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Onelife 27

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Shenzhen by Range Rover Sport PHEV | A first drive in the new Range Rover Evoque | Mid-century modernist architecture in Germany | George Bamford on what makes true luxury | Meet moon-walker Charlie Duke | Carnival subculture in Brazil


S T O R I E S U N D E R F O O T What’s your ultimate voyage of discovery? How about... time travel? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara takes us on a journey to the center of the Earth 76

ESSAY IMAGE: STOCKSY/ CATHERINE MACBRIDE, PORTRAIT: ROBERT CLARK Would you like to visit an improbably wondrous place? One shrouded in mystery, but generous in tantalizing glimpses of events so epic and so otherworldly that knowledge of them is bound to strain the credulity of all but the most ardent readers of fantasy? Look down, in your mind’s eye, through the carpet, the flooring, through whatever impediment separates you from the Earth below. The place where you now find yourself is likely, in its own vast history, to equal in splendor the most celebrated natural wonders. No view on Earth is more vaunted than that which can be had from the rim of the Grand Canyon in the US. Descending from its rim down the eight-mile Bright Angel Trail is a soulful experience, a journey nearly two billion years in time, a visceral voyage through the many past worlds that have been our Earth. It’s a transformative experience that leaves many travelers with an overwhelming feeling of connectedness to the land, and to the vast arc of time. Heated and squeezed metamorphic rocks form its twisted basement. Above these sits a towering edifice of sedimentary rock that records the many marine transgressions and regressions that have yo-yoed this region from land to sea and back again over the last half-billion years. Within these layers of sandstone, limestone and shale are fossils that tell the story of a succession of life, from bizarrely primitive ancestral varieties below to more familiar modern forms above. Yet, geologically, this is fairly standard. What makes it special is that the pages have been laid bare for all to see. The erosive power of the Colorado River has split the plateau asunder, revealing the history that lies below. In geology, exposure is everything. The Earth’s lithosphere – its uppermost layers, namely the crust and the mantle – is the repository of our planet’s history. Though its volumes contain epics, the library is mostly shut – closed to us surface dwellers, except when erosion and uplift conspire to reveal a page here or a chapter there. You have lived your entire life traversing the uppermost pages of countless unseen stories. With a little effort, you can catch a glimpse of the deep time tales that surround us. When heading away from Manhattan, look across the River Hudson and you will see dark towers of rock rising from the edge to form a stony fortification. The 300-foot-tall Palisades are a view of one of the most dramatic moments in planetary history, when, 200 million years ago, tectonic forces tore apart the then supercontinent Pangaea. As the Earth’s crust thinned, along a line that would later become the Atlantic Ocean, magma below welled up to form vast pockets of molten rock. These convulsions released immense quantities of CO 2 into the atmosphere and tipped the climate into runaway global warming. These sudden changes killed most organisms. When the worst of it ended, at the end of the Triassic Period, over 75% of all species had vanished. “WITH A LITTLE EFFORT, YOU CAN CATCH A GLIMPSE OF THE DEEP TIME TALES THAT SURROUND US ” At the time, the dominant large land animals were the ancestors of crocodiles. Dinosaurs, still early in their tenure, struggled to compete against these larger, fiercer contemporaries. Both groups survived the mass extinction, but the crocodiles took the worst of it. With the playing field now leveled, dinosaurs flourished, and evolved into the dizzying variety of species that would completely dominate terrestrial ecosystems across the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. And every traveler across the George Washington Bridge can simply glance up and see the incredible apocalypse that triggered this biological revolution. This example is by no means unique. Look down from a porch in San Francisco and you’ll see rock deposits that have skimmed along the western edge of North America – passengers on a tectonic conveyor belt that will eventually deposit the city’s bedrock into the heart of Alaska. Cruising the Pennsylvania Turnpike motorway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, you’ll transect the Appalachian Mountains – once part of a chain of peaks that included Morocco’s Atlas Mountains and parts of the Scottish Highlands. Beneath any swimming pool in Florida lies limestone laid down in a warm sea terrorized by history’s largest shark, the 40-foot-long megalodon. Hike Colorado’s Front Range Mountains, and you traverse the former coast of an interior seaway that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Along its beaches roamed some of the best-known dinosaurs, from the Stegosaurus to the Apatosaurus. So, take another moment to contemplate the place where you are. It’s guaranteed to be amazing – a unique slice of this world’s 4.5-billion-year history, set in stone. To find out its incredible story, search online for its geological history, visit your local museum of natural history, or grab a tool and dig for yourself. Train your eyes to see the rockbound stories that lie underfoot, and you’ll never look at your world in quite the same way again. MEET THE AUTHOR KENNETH LACOVARA is a founding director of the Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University, New Jersey, and the author of Why Dinosaurs Matter (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Watch his TED Talk, Hunting for dinosaurs showed me our place in the universe, at 77


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Land Rover Magazine 39


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