Sunday, February 27, 2011

Delaware Bay - Part III

At the same time, sediments were eroding from the Appalachian and other inland highlands and were carried east and southward by numerous rivers and streams.  These sediments (colored sugar sprinkles or a dusting of cinnamon, perhaps) gradually covered the faulted continental margin, burying it under layers of sedimentary and volcanic debris – layers thousands of feet thick.  Today most of those rock layers – those that lie beneath the coastal plain and fringing continental shelf - remain nearly horizontal or tilt gently toward the sea.
Even 9000 years ago, what we now know as Delaware Bay, was still not there – it was yet to form.  However, at that time in the earth’s history there were constant crustal movements along parts of the eastern seaboard.  This uplifting of the coast came about as a result of several tectonic events such as mountain building and continental rifting.  It was also propelled by geological changes such as volcanism, erosion, or deposition (the laying down of sediment).  At the same time, the sea was spreading over parts of the land - in fact, there was an oceanic rise of about one inch per decade (more melting ice cream).  In other parts of the Atlantic seaboard a combination of powerful geological forces such as regional crustal subsidence (the motion of the earth’s surface as it shifts downward) and a change in sea level caused by melting glaciers and tectonic movements created other geological formations such as bays, inlets, and harbors.  In short – the earth went down, the sea went up.
The waters along the Atlantic seaboard continued to rise until approximately 3000BC…then they stopped.  The rising sea drowned the ancient Delaware and Susquehanna river valleys, transforming them into what is presently the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.  Finally, about 2000 years ago, the earth – perhaps tired from all its geological labors - rested (if only momentarily) and the cartological boundaries of the Delaware Bay were established into their present-day configurations.
And the cherry pie?  It is finished!

In Part IV of this story we'll take a look at the discovery of Delaware Bay...and how it got its name.

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