The Kerguelen Plateau

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Identified as a submerged microcontinent by a team of scientists in 1999, the Kerguelen Plateau was built up by eruptions from the hotspot over the next 20 million years before emerging above sea level. A rather quick event in geologic time, the sudden eruption of the plateau may have contributed to a global catastrophe at that time in the form of a global oceanic anoxic event, in which the earth’s oceans are deprived of oxygen and marine life dies off en masse; interestingly, much of the world’s petroleum resources credit their origins to the massive marine extinctions of this time period. The plateau existed above water as a microcontinent three different times over a period of 80 million years before it went underwater for a final time about 20 million years ago; a combination of a change in characteristics in the mantle plume which fed Kerguelen’s construction, sea level change, and the inevitable process of erosion (the same reason the northwesternmost Hawaiian Islands are so much smaller than the southeasternmost islands; they’re older). Floor samples indicate that the microcontinent was covered by a coniferous forest.

Basement Geographer

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