How St. George lost his Land

St. George’s Land refers to the western end of what is now known as the Wales-London-Brabant Massif, a band of ancient rocks, whose crystalline arrangements were altered by heat and pressure in earlier stages of the Earth’s tectonic history. In the UK, the massif is now buried deeply beneath later sediments; but such seismic activity as there is in the region seems to cluster around its edges . . .

St. George’s land once stood up proud
In old Dinantian times1,
An island in a shallow sea
With equatorial climes2.

The island’s ancient basement rocks
Resisted being drowned,
While Carboniferous Limestones
Were laid down all around.

St. George grew overconfident
Of his Dinantian mapping;
And pride, they say, precedes a fall –
Our Saint was soon caught napping.

Gondwana3, that land-grabbing thug,
Was moving north apace;
It squeezed the Rheic Ocean4 dry
And captured George’s place.

Poor George – disheartened and depressed –
Subsided and was gone,
Part of Pangaea’s basement now.
And yet, St. George lives on . . .

For round the margins of his Land,
His seismic spirit grumbles:
He last was felt in Lincolnshire5
As subterranean rumbles.

1. They were part of the early Carboniferous Period, around 340 million years ago (give or take 20 million years or so).
2. That’s because the area of crust on which St. George’s Land stood, while being dragged northwards by the Earth’s churning mantle, was then close to the Equator.
3. This was a huge single ancient continent which incorporated most of today’s southern hemisphere land masses.
4. This ancient ocean, between Gondwana and the Rest of the World, first appeared during the Cambrian Period (some 500-odd million years ago) but disappeared as Gondwana’s progress northwards created a new, single continent, Pangaea.
5. For ten seconds, just after midnight on 27 February 2008, registering 5.4 on Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg’s ‘Richter’ scale, with nine aftershocks over the following weeks (Wikipedia).
[Images: www.tonybaldry.co.uk; Wikipedia]
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