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Cartoon showing the subduction of an oceanic plate under a continental plate
So, let's go to the biggest of Earth's oceans, the Pacific. We start our journey into Earth's inner space at a beach, to look out at the place where the LITHOPROBE project got started a decade ago: Long Beach, at the mighty Pacific, on Vancouver Island, where people holiday and watch whales.
Out to sea, just over the horizon, and on the sea floor below the waves, the face of the Earth is being resculptured. How?

In a big way. Our continent is colliding with a part of the Pacific Ocean, bulldozing its unstoppable path across the ocean floor, and scraping off the ocean sediments to slowly add to the westward growth of North America.

Big as our mightiest ocean is, it is shrinking slowly but steadily, being squeezed by surrounding continental regions.

Thus, the west coast and its offshore are a good place to study this gigantic happening, which only is the most recent of several more such events which occurred earlier.

Indeed, it was here where Canada's LITHOPROBE Project, the pioneering study of our continent's growth over geologic time -- from small microcontinents to today's size -- had its beginning.

This schematic cartoon shows the outer layers of Earth's crust. The solidified lithosphere is some 100 km thick.

The phenomenon which causes processes such as shown in this schematic view of "subduction" of the "oceanic plate" under the continent is popularly known as "continental drift", but more correctly is called "plate tectonics."

These terms describe the constant shifting and jostling among adjoining crustal plates, which are like pieces in a mosaic which forms the hardened outer shell, the so-called lithosphere, of our planet.

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