2017 Advent Calendar / Advent calendar

Door 19 – The Complete Drift Globe

 Behind door 19 of the geoadvent, a novel tool for communicating plate tectonic theory…

Earlier this year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of plate tectonic theory, and launched our new web resource, Plate Tectonic Stories, celebrating the narrative power of geology.

Since the early days of the theory, it’s been demonstrated in a huge variety of ways – from diagrams, to animations and even baking (see our recent blog post for a few of the more unusual examples!), but one of our favourites is this Velcro ‘Drift Globe’ from 1984.

The globe arranged to demonstrate the Permian period and Pangea

Created in Winthrop, Washington, the globe comes with Velcro ‘continental fragments’ which can be arranged via fasteners to reconstruct their positions through geological time. It also comes with a handy guide, as well as some background information on continental drift and plate tectonics.

The guide contains a glossary, instructions for arranging the plates, and various helpful info – including an explanation of geological time using the analogy of pennies.

The globe itself is marked with crosses to help with the positioning of each continental fragment, including an indication of their directional travel over time.

Direction of travel of North America

It could be purchased for $149 – and you could even order replacement continents!

Plate reconstructions may have got a little more high tech since 1984 (see door 1 of the advent calendar for a more recent example!) but for a hands on approach to learning about plate tectonics, this one is hard to beat!

Attaching Antactica

  • Many thanks to John Henry for loaning us the globe, and to GSL Archivist Caroline Lam for the images and reconstructions.

The Geoadvent Challenge

If you’re playing along, leave a comment below identifying which site from our 20 plate tectonic stories is represented in today’s window! See our website for the full list of sites. Yesterday’s was Badcall, Scourie.


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