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Sinking to new depths


Wot, no plumes?


Now that April's here, science writer and geologist Nina Morgan thinks some deep thoughts

Geoscientist 19.4 April 2009

Geological debates often simmer very hot and heavy for many years. One of the hottest – in every sense – remains the controversy over mantle plumes and hot spots. Plumes were first proposed by Tuzo Wilson in 1963 as a causal force for plate tectonics and a mechanism to account for the hot spots that appear to fuel the volcanism under islands like the Hawaiian chain and Iceland. Even now, 45 years later, plumes remain a controversial topic. Like the tooth fairy, not everyone believes they even exist.

Back in the late 1970s, two researchers in the field, John Holden and Peter Vogt, stirred up the embers in the hot spot debate when they formed their International Stop Continental Drift Society (ISCDS). They also offered a comprehensive overview of the plume controversy in their classic 1977 paper, Graphic Solutions to Problems of Plumacy. In this seminal work, the pair illustrated conceptual gems such as the gravitational anchor theory and the cracked sewer pipe theory. They also proposed a brand new theory to account for the origin of mid-oceanic rifts, hot spots, the solar system, creation, and God.

Although the ICDS died a death some time in the 1980s, Vogt and Holden continue to follow, and publish about, the plume debate. Their 2007 paper, Plumacy Reprise, written from the fastness of the Plumatic Asylum Headquarters in an abandoned hippy commune outside Omak ,Washington, summarises their latest take on the subject. No fooling!

If the past is the key to your present interests, why not join the History of Geology Group (HOGG). For more information visit the HOGG website at: