New Geological Discovery:
Coastal Ductile Fractures and Seafloor Ridge Alignments

Doug Fisher

  1. Asian Peninsular Formations and Ductile Fractures
  2. Alignments with Riverways, Inland Ridges and Seafloor Ridges

Article Background

At the end of 2018 I released my book, Maps, Myths & Paradigms, and along with it my discovery of ductile continental fractures and their consistent alignment with seafloor ridges. To date, I have consulted with esteemed professors of engineering from Berkley to Harvard, individuals with a keen understanding of material properties, and each has responded positively, readily recognizing the telltale patterns of ductile fracturing. Unfortunately, these individuals were reluctant to comment on how this finding impacts the theory of plate tectonics as they felt their background in the Earth sciences was inadequate. Likewise, I received positive feedback from respected Earth scientists but they expressed their lack of knowledge in the fields of material properties and fracture dynamics.

While I am convinced that most engineers and geophysicists would support my findings on coastal ductile fractures and seafloor ridge alignments based on both the clear and abundant evidence and the positive reception it has already received, I am also convinced, based on this experience, that few would be eager to engage or discuss the ramifications of these fractures and ridge alignments as they tend to refute the current hotspot theory and a key component of plate tectonics, subduction.

So below I offer those with an appreciation of geological patterns and understanding of material properties my initial submission detailing the discovery of coastal ductile fractures. The following is a version of the document that was submitted to the aforementioned professors.

Did Asian peninsular formations arrive at their current locations via random collisions and magmatic upwelling as currently maintained? Or have we overlooked more obvious origins for these features?

(As an aid to the reader, current scientific views are indicated in yellow highlights and bold text.)

I. Asian Peninsular Formations and Ductile Fractures

The Kamchatka Peninsula lies along the northeast coast of Russia. The peninsula’s origins vary among theories, but all theories agree that the Kamchatka Peninsula randomly coalesced and attached itself to the Asian continent. It is believed that only through a series of chance collisions and perhaps some magmatic upwelling do we find the peninsula in its current form and location.2

Yet all the coastal conformances and structural deformations in the region point toward the peninsula having had far simpler origins, origins mimicking those that initiated the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics. After recognizing the conformance between the Atlantic shorelines, Alfred Wegener formulated his theory of continental drift around the belief that South America and Africa had fractured and drifted apart. Kamchatka conforms to its adjacent Asian coast at a level that far exceeds that conformance, but it remains unacknowledged.

The Kamchatka region also exhibits basic elements of fracture dynamics that appear to have gone completely overlooked when analyzing continental plates: ductile fracturing in the form of oval coastal recesses and arced necking of coastal points. Both of these ductile deformations are well documented as being the result of tensile stress applied to ductile plates consisting of various materials from plastics to metals (Fig. 1) and it would appear that continental plates—whose ductile properties have allowed them to fold—are also prone to this type of fracturing.

Figure 1. Material deformations associated with ductile fracturing.

There is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that Kamchatka is a continental fragment that has fractured free of the Asian continent and pivoted outward in a counterclockwise direction. The associated hinge lies within the Asian mainland and is defined by a sharp bend in the Kolyma Mountains (Fig. 2). The vertical portion of the hinge aligns with the movement of the Kamchatka Peninsula while the lateral portion of the hinge remains closely aligned to an Asian coastal recess which perfectly conforms to Kamchatka’s humped western coast and southern point. Kamchatka appears to have been plucked from the adjacent conforming coastal recess as the Kolyma Mountains were bent at their midst.

Confirmation of the continental bend is found in the ductile fractures or tears that exist immediately out from the hinge’s fulcrum point along the outer radius forming the Asian coastline. As the continent was subjected to stresses and began to rotate clockwise away from its northeastern corner, this outer radius was required to stretch in length to comply with the internal bend’s smaller inner radius. Unable to fully extend across the expanding coastline, the tensile stress incurred structural failures in the form of oval ductile voids which have fractured completely through along the coast forming arced bays with outward extending cusps, the signature form of fractures in ductile plates (compare Figure 1 left with Figure 2).

