NEWS

Nature’s plans for the Mediterranean Sea

There could come a day when Mount Taygetos, Mount Pindos and the White Mountains of Crete are higher than Mount Olympus, when the shores of the Peloponnese merge with those of Libya, the Mediterranean Sea swallowed up in a region more akin to what Iran or Pakistan is today, according to forecasts by scientists monitoring events in the depths of the earth under the Mediterranean basin. After all, the Mediterranean Sea used to be an ocean before it became an almost enclosed body of water. The collision between India and Asia that threw up the Himalayas is still continuing and in western Epirus, the western Peloponnese and Crete, new gorges could open up or existing ones, such as Samaria or Vikos, could deepen. These phenomena are described in a map drafted up by the Geophysics Laboratory at Thessaloniki University, showing the region’s structure and complex geotectonic state, as well as activity deep under the seabed for over a million years. Five major geological plates are pushing against each other at a depth of 100-150 kilometers, creating movement detected at the surface, chiefly earthquakes, but also in less discernible changes to the soil and climate. The main battle between these plates takes place in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the Aegean, which has the most seismic activity in Europe and Asia. All the activity is centered south of the arc formed by the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe, and the Western Alps. The African plate is heading northward at a speed of 10 millimeters a year, pressing again on the Eurasian plate. The Arabian peninsula is also moving north at a speed of 10 millimeters a year, pushing against that of Anatolia (Asia Minor), which is in turn being pushed toward the Aegean at a speed of 25 millimeters a year. From the west, the Apulia (Italy-Adriatic) plate is moving east at 10 millimeters a year, pushing against the former Yugoslavia, Albania and the Aegean plate, which is under pressure from all sides and moving toward Africa at a speed of 35 millimeters a year. All these movements create local pressure points; where these meet, mountains are formed, pushed higher year by year; where they move away from each other, the ground is broken open, creating seas. So in Crete, where pressure is converging, Mount Psiloreitis (Ida) is getting higher, as are the mountains of the western Peloponnese and Epirus, and the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border. The Aegean, formed by a split in the earth’s surface millions of years ago, was previously the site of the Aegis, of which now only some peaks remain as the Aegean Islands. The same forces are pulling the Peloponnese away from the rest of mainland Greece by one millimeter a year, a fact taken into account by the builders of the Rio-Antirio bridge. On the other hand, the Straits of Gibraltar are getting narrower. As the African plate moves northward, it is sinking near Crete and southwestern Italy, resulting in major earthquakes and the formation of volcanoes (Etna and Santorini). Geologists and geophysicists have made the terrifying predictions that Africa will merge with Europe, the Mediterranean Sea will be replaced by mountain ranges and the climate will change, wiping out all life forms in the region, although not for tens of millions of years. Until then, experts suggest that we maintain earthquake protection programs, and preserve and enjoy the natural wonders created by these underground forces.