Welcome back to the second part of our journey into the fascinating world of the Pleistocene epoch, also known as the Ice Age. In Book Two, Chapter One - Part Two, we explore this remarkable period in Earth's history, which spanned from approximately 2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago (9553 BC). This epoch left an indelible mark on our planet, profoundly shaping its climate and geography.
A Frozen World:
During the Ice Age, vast expanses of the Earth were blanketed by colossal ice sheets, creating a world dramatically different from what we see today. These ice sheets extended their reach across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and were several kilometres thick. Their slow, relentless advance and retreat had a lasting impact on the landscape.
Image by NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Thwaites Glacier is an extensive and vast Antarctic glacier located east of Mount Murphy, on the Walgreen Coast of Marie Byrd Land. It was initially sighted by polar researchers in 1940
The movement of these immense glaciers sculpted some of the most iconic landscapes we admire today. Fjords, those stunning, profound, glacially-carved inlets in regions like Scandinavia and New Zealand, owe their existence to the Ice Age. These icy giants also played a pivotal role in forming countless lakes, often nestled serenely in the arms of towering mountains. These lakes are not just picturesque; they are remnants of a time when glaciers ruled the Earth.
Moraines, Glacial Landmarks:
One of the most intriguing features left behind by glaciers is the moraine. A moraine is a jumble of material, including soil and rocks, that glaciers transport as they move. In many ways, it is analogous to how rivers carry a mix of debris and silt that ultimately accumulates to create deltas. Moraines are distinct and fascinating because they offer a tangible record of the glacier's journey.
Image by Bijaya2043, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The snow-free debris hills around the lagoon are lateral and terminal moraines of a valley glacier in Manang, Nepal.
The moraine's makeup can vary widely, depending on the glacier's origin and path. Some may be fine-grained sediments, while others are a chaotic mixture of boulders, rocks, and gravel. These glacial landmarks can tell a story of the glacier's movements, and scientists use them to piece together the Ice Age's history in a particular region.
As we delve deeper into the mysteries of the Pleistocene Ice Age, we uncover the remarkable forces that shaped our planet during this epoch. The Ice Age's vast ice sheets, fjords, lakes, and moraines provide tangible evidence of Earth's ever-changing landscape. In the next part of our journey, we will explore how life adapted and evolved in this challenging, icy world, offering us a glimpse into the resilience of life on Earth. Stay tuned for more captivating revelations from the frozen past!