How a giant tsunami turned England into an island

(ORDO NEWS) — Once in the North Sea there was a land with a mild climate and rich fauna – Doggerland. It connected the eastern part of today’s England with the European continent. But about 8000 years ago, this land with all its inhabitants suffered a terrible catastrophe. Giant tsunamis and subsequent melting of glaciers turned Britain into an island.

For a long time, scientists assumed that the tsunami caused by the Sturegg landslide 8000 years ago finally flooded the Doggerland massif in the North Sea. But new analyzes of drill cores say another scenario is possible.

This reminds one of the versions of the legend of the famous Atlantis: in the middle of the sea there was a large island. Due to the mild climate and gentle relief, the inhabitants lived there easily. It was equally convenient for them to use the gifts of the sea and get food on the hilly plains in the interior of the island.

This land was called Doggerland. It occupied vast parts of what is now the North Sea. But about 8,000 years ago, an apocalyptic catastrophe struck her. The island, equal in size to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, disappeared into the sea (the land area of ​​the Federal Republic of Germany Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is 23,293 km² – ed.).

A group of British scientists from the University of Bradford has been trying to figure out how this happened for several years now. At the same time, they are exploring the so-called “Sturegg landslide”, which caused a giant tsunami about 8000 years ago. Scientists recently presented preliminary results of their work in the specialized journal Geosciences.

Scientists analyzed drill cores, as well as results of sonar mapping of the seabed and soil samples raised by a research vessel from the seabed off the east coast of England. The fragments of plants and animals found in the sedimentary rock made it possible, on the one hand, to create an idea of ​​the geography of Doggerland, and on the other hand, to quite accurately determine their age.

Apparently, it was a green hilly landscape with vast plains, fertile land, wide rivers and lakes, which, after the end of the last – the so-called Vistula – glaciation about 15 thousand years ago, appeared in arid regions in the south. The rivers Ems, Elbe and Rhine flowed very differently at that time than they do today. The Thames did not flow into the North Sea, but into the Rhine, which in turn, in the area of ​​present-day Brittany, flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. A wide isthmus connected England with the European continent.

Doggerland was also not an island at first. But the water of melting glaciers gradually covered more and more parts of the land, and as a result, this land was surrounded by the sea. Analyzes of pollen found in drill cores showed that the ice-age tundra vegetation in Doggerland had long been replaced by mixed forests, inhabited not only by deer, but also by such large mammals as woolly rhinoceroses, aurochs and wild boars. This is why Doggerland was a great place for hunter-gatherers of the Middle Paleolithic.

But around 6200 BC. this green paradise has suffered a gigantic disaster. About 450 square kilometers of Sturegg’s continental shelf off the coast of present-day Norway broke off at a depth of 150 to 400 meters. According to the cultural historian Linda Maria Kolbau, 1,780 cubic kilometers of sedimentary soil, rocks and rock debris in several stages slid into the depths of the sea over an area 200 kilometers long.

This caused a series of tsunamis that swept across the vast territories of the North and Norwegian Seas and even reached the coast of Greenland. Geological deposits indicate that the wave height reached 10-12 meters, and even 20 meters on the Farer and Shetland Islands. At the same time, as it was assumed so far, the water overflowed through Doggerland and washed away all living things from its surface.

But now Bradford scientists and their colleagues set out to disprove this scenario. Traces of sedimentary rocks in the southwestern part of Doggerland indicate rather that the tsunami did not flood the entire island. The tsunami was probably held back by forests and terrain.

“The data we have collected suggests that the landscape first recovered from the flooding. That is, the final disappearance of Doggerland occurred only some time after the Sturegg landslide, ”says study participant Vincent Gaffney from the University of Bradford. Analyzes show that there are traces of new flora and fauna above the chaotic layer of rock left by the tsunami.

Scientists estimate that the Sturegg disaster killed about a quarter of Doggerland’s residents overnight. The rest survived, but their living conditions deteriorated significantly. The retreating sea devastated vast parts of the island and resulted in salinization. Vast areas have become swamps. Numerous forests disappeared, and with them the animals.

The remains of shells and trees in drill cores are indicative of a disaster. But the upper layers of the soil indicate that life on the island continued for several more centuries. It is difficult to say what it was – there are too few archaeological traces of settlements. The skeletons found in neighboring Jutland only allow us to conclude that the struggle for increasingly scarce vital resources at the end of the Mesolithic was already waged by violent methods.

As a result of the melting of the last large glaciers, the water level is around 5500 BC. rose so that the last parts of Doggerland were flooded with water. All that remains of it are the rocks of Helgoland. And England, having lost the last isthmus, ceased to be an island.

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