Figure 2. Two ductile fractures along the Asian coast formed as the internal continental bend exerted excessive stress across the coastal span. The result: ductile voids opened up along the coast as Kamchatka was plucked from the Asian continent.

Figure 3 demonstrates the perfect fit between Kamchatka and the adjacent coast. Straightening of the bend at the hinge and removing the equivalent width of the two large ductile fractures along the outer radius brings the western coast of Kamchatka to nearly the same length
as the northern coast of the accommodating coastal pocket.

Kamchatka western coast: 840 miles
Asian coast sans fractures:
855 miles

Figure 3. Kamchatka rotated back into the conforming pocket lying along the adjacent Asian coast.

Further confirmation that Kamchatka was once nestled into this coastal pocket exists in the form of two squared-off coastal points that extend perpendicularly off the western coast of Kamchatka (Fig. 4). One of these coastal points currently aligns with one of two points extending perpendicularly from the Asian coastline. The second coastal point aligns with the only other coastal point on the adjacent Asian coast when Kamchatka is pivoted back in along the coast. These coastal points were once unified as ductile extensions forming two isthmi.

The separation and subsequent counterclockwise directional drift of Kamchatka is recorded in the four extended coastal points. First, we find side arcing or ductile necking on the Kamchatka coastal points which signifies tensile stress having been applied as the isthmi were pulled apart, stretched as Kamchatka separated from the continent. Kamchatka exhibits brittle fracturing across the majority of the span, similar to the fracture that defines the coasts of South America and Africa along the Atlantic. But two regions that did not fracture entirely through resulted in small sections of ductile crust being stretched between the two parting landforms until they sheared in half.

Each of the two coastal points extending from the Asian continent exhibit a ductile tear or fracture along its base clockwise of the coastal points’ furthest extension from the coast (Fig. 4 left insets). These fractures further confirm Kamchatka’s separation and pivot out from the conforming Asian pocket as the counterclockwise pull from Kamchatka generated fracturing on the side opposite the directional pull just prior to each isthmus being sheared in half.

Figure 4. Ductile formations lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the adjacent coast support the possibility that Kamchatka is a fragment of the Asian coast with necking revealing ductile extension prior to separation and ductile fractures on coastal points along the Asian coast exhibit side stress generated by Kamchatka’s counterclockwise rotation.

Korea likewise is currently believed to have randomly coalesced into its current shape and location along the Asian coast.3 But like Kamchatka it also exhibits both an apparent hinge and a significant amount of ductile fracturing. The Bohai Sea appears to be a combination of merged ductile fractures (Fig. 5). There is clear cusping, a remnant from the opening ductile void, at the mouth of the Bohai Sea in the form of a line of islands extending up from the southern shore back toward the mating cusp of the fracture extending down from the sea’s mouth in the north.

The arc of Korea Bay suggests that it too is a ductile fracture. Closing these voids finds a pocket in the western coast of Korea conforming to a peninsular landform extending up from the Asian coast. When merged together not only do we see an alignment of an ancient isthmus, but we also see that Korea’s southernmost point conforms to a similarly-shaped recessed point in the adjacent coast. Like Kamchatka, it would appear that Korea fragmented from the Asian continent and pivoted out in the same counterclockwise direction.

Figure 5. Korea’s original fit along the Asian coast with ductile fractures closed back upon themselves.

Japan also exhibits this same consistent counterclockwise rotation off the Asian coast. While geologists do currently believe that Japan cleaved from the Asian coast, the cleaving is placed 200 miles to the north of a more probable fit4 (Fig. 6). I believe Japan fractured free of Asia where the two have aligned fracture points. The two tab pullouts (B and C) are 110 miles apart on both landmasses. The coastal points and coastal notches—from which I believe the coastal points were extracted—are all roughly 40 miles in width allowing that they all (B and C) once interlocked. Ductile extension is exhibited in the form of side arcing or necking along each side of the tabs, while linear bands mark the ductile stretching of continental mass forming valleys or lowlands between the necking directly behind the end caps. Like the coastal points in the Kamchatka region, these were the last points to break free after experiencing ductile extension. Two coastal points to the north (A) were also once joined much like the coastal points in the Kamchatka region. Note in the inset that Japan does not conform beyond point C due to the Korean hinge, but would conform were Korea rotated on its hinge back along the Asian coast.

