Why So Many Earthquakes? Maybe The Norse End Of The World Will Beat The Mayans

By Hank Campbell

The End of the World seems to roll around every decade or so.   The last time it got a lot of press was the year 2000 A.D., a millenial event in the Gregorian calendar.   COBOL programmers were the convenient catalyst for all that, since banks would shut down due to legacy software, but the end of the world needs vassals, the more unwitting the better, so it made sense that COBOL folks would take the fall.

Next up is 2012, this time due to one Meso-American calendar, and some speculation has been that the LHC will cause it, unleashing an army of Strangelets led by ancient Mayan overlords.

But then a rash of earthquakes happened more recently, and I postulate that the Mayans are in danger of being beaten out of End of the World honors by … the Norse.   Yet the Norse aren’t  getting much credit yet and I intend to change that.

Ancient astronomy

Astronomy has always been the sweet physical science, where everyone can have a meaningful impact regardless of position or funding.   Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier discovered Neptune “with the point of his pen”  and amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Canberra, Australia discovered a huge impact on Jupiter while NASA employees apparently drank coffee and griped about funding.

Good astronomy goes back a lot farther than that.   The Mayans were keen fans of astronomy and darn good at it, since they were able to calculate a winter solstice some 2300 years in the future.   The Norse understood it was well.

First, let’s talk about our planetary motion.   Earth makes three different kinds of motion in space:  The planet rotates around its axis, basically an imaginary pole but you get the idea, and that takes about 24 hours; it revolves around the Sun, which takes a bit over 365 days; and finally precession, which is the gradual turning of the Earth’s axis and takes around 26,000 years.  

What does that mean?   The Earth’s axis essentially traces out a cone and it does so because, as Newton showed us, our planet is an oblate spheroid (it bulges out at the Equator rather than being uniform) and gets torque applied by both the Sun and the Moon.

This ‘precession of the equinoxes’ is attributed to the Greek astronomer Hipparchus around 150 B.C. but both the Norse and the Mayans seem to have known about it, even if they didn’t quite know what to call it.

How so?

There is actual science in the Zodiac

The Zodiac gets a bad rap today because kooks choosing to live their lives by it make people think the kookiness came first but there is a reason it made the universe sane for ancient civilizations.

Because the Earth is essentially ‘wobbling’ due to its irregular shape, even ancient astronomers noticed that the constellations in the Zodiac seemed to be moving (precessing) – to make sense of chaos they decided to break this precession into 12 periods, obviously based on the Zodiac they could see and the Constellation that the sun ‘rose’ in on the first day of Spring got the first honors;  Pisces.  So mankind has been in the Age of Pisces as the planet slowly wobbled around its axis.

But this wobbling takes around 26,000 years and there are 12 constellations in the Zodiac.   Every 2,160 years, they surmised, the Sun will appear to be 1/12th of its way through the Zodiac.   If Hipparchus was 150 B.C. then the Age of Pisces would become the Age of Aquarius(2) in …

… 2010.

Yep, the planet is wobbling, we’re entering a new Age and earthquakes are happening.  Coincidence?   Not if you are reading this article.

We know some people believe that the Mayans predicted the end of the world because one of their calendars, based on precession,  ends on the Winter Solstice in 2012 – and we have to give them credit for being able to even calculate the Winter Solstice in 2012 – but 13 was a magic number to Mayans so it seems more likely that instead of going beyond 13 they would just have started over.

The Norse were a lot more serious.   They blew up stuff when Ages ended.


The Norse were no dummies either.  Millenia ago they knew that strange things were happening on a macro scale.   When the Sun seemed to rise in the constellation at the Equinox positions, it was always the first day of Spring or Fall. When the Sun appeared to rise in the constellation of the Solstice, it was the first day of Summer or Winter.

And they also calculated that these Ages were changing every 2160 years – the Celestial Axis was represented by Yggdrasill, a huge ash tree in Asgard, where the Gods lived.    It was the one thing that never seemed to die, even though everything else would in those transitions between Ages they called Ragnarok.

In Ragnarok, basically everything would be destroyed; by fiery explosions from the ground bringing clouds of death, by earthquake or, if you were really, really cool, by a giant serpent named Jörmungandr.

Except we will all only be mostly dead.   

In Gylfaginning, chapter 52, Gangleri asks, “What will be after heaven and earth and the whole world are burned? All the gods will be dead, together with the Einherjar and the whole of mankind. Didn’t you say earlier that each person will live in some world throughout all ages?”

Indeed we would.   We might not look the same in this new Age.  Instead of blonde, I might be red-headed and have a much larger beard for example.  I might wear gloves.  Hard to say.

How does all that relate to earthquakes?   There has long been this fascinating idea with harmonic convergence, which basically says that planetary alignment will cause earthquakes, volcano eruptions – basically a whole bunch of what has been in the news this year.

Far be it from me to naysay the power of gravity.  Planets are big and we know walking outside every day that Earth is being impacted by both gravity and the tidal force of the moon; gravity simply pulling on us and tidal force trying to ‘stretch’ us and making waves, etc.   As Phil Plait, everyone’s favorite Bad Astronomer puts it, a strong enough gravity “could pull the Earth from its orbit, while a strong enough tide could rip it in half.”  But it isn’t happening because some planets are on the same side of the Sun, which actually happens fairly often.

