What is a Polar Shift?

The Earth
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It's a balmy July weekend. The cicadas are buzzing in the trees as you flip hamburgers on the grill for a Saturday afternoon cookout. The kids are splashing and laughing in the pool, trying to keep cool in the 92-degree heat. Suddenly the air is still. The cicadas fall silent. A moment later the ground beneath you starts to rumble and shake. The kids stop their playing as they notice the water in the pool getting choppy. The intensity of the quake increases and you are knocked off your feet. The kids scramble out of the pool, screaming as water sloshes in waves onto the surrounding deck.

A fierce wind races over you as you lie on your back on the shaking ground. You try to hold on to something... anything, feeling as if you're going to fly off the face of the earth itself. The sky and clouds are boiling above the violently swaying trees. Birds are being tossed around chaotically as they struggle to fly. Shadows darken and lengthen, and you watch the sun speeding across the sky to the horizon. The shaking stops in an instant and there's an eerie silence, broken only by the sobs of the frightened children. The day has turned to twilight. In a matter of seconds, the sun has shifted from its high noon position to just a few degrees above the horizon in the southwest. A bitter, cold wind blows in... and it begins to snow.

That is what it would be like to experience a polar shift.

Psychic Predictions

A shifting of the Earth's poles has been predicted to occur in the near future by a number of psychics, including the renowned Edgar Cayce. This certainly is not a scientific prediction, but some scientists believe that it is at least possible that this could happen at some future date, and perhaps has happened many times in our planet's past. Whether or not we could survive a physical shifting of the Earth's poles is open to debate; it could be much more cataclysmic than described above.

There are two ways of considering what is meant by a pole shift:

  • A geological or axial shift in which the Earth's crust literally slips around its molten core -- like a loose peel on an orange -- altering the positions of land masses with respect to the planet's rotation on its axis. This could happen by a few degrees or by many degrees. Antarctica could wind up at the equator and Miami could be the new North Pole. The effects on our civilization would be devastating.
  • A shift of the magnetic poles only. As it is, the Earth's magnetic north (the north that compasses point to) is not exactly the same as the true North Pole. This magnetic pole is not fixed and can move. In fact, scientists are fairly certain that it has shifted by as much as 180 degrees several times in the past. This change may be sudden or it may be gradual, taking place over hundreds or even thousands of years. The effects on life on the planet would probably be minimal, affecting perhaps the migratory or homing instincts of some animals.

Unfortunately (if you put stock in such things), Cayce was referring to a shift of the first type. He wrote: "There will be upheavals in the Arctic and Antarctic that will cause the eruption of volcanoes in the torrid areas and pole shift." And when asked what great change or the beginning of what change, if any, is to take place in the earth in the year 2000 to 2001 A.D, he replied, "When there is a shifting of the poles. Or a new cycle begins." Obviously, he missed the date, but it is interesting to note our current concerns over climate change and the drastic receding of Antarctica's glaciers and ice shelves.

Have Cataclysmic Pole Shifts Actually Happened Before?

Aside from psychics’ predictions of pole shifts to come, supporters the cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis have suggested that cataclysmic geological pole shifts, like those predicted by Cayce have actually happened in the past. These shifts, they claim, resulted in extremely rapid changes in the locations of the Earth’s geographic — rather than magnetic — poles, as well as the axis and spin of the planet.

In an 1872 article entitled “Chronologie historique des Mexicains,” Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, an expert in Mesoamerican and Aztec manuscripts, interpreted native myths, writings, and maps as indicating that at least four such pole shift-related cataclysms had occurred beginning around 10,500 BCE.

In 1948, respected electrical engineer Hugh Auchincloss Brown claimed that the massive weight of accumulating ice at the Earth’s poles caused axial polar shifts every 4,000 to 7,000 years. By 1948, scientists had confirmed that the Earth does, indeed, “wobble” on its axis, causing the planet’s outer crust to drift on the mantel below it. Brown argued that this wobble and drift effect made future cataclysmic polar shifts inevitable and suggested the use of nuclear weapons to break up the polar ice caps in order to prevent future catastrophes.

In his controversial 1950 book, Worlds in Collision, historian Immanuel Velikovsky, cites ancient manuscripts and archaeological artifacts from around to world as evidence that around 1,500 BCE, Venus, then in the form of a comet-like object ejected from Jupiter, passed near the Earth changing the Earth’s orbit and axial tilt with devastating results. Another near miss by Venus 52 years later completely stopped the Earth’s rotation creating even worse havoc. Similar such near misses of the Earth by Mars between 776 and 687 BCE caused more pole shifting disaster. In the case of Velikovsky’s theories, astrophysicists have confirmed that collisions and near-misses of the planets did occur as the orbits of the planets stabilized over the centuries.

More recently, engineer and explore Flavio Barbiero’s 1974 theory suggests that a drastic polar shift triggered by the impact of a comet around 9,000 BCE is recorded in mythology as having been the cause of the destruction of the island of Atlantis. Due to the polar shift, Barbiero suggests that, if it ever existed, Atlantis would be found under the Antarctic ice sheet today.

The 1998 theory of retired civil engineer James G. Bowles suggests that the combined gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon over the millennia has slowly eroded the geological link between the Earth’s crust and the inner mantle. This Rotational-Bending, or RB-effect, as Bowles calls it, creates a “plastic zone” that allows the crust to rotate or drift independently of the mantle. Bowles suggests that pull of centrifugal forces on the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets will cause the poles to drift toward the equator, possibly sooner than later.

What Science and History Say

While earth sciences experts agree that geographic movement of the poles has occurred in the past, the rate and extent have been far smaller and of a less catastrophic impact than those predicted by the pole shift theorists. According to scientists, the extent of past polar drift has been less than 1-degree per million years or slower. Geologic records indicate that the geographical poles have not deviated by more than about 5-degrees over the last 130 million years.​