Figure 6. Japan’s original fit along the Asian coast based on the perfect alignment of three coastal points.

There is a consistency with all peninsular formations associated with island arcs lining the Pacific. Alaska, another peninsular formation many geologists maintain rose up from the seafloor and randomly extended off the North American continent, also appears to have fractured free of Canada and similarly rotated away in a counterclockwise direction.5 In this instance the fracture is brittle in nature with both the Alaskan and Canadian coasts taking on a zig-zag or Z-shaped pattern (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. Alaska, similar to other peninsulas lining the Pacific, conforms to its adjacent coast lying counterclockwise of itself.

A similar zig-zag formation can be found on gravity maps of the arctic seafloor (Fig. 8). Centered between Canada and Alaska lies the Canada Basin Gravity Low (CBGL). Some have hypothesized that the formation is a divergent boundary. Much like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, continental mass to each side of the divergent boundary conforms to its linear form. In this instance the divergent boundary bisects the region, supporting the hypothesis that Alaska was a continental mass that separated and rotated away from Canada like the previously discussed peninsulas.

Figure 8. The Canada Basin Gravity Low (CBGL). Some have hypothesized that this linear depression represents a divergent boundary. Much like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, continental mass conforms to the divergent boundary to each side. Note the similarity in form of the CBGL to the central conformance line in Figure 7.

Is it coincidence that each of these uniquely-shaped peninsular formations randomly formed counterclockwise of adjacent conforming coastlines? Perhaps, but it is highly unlikely and at the very least should elicit further investigation.

Currently, geologists have no idea as to how the continental plates initially fractured and came into existence. I believe this new evidence offers new insights into continental plate fracturing which could bring us closer to an answer. Not only are we able to discern that continental crust’s known ductile properties extend beyond folding to coastal fracturing, but through identification and examination of these fractures, it becomes clear that there is a globally consistent relationship that exists between continental fractures and ridges on the adjacent seafloor. It is a relationship that has thus far gone both unobserved and unacknowledged.

II. Alignments with Riverways, Inland Ridges and Seafloor Ridges

Brittle fractures are fractures occurring in hardened brittle material that leave very little distortion in the fragments and allows the pieces to fit relatively cleanly back together. A broken ceramic vase is a perfect example of this type of fracture. The broken pieces can typically be glued back together to recreate the vase’s original shape. It is this type of fracture referenced when people discuss plate tectonics, e.g., the breakup of South America from Africa. Yet the continental crust is known to have ductile or pliable characteristics that allow it to fold. Even so, to date, coastal ductile fracturing is not acknowledged.

In the first section, a few instances of coastal ductile fracturing have been demonstrated. The reality is, these ductile fractures in continental crust exist throughout the globe. Ductile fractures that have formed along the coast oftentimes have fractures extending inland off their backside. These secondary fractures are typically brittle in nature and occur symmetrically relative to the ductile fracture span. If there is a single fracture extending off the back of the ductile fracture, it is positioned very near the center of the fracture’s arc. This is to be expected as the ductile fracture represents the initial slow crack propagation on the front end of a brittle fracture that has not fractured through the entire thickness of the continental plate. Rio de la Plata is one clear example of this (Fig. 9 top). The coastal arc has been split by a successive brittle fracture extending back to the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers. The brittle fracture likely extends much farther inland and forms the surface channels where the Uruguay and Paraná Rivers flow. Other instances of major rivers bisecting ductile arcs are the Rio Grande river that lies 600 miles equidistant from the mouth of the Mississippi and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the south and the Lena River that aligns with the Gakkel expansion ridge and lies at the center of a ductile fracture in North Siberia (Fig. 12).

Other ductile fractures exhibit secondary fractures lying equidistant from the ductile arc’s center. Examples of this can be found in the vicinity of Kamchatka and are the Gulf of Anadyr (Fig. 9 center) exhibiting the twin symmetrical secondary fractures and the Karaginsky Gulf which exhibits both central fracture and twin fractures to either side (Fig. 9 bottom).

