Chapter 1

Terra incognita


In the first half of the twentieth century, geology was landlocked: the oceans were largely unknown territory. Scanty data from nineteenth century naval expeditions and cable-laying companies indicated undersea mountain ranges, far from shore, and deep troughs near land. The prevailing view was that vertical motions of the crust dominated, producing thick accumulations of sediments in geosynclinesgeosynclinesAn elongate or basin-like depression in the Earth's crust containing very thick sedimentary or volcanic deposits.. Research geology focused on stratigraphy, fossils and minerals; mining and oil exploration relied on field prospecting and local knowledge.

View of central Switzerland, Chretien de MECHEL, 1786.