Pangea: Geology Word of the Week

Most of you probably already know this word, but Pangea has always been one of my favorite geology words. I’m not alone: I’ve heard rumors of a famous geologist who named his daughter Pangea. Her first name. Though perhaps that’s just a rumor that all geology students hear.


1. A supercontinent that existed ~250 million years ago. This supercontinent start breaking up ~200 million years ago into the individual continents that comprise today’s configuration of the crust.
2. An inappropriate yet charming name for geologists to name their daughters.
3. An alternative costume idea for superhero parties.

The summer I started graduate school, I went to a “P-Party” dressed in my homemade Pangea costume. As the name suggests, for this party you have to dress as something that starts with the letter P. The costumes- pirates, penises, parrots, princesses, etc.- range from cliche to creative and outrageous.

I highly recommend that you consider a “Pangea” costume for next Halloween or your next dress-up party.

It’s very easy to make your very own Pangea costume:

1. Go to Wal-Mart or another discount store. Purchase a cheap blue tracksuit or blue t-shirt + blue pants. Make sure that felt can stick to your outfit. Generally, the cheaper the blue material the better. Also purchase at least seven different colors of felt squares and a length of blue sparkly fabric.
2. Using your xerox machine of choice, blow up a map of the world. Make the continents an appropriate size so that they can all fit on your chest as Pangea.
3. Cut out the continents from your various xerox papers. Trace around these cut-outs onto your felt. Make each continent a different color. Cut out the felt shapes. You now have your continents!
4. Don your ugly blue track suit. Place the felt continents on your chest so that they line up as Pangea.
5. Tie the sparkly blue fabric around your neck. After all, you need a cape since you are a SUPERcontinent.

The great thing about this costume is that it is interactive. The felt continents can stick anywhere on your blue track suit, so you can rearrange them at will. When I wore my Pangea costume to a party, various geologists re-arranged the continents on my chest while arguing about the order of continental break-up. Girls be cautious! Only let cute geologists “re-arrange the continents.” Also beware that the continents tend to “drift” throughout the night… onto different parts of the shirt, onto friends, onto the ground, into your beer, etc. By the end fo the night, I had lost Antarctica. But I figured that’s okay since it’s sort of a lost continent anyway. I also lost India, but that’s just a subcontinent so that’s also okay.

I’m going to try to develop the habit of posting the geology word of the week every Sunday/Monday so that it comes out about the same time every week. I have several ideas for words, but feel free to let me know any unusual/fun words you may have.


Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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  1. Great costume idea, but the nerd-boy in me has to wonder –

    Aside from continental drift and tectonic subduction, what are your superpowers?

  2. Geologists _could_ call their baby girls Gea, at least in some parts of the world, and nickname them Pangea.

    [Longwinded tale about the probably history of the name Gea in Norway, based on five minutes of research and a big dollop of conjecture.]

  3. I’ve noticed that kids love pangea. Whenever my kids were little and this part would come up at school they would always be excited to tell me about it.

  4. I also lost India, but that’s just a subcontinent so that’s also okay.

    There are about 1.2 billion people who would like a word with you about significance ;o)

  5. @MiddleMan:
    Aside from continental drift and tectonic subduction, what are your superpowers?

    Don’t you mean “tectonic seduction”?

    And I think causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is quite the superpower already …

  6. Pangea is also the title of a legendary Miles Davis live recording. I imagine that costume could get you into a rather tedious discussion if you happened to meet Neal Adams while so attired.

  7. Pangea (or pangaea, as I prefer, with an extra a as a nod to its Greek roots) is all well and good, but where would pangaea be without MY favorite geology word: panthalassa!

    My other favorite P-words in science are perilune and perihelion.

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