Figure 9. Three common types of combined fractures. Simple central brittle fracture extending from a ductile fracture (top) forming the Rio de la Plata. Twin symmetrical fracture (center) forming the Gulf of Anadyr. Tri-symmetrical fracture (bottom)
forming the Karaginsky/Olyutorsky Gulf.

The Cameroon Line, which geologists believe was formed by the Cameroon hotspot, is a perfect example of a brittle fracture extending off the back of a ductile fracture arc. 6 Seemingly having gone unnoticed is the fact that the Cameroon Line bisects an arc along the African coast, the Bight of Biafra. I believe this arc is a ductile fracture and the evidence includes an array of symmetrical fractures surrounding the more significant central fracture, the Cameroon Line. Immediately to each side of the Cameroon Line’s Mt. Cameroon (Fig. 10 C) lie two bays (Fig. 10 B and D) while to the side of these lie two major riverways, the Cross and Sanaga Rivers (Fig. 10 A and E). It is difficult to fathom a hotspot mantle plume deep within Earth’s mantle having miraculously navigated directly down the center of this coastal arc.

Significantly, the fracture also extends out onto the adjacent seafloor crust where a string of islands have formed the lower end of the Cameroon Line. It suggests that the fracturing continental plate has generated a fracture in the adjacently attached seafloor as well. This is not the only clear and observable instance where we find a correlation between continental ductile fractures and the adjacent seafloor crust.

Figure 10. The Cameroon Line is a chain of volcanoes extending from the Atlantic seafloor and onto the African continent, bisecting the Bight of Biafra. Many believe it is the product of the Cameroon hotspot cutting a swath through the two crusts. More likely, the Cameroon line is centered on a ductile fracture arc and represents an inland extension of the fracture in brittle form. Instability on either side of this inland fracture affects the attached adjacent seafloor, causing a similar hairline brittle fracture to form and extend out onto the Atlantic seafloor.

There happens to be a disproportionate amount of coastal ductile fractures in the Kamchatka region (Fig. 11), which reveal the region was subjected to a substantial amount of tensile stress, likely the same stress that ultimately extracted Kamchatka from the Asian coast. Significantly, these ductile fracture arcs exhibit cusps that consistently, and perfectly, align with seafloor ridges.

Currently, geologists do not recognize the existence of coastal ductile fractures and, therefore, have yet to acknowledge these alignments and their ramifications. Based on current principles of island arc and hotspot ridge formation, geologists maintain that seafloor ridges randomly intersect the coastline.

Yet here we see the Emperor seamount chain, Aleutian Arc, and Shirshov Ridge all align with the cusps of ductile fractures (Fig. 11 C, D, and E). Meanwhile, a ductile cusp at the southern tip of Sakhalin aligns with the front edge of a sediment deposit suggesting the existence of ridges acting as dams that have held back the flow of sediment (Fig. 11 lower Sakhalin). More evidence of these ridge dams exists at point F in Figure 11 where a cusp of another ductile fracture also perfectly aligns with the front edge of the Bering Shelf.

Figure 11. Ductile fractures lying throughout the Kamchatka region. Seafloor ridges intersecting continental mass align with cusps of ductile fractures. The Emperor seamount chain, Aleutian Arc, and Shirshov (C, D, and E) are the three most obvious alignments, but linear islands (D and G) as well as the front edge of some continental shelves (F and lower Sakhalin) suggest obscured ridges align to others.

Perhaps the most significant evidence of ridges extending from ductile fractures and forming the leading edge of continental shelves exists along the northern coast of Siberia. Here, a unique ductile fracture exists which strays from the standard arc. The fracture is shallow and rectangular in nature but does however exhibit cusping and symmetry (Fig. 12). A coastal rise exists in the center where the Lena River, which appears to be the location of an inland brittle fracture, empties its waters into the Arctic Ocean. Much like Cameroon, this inland fracture extends out onto the seafloor forming the Gakkel expansion ridge. Extending from the eastern cusp of the Siberian ductile fracture is another ridge, the Lomonosov Ridge, which would appear to be a boundary ridge. Meanwhile, extending from the fracture’s western cusp is the front edge of the Barents- Kara Shelf, which is almost certainly back-filled sediment resting up against the western boundary ridge of the Gakkel expansion zone.

