The Fit of the Continents around the Atlantic

Edward Bullard, J. E. Everett, A. Gilbert Smith


The geometrical fit of the continents now separated by oceans has long been discussed in relation to continental drift. This paper describes fits made by numerical methods, with a `least squares' criterion of fit, for the continents around the Atlantic ocean. The best fit is found to be at the 500 fm. contour which lies on the steep part of the continental edge. The root-mean-square errors for fitting Africa to South America, Greenland to Europe and North America to Greenland and Europe are 30 to 90 km. These fits are thought not to be due to chance, though no reliable statistical criteria are available. The fit of the block assembled from South America and Africa to that formed from Europe, North America and Greenland is much poorer. The root-mean-square misfit is about 130 km. These geometrical fits are regarded as a preliminary to a comparison of the stratigraphy, structures, ages and palaeomagnetic results across the joins.