The Origin of Mountains is ground breaking. This highly illustrated book describes mountains from all over the world, emphasising their landforms, their rocks, and their structure and age. This leads to a deduction on the mechanism which formed them, causing the authors to reject the pre-conceived and well-known hypothesis that plate tectonics and folding creates mountains. The Origin of Mountains approaches mountains from facts about mountain landscapes rather than theory. It uses old and recent references, as well as field evidence. It shows that mountains are not made directly by folding, but result from vertical uplift of plains (planation surface) to form plateaus, which may later be eroded into rugged mountains. It also assembles the evidence that this uplift occurred in the last few million years, a time scale which does not fit the plate tectonics theory. Another fascinating theory is that the age of uplift correlates very well with climatic change. Mountain building could have been responsible for the onset of the ice age and the monsoon climate, and certainly created many new environments.
Fossil plants and animals are used in places to work out the time of mountain uplift, which in turn helps to explain biogeographical distributions.
Cliff Ollier is a Visiting Fellow, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University and also Emeritus Professor, University of New England. Colin Pain is Assistant Director, Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Evolution and Mineral Exploitation, Australian Geological Survey Organisation.