Scared for Planet Earth? This Time-Traveling Map May Provide Comfort

The top red dot is New York City. The lower one is London, England. California doesn't exist on this map of the world 450 million years ago.  (Dinosaurpictures.org)

Between a global pandemic, the racial justice uprising, raging wildfires and ongoing political chaos, 2020 has been imbued with an almost constant sense of encroaching doom. Finding a means to escape from those daily realities remains an ongoing and increasingly taxing challenge.

For those of us who can’t help but feel like this is surely the end of the world, the Dinosaur Database offers some new—and refreshingly removed—perspective about our current woes. It’s an interactive paleogeographic map that shows you what planet Earth looked like up to 750 million years ago, by region.

San Francisco and Oakland, for example, appeared 240 million years ago. They show up on the map as the same red dot no matter the time period, but there is something wonderfully meditative about seeing how the land we live on has developed and changed over millions of years.

San Francisco and Oakland represented by the same red dot: Top L-R, 240 million and 170 Million years ago. Bottom L-R: 90 million and 20 million years ago.
San Francisco and Oakland represented by the same red dot: Top L-R, 240 million and 170 Million years ago. Bottom L-R: 90 million and 20 million years ago. (Dinosaurpictures.org)

What’s more, if you compare the location of San Francisco to other cities in California, the results are fascinating. San Jose, for example, not only used to be much further away than it is now, it used to be northeast. Los Angeles, by contrast, was much closer to us and located directly east.

As you seamlessly bounce around the eons, the interactive map also offers educational tidbits about what was happening on the planet at any given time, in terms of both weather and life forms. (Fun fact: Fresno has a dinosaur named after it. The Fresnosaurus, a 34-foot-long, 5-foot-tall marine reptile with a long, slender neck, weighed about 4,000 pounds and lived in California 72–66 million years ago. Someone use it as a mascot already!)

Sponsored

As mental escape routes go, this one is undoubtedly (gloriously?) nerdy. But it also offers a detailed yet digestible examination of how our home planet finds ways to endure, regardless of what chaos is afoot on its surface. If you can stave off an existential crisis for long enough, there is comfort to be found in that.

The interactive paleogeographic map can be found by visiting the Dinosaur Database.