollis says that you live in New South Wales, Australia. Peter was wondering if you have ever visited the Sidney Opera House? That seems like a famous landmark.

    Do you know that Mrs. Yollis said you are one of the kindest men on the Internet. We agree! You help classes all over the world get comments. You also teach us new words that help build our vocabulary.

    On our blog, approximately how many comments have you left? (It doesn’t need to be exact)

    On Edublogs there is a post called the Pancake Rocks. Is that possible to climb?


    Bryce and Peter

    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Dear Bruce and Peter,

      I have been to the Sydney Opera House. I have photos taken when it was being built and I think somewhere I might have photos taken when Queen Elizabeth II opened it in 1973. There are photos of one of my classes when they visited the Opera House. Each year, schools from around my state send talented students there to perform.

      Here is a link to a post I made. It has some photos of the Sydney Opera House…

      Kindest? I blog and comment because I love doing it. It has become a hobby of mine and I think I get a great deal out of it. It’s a bonus when I find students like what I do. It reminds me of being in class again. The only difference is my “class” now stretches across the world. 🙂

      How many comments? Oh, wow, I couldn’t even guess. I started commenting on blogs in the middle of 2011 and have visited many hundreds of blogs and typed many thousands of words. My first Extended Comments date back to September 2011 when I made a series of posts about volcanoes for Year 6 at High Lawn School in England. While that blog is no longer active, I reproduced them on this blog in May last year. Here is a link tot he first Extended Comment I made…

      I think my first Extended Comment for Mrs. Yollis was early in 2012. It is also reproduced on this blog. Here is the link…

      Pancake Rocks – I do seem to do a great deal of blogging. Here is a link to a post I made for B4 and Bradley. It includes Pancake Rocks…

      There are pathways taking you to viewpoints around Pancake Rocks but I don’t think you can climb on the rocks themselves. If this was allowed they might be damaged. 🙂


  3. Heather and Keira

    Dear Mr. Mannell,

    Thank you for leaving us a quality extended comment! Your comment ROCKS! (Get it?)

    We were surprised that the Himalayas were formed by uplifts. We were stunned to learn that our amazing world used to be one huge island. Is Pangaea an island or a vast continent?

    Mount Cook looks fascinating and is a pretty funny name. It doesn’t really look like it is cooking because it is all snowy! 😀

    We never knew there was a core deep inside the Earth. But we knew there was lava in the Earth. Isn’t that the lava that spouts out of volcanoes?

    I challenge you to find how the Earth began. If you find out, please reply to us.

    Heather and Keira

    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Dear Heather and Keira,

      We tend to class continents by size. Australia is said to be both the world’s largest island and smallest continent. This would mean anything larger than Australia is a continent so Pangaea would be a super-continent because it contained all of the continents we know today.

      Mt. Cook received its name from Captain James Cook, the first European we know to have sailed around and mapped New Zealand. He wasn’t the first person to find New Zealand as the Maori people were in New Zealand long before the coming of Cook. Did you know Maoris call New Zealand, Aotearoa, and Mt. Cook, Aoraki? I have always enjoyed visiting and meeting the Maori people and have had Maori students in my classes in Australia. Maoris have a fascinating history and culture. They, like the people of Hawaii, are a Polynesian culture. Imagine a culture that was capable of colonising islands as far north as Hawaii, east as Easter Island and west as New Zealand.

      Aotearoa is translated as “the land of the long white cloud”.

      Back in August last year I made a post for the 2012 4KM and 4KJ on natural disasters. It included information about the Earth and its interior. Here is the link…

      A challenge is interesting. I do have an idea of how the Earth began according to science but it will take a special post to share graphics, photos, videos and other links so it will be added to a queue of ideas waiting to be shared. Blogging has become very busy over the last two weeks. I love it. I’ll let Mrs. Yollis know when it is ready. 🙂


      1. Heather and Keira

        @ Mr. Mannell,

        Wow! You must be super busy! Please tell us when the post about how Earth began is published! We are RUMBLING with excitement to know how Earth began.

        How do you get all these facts about Mount Cook in such a short time? We search in World Book Online. You need to have a username and a password though. Here is a link to it:

        World Book Online Contact Mrs. Yollis for the password if you’d like.

        What do you use to search up facts? Can you give us a hyperlink? Do you like World Book Online?

        Heather and Keira

        1. rossmannell

          Post author

          Dear Heather and Keira,

          I will be sure to let you know when your post is ready.

          The first thing I use when writing an extended comment post is my memory. Something someone has written starts me remembering information about the topic. I then check on line, often with Wikipedia, to try to be sure what I write is correct or to add extra information. I would try to teach my class being intelligent doesn’t mean knowing all the facts. It means knowing how to find the information you need then knowing how to put the information to use.

          Before we had Wikipedia, I did use encyclopedia books and DVD based encyclopedias but on line searching is much more efficient if you know important key words when searching. When your post is ready, you’ll find it will include links to things I think will be useful.

          As I have been to New Zealand an number of times and had an interest in geology, I remembered information I had heard. The fault line between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates runs along the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. When you are on the west coast, you are on the Australian plate, when you are on the other side of the mountains, you are on the Pacific plate. I have a sample of rock from the west coast. It is mica schist. Schist is known as a metamorphic rock. This means the original rock has been changed under heat and/or pressure. The rock would have been changed deep down but pushing against the Pacific Plate brought it to the surface.

          Here is a Wikipedia link on schist…

          Take a look at a post I made for B4…

          Much of the rock you see in the picture of Franz Joseph Glacier would be schist. The glacier flows down the mountains to the west coast.

          We have a pretty amazing world. I keep learning new things about it and will never know all its secrets. 🙂


  4. Aashi

    Dear Mr. Mannell,

    Hello! My name is Aashi, and I am a 2nd grader from Mrs. Yollis’ 2/3 class.

    Thank you for leaving us such a wonderful post!

    I saw that Heather and Keira challenged you about how the world began and you made a post for them! I have a small question too. How did people (other than the Aboriginal people) know about Australia?


    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Dear Aashi,

      The first people we know to have come to Australia were the ancestors of the Aboriginal (native Australian) people. They arrived up to around 60,000 years ago.

      Back then the sea levels were lower because there was more ice at the poles. You could walk from New Guinea all the way down to Tasmania. This allowed the first people to travel from Asia across the islands and eventually here. These days the Torres Strait in the north and Bass Strait in the south separate New Guinea and Tasmania from mainland Australia.

      Can you imagine back then people looking for better hunting and fishing places? Families or larger groups spread out across the world.

      If I remember correctly, the native Americans reached North America in more than one migration, the last being about 12,000 years ago. They would have travelled from Europe and Asia across the Bering Strait and into Alaska when sea levels were again low.

      How did people know about Australia?

      I think the first people to arrive here were looking for new lands and stumbled upon Australia. Back then Australia was a very different place covered in forests and lakes whereas today much of Australia is arid (desert) and semi-arid.

      The first Europeans to visit Australia came in the 1600s. They were sailors who came to Australia’s west coast. The east coast where I live didn’t have its first known European visitors until the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770.

      Last year a replica of Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, visited a nearby bay. I wrote a post on the ship. If you look, you will see the sort of ship the first Europeans used to visit Australia…

      Last year I wrote a pretend letter from Captain Cook to Mrs. Yollis and class. In it, I pretended Captain Cook was describing his journey to New Zealand and Australia. Here is the link…



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