If you’ve ever navigated your way to an Australian tourist attraction in the past few years, stared at your smartphone screen, then looked up and wondered why the attraction you’ve arrived at is on the other side of the street from its map location, new research has now revealed why!
Scientists have discovered that the entire continent has shifted five feet since 1994, so that Australia’s position is now further north on the map than it once was.
Drifting at a speed of seven centimeters each year, the change is all down to the continent’s location on top of the world’s fastest-moving tectonic plate, which experts think may have split from the Indo-Australian plate around three million years ago. The earthquakes sometimes felt in Australia are a result of the plate colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates.
This change – the fact that Australia is now in an entirely different place to where it was only recently – is yet another example of just how endlessly intriguing the ever-changing landscape is Down Under.
Take Uluru: one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, ‘Ayers Rock’ is a spectacular sandstone formation, a glorious consequence of the little anomalies that mother nature likes to throw up.
There are few places on earth with as many of these as Australia, but what if your GPS is skewed by the tectonic activity when you’re trying to visit them? Thankfully, in an effort to set the maps straight, scientists are planning to update Australia’s coordinates before January. By plotting new points at a longitude and latitude scaled 5.9 feet to the north, the country’s mapped coordinates should align with the Earth’s by 2020.