The Siberian Ductile Fracture is one of the clearest examples of the relationship between continental ductile fractures and seafloor expansion. The evidence suggests that many seafloor ridges are directly linked and created by fractures in continental crust. When continental plates encounter stress and the crustal material fails, forming ductile fractures along the coast, these fractures open voids out into the adjacent seafloor which can exhibit boundary ridges associated with the outer ductile fracture cusps or divergent boundary ridges extending from the center of the ductile fracture as in the case of the Cameroon Line and Gakkel Ridge.

The Siberian Ductile Fracture is a larger expanded version of the Gulf of Anadyr’s fracture (Fig. 9 center). Extended symmetrical fracturing to each side of the initial fracture has left the center flat and raised while the sides have been pulled back and away by stress. The Khatanga Bay and River provide evidence of even further fracturing occurring into the inside western corner due to extended stress on the fracture.

Figure 12. The North Siberian ductile fracture. The perfect alignment of a trio of seafloor ridges provides some of the best evidence yet of the effects of a coastal ductile fracture on the adjacent seafloor. As in similar fractures, we see boundary ridges aligned with cusps, and we see the clearest evidence yet of the existence of an expansion zone, with the Gakkel Expansion Ridge extending directly from the fracture’s central rise.

Geologists currently believe that the Gakkel expansion ridge extends into the continental crust of Siberia via an extension—the Laptev Sea Riftmaking landfall east of the mouth of the Lena River, aligning with the Chersky Range where it transitions from a divergent boundary to a convergent boundary.7 Like the Cameroon Line, I believe the Gakkel Ridge extends to the central rise of the Siberian ductile fracture and the Lena River, which is an extension of the fracture. Gravity maps support this alignment. Beneath the Laptev Shelf, the Gakkel Gravity Low (GGL) extends directly off the  Khatanga–Lomonosov Fracture Zone, denoting a shift in the Gakkel Ridge, veering eastward and dropping directly atop the Siberian ductile fracture's central rise, the Lena Delta.

Figure 13. A gravity map of the Arctic seafloor appears to confirm that the Lena River is a brittle fracture extending inland off the North Siberian ductile fracture and outward to the Gakkel divergent boundary.

A few thousand miles to the southwest, at the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, exists a near-identical ductile fracture (Fig. 14). The fracture extends across much of the North African coast and exhibits the same central squared-off rise and rounded cusps to each side. Extending perpendicularly off the central rise and out onto the floor of the Mediterranean is a ridge that could very well be an expansion ridge similar to the Gakkel Ridge. Confirmation that this feature is a ductile feature comes in the form of deep depressions lying at each inner corner. Like the Khatanga Gulf, these are the onset of extended fracturing, in this instance, it is in the form of developing voids.

In the west, the Chott Melrhir is a deep endorheic salt lake that dips to as low as 130 feet below sea level, the lowest point in Algeria. Geologists believe that it was created by the compression that formed the adjacent Atlas Mountains.8 This, however, overlooks any relation to Sabkhat Ghuzayyil located in the opposing eastern inside corner. It too is one of the deepest depressions in North Africa dipping down to 154 feet below sea level, yet it exhibits little to no compression in the immediate region.

Figure 14. The North African ductile fracture is nearly identical
in formation to the Siberian fracture. While ridges are not readily discernible extending from the cusps of the fracture, there is a noticeable ridge extending directly out from a similarly squared-off central rise. Confirming that this is a ductile fracture is the presence of void growth in the inside corners of the fracture in the form of the deepest depressions in Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, dipping down over 100 feet below sea level. These were formed by extended stress on the fracture much in the same way the Khatanga gulf came to be formed on the Siberian ductile fracture.

In conclusion, I believe that there is potential to rewrite many aspects of the plate tectonics model if we return to the basics with a renewed focus on fracture dynamics acknowledging the existence of coastal ductile fracturing and further researching the significance of the alignment of seafloor ridges with these fractures.

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