Where it began – our 500 million year perspective

It’s hard to imagine, but the earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans are “only” 200,000 years old. But this planet has been in existence for an eye-popping 4.54 billion years.

And in that gigantic span of time, the earth has gone through massive changes. That includes periods when it was a “Space Snowball” – utterly covered in ice. Then at other times, this planet of ours was subject to mega-hot greenhouse conditions, that were a boiling pot of new lifeforms. All of this makes us – and current day Earth – the full stop at the end of a very long, complicated sentence! One way to illustrate this is if you equate the Earth’s history to a 24-hour span on a clock. Humans have only existed for the equivalent of one second.

It’s also incredible to think what an impact humans have made in that time (good and bad) but also how much of what we enjoy today has been steadily forming for billions of years.

Why 500 million years ago was a milestone

However, let’s turn that clock back much further than the tiny fraction of time humans have existed. Our interest lies in a point of the Earth’s formation 500 million years ago. It’s a highly significant milestone in the incomprehensible history of planet Earth. It coincides with a massive upsurge of life here. This is referred to as the Cambrian Explosion and it’s when Earth began to be populated by many, diverse species of animals for the first time.

So how did the Earth go from holding only limited single cell organisms to having this “gang” of different animal types, so rapidly?

Scientists believe that it coincided with an explosion of radiation that accelerated everything. In other words, 500 million years ago the Earth became much hotter and benefitted from the arrival of much more oxygen. This in turn also potentially meant significant geographical and geological changes across the Earth’s surface.

Now this is a perfect chicken and egg situation. (Not that chickens existed in those days). Because some Scientists believe that it was the evolution of Earth’s first prolific animal life, 500 million years ago, that actually started the whole global warming thing!

According to research published in the journal Nature Communications, the Cambrian Explosion featured a multitude of tiny burrowing lifeforms. They stirred up and recycled the seafloor’s organic material (bioturbation). This, in turn, changed the biogeochemistry of the oceans and ultimately the Earth’s atmosphere. This would then have led to a process akin to global warming that would have continued for around 100 million years.

(source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04973-4)

Hot stuff! And another explanation for why 500 million years ago saw the birth of much of Earth’s current legacy.

From this, comes Beloka Water’s credentials

So, let’s have a quick recap here. Around 500 million years ago the earth went through some huge changes, including the emergence of those creepy but significant burrowing animals. Which resulted in global warming on a scale far beyond anything we currently worry about! This, of course, would have meant that lots of the Earth’s ice melted. (Though incidentally, the Earth’s famous “Ice Age” was 2.4 million years ago, as this episode of global warming was not permanent.)

It’s amazing to think that scientists can know so much about this planet’s formation, from so long before humans arrived. They use fossils, data and super powerful computers to formulate their fascinating hypothesis. That includes being able to date mountains and explain how they came to be formed.

The geology of Victoria and southeast Australia evolved from its humble beginnings as ocean floor crust over 500 million years ago to the uplifted mountain landscapes of today. Age dating of rocks, fossils and textures from the bedrock indicate that many of the rocks at surface in southeast Australia today were formed in an ancient ocean between 530 and 400 million years ago. Because the Australian Alps cover a large area, they display a wide range of rock types and a complex geological history spanning 520 million years. The Kosciuszko national park displays 500-million-year-old geological strata. As this is at the foot of Australia’s glorious Snowy Mountains, it stands to reason that the water that passes through this highly significant geological treasure trove is provided by snowmelt that has been an integral part of its formation for its entire 500 million year existence.

CSIRO The Australian Alps
Source: CSIRO http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/94

How the Snowy Mountains (and Kosciuszko) came to be

It’s hard for overseas people to think of Australia in terms of snow. But this area has large snowfalls every winter (June, July and early August). It’s usually all gone by this country’s late Spring. This has been happening for hundreds of millions of years. And this snowmelt and natural filtering process is where Beloka water gets its incredible purity, mineral density, taste and scientific credentials.

If you’re still puzzled how Australia got a snowy mountain range, to supply snowmelt over 500 million years, you are not alone! Even top geologists have long debated how on earth the Great Dividing Range of Snowy Mountains in Australia “sprung up”. Because they really are unique.

Apparently, the origins of many mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas or the Alps in Europe, are much easier to explain. It’s connected to the shifting of tectonic plates (the gigantic rock slabs that form the Earth’s structure). The plates collided and up popped a mountain range. But the Snowy Mountains don’t match that hypothesis. They show none of the traits you would expect from this type of massive event.

A few years ago, one geologist put forward evidence that the Great Dividing Range of Australia was actually created when a gravity field which pushed the earth’s crust up from below the surface. He used highly advanced software developed at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Sydney, looked at it from every angle, then developed this widely respected theory.

Interesting stuff!

But however they came to be, we have many reasons to be thankful for the Snowy Mountains of Australia.

All things being equal

It’s all really about equilibrium – the balance between the Earth, the forces beneath the surface, and the changes to the weather that can occur.

Of course, all of this can be rather overwhelming for the occupants of the planet. Remember, we have only been here the equivalent of one second out of 24 hours, so our ability to grasp time and change on this scale is limited.

The best advice is to not worry too much. Simply enjoy the refreshment and health benefits of Beloka Water, created from 500 million years of subterranean snowmelt (And perhaps raise your bottle to toast the miracle that is Mother Nature.)

Reference List

Nature Communications. 2018. Early Palaeozoic ocean anoxia and global warming driven by the evolution of shallow burrowing | Nature Communications. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04973-4. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

Marcus Strom. 2018. Kosciuszko explained: mystery of the Snowy Mountains solved. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/kosciuszko-explained-mystery-of-the-snowy-mountains-solved-20160315-gnj2zg.html. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

ABC News. 2018. The map that fills a 500-million-year gap in Earth’s history – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-27/map-fills-500-million-year-gap-in-earth-history/8655196. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

Life (500 million years ago) – University of Birmingham . 2018. Life (500 million years ago) – University of Birmingham . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/accessibility/transcripts/Imran-Rahman-Life-%28500-million-years-ago%29.aspx. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

Wait But Why. 2018. Putting Time In Perspective – UPDATED – Wait But Why. [ONLINE] Available at: https://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/putting-time-in-perspective.html. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

Geology of Eastern Victoria – Earth Resources. 2018. Geology of Eastern Victoria – Earth Resources. [ONLINE] Available at: http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources/geology-of-victoria/gsv-projects/Eastern-Victoria-Geoscience-Initiative/geology-of-eastern-victoria. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

Formation of The Australian Alps. 2018. Formation of The Australian Alps. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.geomaps.com.au/scripts/australianalps.php. [Accessed 19 August 2018].

CSIRO Science Image – CSIRO Science Image. 2018. CSIRO Science Image – CSIRO Science Image. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/94. [Accessed 19 August 2018].