Long before Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper battled it out on the open seas in the mid-90s dystopian sci-fi flick Waterworld, the Earth really was almost entirely covered with water, according to a new report by scientists at The Australian National University. According to new research, at a point in time roughly 4.4 billion years ago, the Earth was virtually featureless and the entire planet was little more than a vast ocean stretching in every direction.
“The history of the Earth is like a book with its first chapter ripped out with no surviving rocks from the very early period, but we’ve used these trace elements of zircon to build a profile of the world at that time,” Dr Burnham of ANU’s Research School of Earth Sciences explains. “Our research indicates there were no mountains and continental collisions during Earth’s first 700 million years or more of existence. It was a much more quiet and dull place.”
Using granite samples to compare and contrast the type of zircon that is known to be from the very early Earth, the scientists were able to determine that it was created not from melting sediments — which would be an indication of continental shifts and crashes that would create dry land — but from ancient igneous rocks.
In short, because the evidence suggests a lack of sediment, continent formation and thereby dry land, the Earth’s wealth of water would have completely dominated the planet. The first life on the planet is thought to have popped up over a billion years later, so for a very, very long time our planet was probably a big wet ball with very little going on.