‘Lost continent’ explored in lecture

2018-10-31 06:02
Prof. Lew Ashwal (centre) with Prof. Marian Tredoux (associate professor in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State) and Snegugu Zigubu (a BSc Hons Geology student).Photo: Supplied

Prof. Lew Ashwal (centre) with Prof. Marian Tredoux (associate professor in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State) and Snegugu Zigubu (a BSc Hons Geology student).Photo: Supplied

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An insightful lecture about geology opened a whole new world to academics and geology students during the 2018 Alex du Toit Memorial Lecture series at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Held on Tuesday, 23 October, the lecture was presented by the National Research Foundation (NRF) researcher, Prof. Lew Ashwal of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Ashwal shared ground-breaking findings with academics and Geology students through presentation of his lecture.

The presentation is titled “Wandering continents of the Indian Ocean”, focusing on the lost continent found.

He specifically shared the research he conducted on the islands of Madagascar (which he visited 30 times to conduct field work and says it is not for the faint-hearted), the Seychelles and Mauritius.

Two things stood out in his lecture: the way in which his findings on the three islands helped to refine details about the assembly of the Gondwana supercontinent, and the report of a “lost continent” found under Mauritius.

These discussions were linked by Ashwal’s belief that the so-called lost continent he found under Mauritius is a leftover from the break-up of Gondwana.

Ashwal pointed out that the disco­very was made when he and a team of researchers found zircon from 2 000 million years ago on a 9-million-year-young island.

He believes that the piece of crust (where the tested zircon probably formed) – which was covered by lava during recent volcanic eruptions on the island – is a tiny piece of the ancient continent which broke off from Madagascar.

This happened when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean.

The fact that the team of researchers found these extremely old mine­rals proves that there are materials under Mauritius that originated from a continent under the island.

Ashwal is studying the break-up process of the continents to understand the geological history of the planet.

For his work Ashwal has enjoyed coverage from publications as far apart in focus from each other as The New York Times and the Cosmopolitan magazine.

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