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Africa

Episode 1 of 4

Iain Stewart explores how the Earth's continents have transformed evolution. He shows how the continent of Africa was formed from the wreckage of a long-lost supercontinent.

Geologist Professor Iain Stewart shows how the continent of Africa was formed from the wreckage of a long-lost supercontinent. He discovers clues in its spectacular landmarks, mineral wealth and iconic wildlife that help piece together the story of Africa's formation. But he also shows how this deep history has left its mark on the modern-day Africa and the world.

Iain starts at Victoria Falls, with a leap into the water right on the lip of the 100m waterfall. Hidden within this cliff face is evidence that the falls were created by vast volcanic eruptions 180 million years ago, marking the moment when Africa was carved from the long-lost supercontinent of Pangaea and became a separate continent.

The creation of Africa had a surprising impact on evolution. At the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, Iain finds marine creatures that reveal that this part of Africa was once a shallow sea that formed when Africa was created. And within the arid Western Desert, he reveals 17m-long skeletons of early whales revealing how land-dwelling mammals were lured back into the shallow seas created by the birth of the African continent, leading to the evolution of whales.

At the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, the vast gravel pits once fuelled the devastating civil war. These diamonds reveal not just the very earliest origins of the land that makes up Africa today, but how the very first continents came into existence.

On the Serengeti Plains the wildebeest migration is fuelled by a process that will eventually lead to Africa's destruction. Every year the wildebeest return to give birth in an area of nutrient-rich grass growing on fertile volcanic soil and ash and lava from the nearby volcano reveals that beneath Africa there lies a mantle plume of molten rock. This volcanic upwelling is so strong that scientists predict it will one day tear the ancient continent of Africa in two.

58 minutes

Last on

Mon 16 Jul 2018 23:00

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About Iain Stewart

About Iain Stewart
Iain Stewart is Professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University. What that really means is that he is a geologist that spends much of his time writing and talking about our planet – how it works, its volatile history and what all that means for those living on it. 

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Iain Stewart
Executive Producer Jonathan Renouf
Producer Peter Oxley
Director Peter Oxley
Series Producer Zoe Heron

Broadcasts

  • Sun 9 Jun 2013 21:00
  • Sun 9 Jun 2013 22:00
  • Mon 17 Jun 2013 23:20
  • Mon 17 Jun 2013 23:50
  • Tue 24 Jun 2014 20:00
  • Wed 25 Jun 2014 00:50
  • Fri 27 Jun 2014 00:30
  • Tue 3 Mar 2015 23:55
  • Mon 6 Jun 2016 23:00
  • Mon 13 Jun 2016 02:10
  • Mon 15 May 2017 16:15
  • Thu 17 May 2018 23:00
  • Mon 16 Jul 2018 23:00

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