The last time people were terribly worried about harmonic convergence was the same year everyone was worried about COBOL programmers; 2000.  And we’re still here.  Basically, you shouldn’t get your science from astrologers or psychics.

So back to 2010 versus 2012.   The Norse were as cagey on this one as the Mayans because a lot is left up to interpretation and translation of ancient symbols is an imperfect science.    If, as some scholars claim, the last Age ended 2160 years ago, the Norse will beat out the Mayans for World-Ending honors by killing us all this year – if you like your paranoid conspiracy tales and 2012 is too long to wait, that is pretty good reasoning to party now.

But other scholars claim that the last Ragnarok only occurred 2010 years ago – stating that Asgard on fire heralding in a new ‘Age’ of Gods in the last Ragnarok was the Star of Bethlehem(3), which means that we have another 150 years to wait.

What do you think?  

I think one way or the other, those who predict the End of the World will eventually be right.   After all, if the Norse or Mayans don’t get us, maybe the Sumerians will.


Proof that vulcanic ash comes from a Nordic god

*I found this one amusing, had to post it.*

For those who doubt the veracity of my blog yesterday suggesting that the Icelanders had summued up some kind of Nordic god in revenge for Britain’s use of strong armed tactics to extract compensation over the Icesave collapse, take a look at the following photograph.

Incredible it may seem, but taken by the Icelandic coast guard a few days back using special cameras, it shows the three main vents of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. If this is not the face of some fallen deity summoned up from the undeworld, I don’t know what is.


Vikings in Nunavut?

One of Canada’s top Arctic archeologists says the remnants of a stone-and-sod wall unearthed on southern Baffin Island may be traces of a shelter built more than 700 years ago by Norse seafarers – a stunning find that would be just the second location in the New World with evidence of a Viking-built structure.

The tantalizing signs of a possible medieval Norse presence in Nunavut were found at the previously examined Nanook archeological site, about 200 km southwest of Iqaluit, where people of the now-extinct Dorset culture once occupied a stretch of Hudson Strait shoreline.

A UNESCO World Heritage site at northern Newfoundland’s L’Anse aux Meadows – about 1,500 km southeast of the Nanook dig – is the only confirmed location of a Viking settlement in North America. There, about 1,000 years ago, it’s believed a party of Norse voyagers from Greenland led by Leif Eiriksson built several sod-and-wood dwellings before abandoning their colonization attempt under threat from hostile natives they called “Skraelings.”

But over the past 10 years, research teams led by the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s chief of Arctic archeology, Pat Sutherland, have compiled evidence from field studies and archived collections that strongly suggests the Norse presence in northern Canada didn’t end with Eiriksson’s retreat from Newfoundland.

At three sites on Baffin Island, which the Norse called “Helluland” or “land of stone slabs”, and at another in northern Labrador, the researchers have documented dozens of suspected Norse artifacts such as Scandinavian-style spun yarn, distinctively notched and decorated wood objects and whetstones for sharpening knives and axes.

A single human tooth from one of the sites was tested a few years ago for possible European DNA, but the results were inconclusive.

Among the new artifacts found near the sod-and-stone features at Nanook is a whalebone spade – consistent with tools found at Norse sites in Greenland, and which might have been used to cut sections of turf for the shelter.

There is also evidence at Nanook of what appears to be a rock-lined drainage system comparable to ones found at proven Viking sites.

The apparent “architectural elements” found at the site “still have to be confirmed,” Sutherland told Canwest News Service. “They’re definitely anomalous for Dorset culture. And when you see these things in connection with Norse artifacts, it suggests that there may have been some kind of a shore station.”

Sutherland’s theory is that Norse sailors continued to travel between Greenland and Arctic Canada for generations after the failed colonization bid in Newfoundland. She believes they encountered and possibly traded with the Dorset, ancient aboriginals who were later overrun – probably before 1400 A.D. – by the eastward-migrating Thule ancestors of modern Inuit.

The theory is a controversial one.

University of Waterloo archeologist Robert Park recently challenged the dating of artifacts and Sutherland’s interpretations of evidence in a paper published by the journal Antiquity.

Park argues that the “most plausible explanation” for Norse-like traces at Nanook and other sites is that “none of these traits come from Dorset-European contact.”

He suggests such items may have been developed without any Norse influence by the ancient indigenous inhabitants of northern Canada.

“Despite the difficulty of proving a negative – i.e. establishing that Dorset did not come into contact with the Norse – on the basis of these data there appears to be no convincing archeological evidence that contact occurred,” Park concludes.

Sutherland insists that while proof of Norse-Dorset interaction isn’t overwhelming, there are now “several lines of evidence” pointing to sustained contact. And she notes that the kind of “boulders and turf” structural feature observed at Nanook is “atypical for Dorset” and consistent with Norse culture.

“I think in any scientific field, when something new comes along that hasn’t been given much consideration in the past, it generates debate,” she said.

Sutherland, whose research is also featured in the current issue of Canadian Geographic, said a scientific paper summarizing a decade’s worth of work on the national museum’s Helluland project is due to be published in August.

Further field work at a Dorset site in northern Labrador is scheduled for 2010, she added.