There are differences in the timeline and differences in the timeline. They are not all created equal. For instance, it’s often claimed that New Zealand is in a different place than previously, namely where New Guinea is now. A quick peek at Australasia might suggest what’s going on here:
After some reflection, I realised that there was a time when I myself thought New Guinea was New Zealand, and the reasons are very easy to explain. There are two islandy things in Australasia called New something, and I did actually mix the two up at one point in my childhood. Of course, certain Mandela Effect enthusiasts might say this is the truth in an alternate reality, but there are a number of reasons this is unlikely to be so.
New Zealand is often remembered as a single island northwest of Australia, and as closer to Australia than it in fact is. In fact, some people have memories of being able to travel between Australia and New Zealand on ferries like a trip across the English Channel. The problem with this is that if New Zealand really was where people remember it to be, it would be in the rain forest belt rather than having a temperate climate. It might not be covered in rain forest by now, mind you, or it might be exceedingly mountainous and cooler, more so than it is now, but it couldn’t be like it is in this reality if it was in that location. Having said that, I am at a loss to explain how the heck people can remember travelling a distance equivalent to that between Dover and Lisbon by ferry on a day trip, but since I’ve basically driven myself round the bend with the third Alice book, I’m going o have to accept that they’re acting in good faith.
The other thing people often believe about New Zealand is that it’s to the west of Australia in the Indian Ocean and is quite a bit larger – a small continent in fact. Now, I am going to post the Dazed And Confused still yet again, but I hope to be able to flatten it out a bit first:
This is not a good quality image because it’s taken from a Flash version of an upload of a clip from a DVD video, but the white shape to the right is Australia and the same one on the left is the one I think is the logo covered by something. Even so, this is what people are saying is their version of New Zealand.
Oddly enough, at least two separate but connected traditions maintain that there is such a blob in the Indian Ocean, an idea I found very attractive myself as a child, mainly because it was more obscure than Atlantis, and I have no wish to plug my book yet again, but I do mention it there at length. This is the lost continent of Lemuria, also known as Mu. Also, there are in fact lost landmasses under the Indian Ocean. There is the Kerguelen Plateau, north of Antarctica and west of Australia:
and there is also Mauritia, which however disappeared well over 600 million years ago but would be east of Madagascar now. Mauritia would also have collided with or prevented the northward movement of India if it still existed by the time India started to move north, which gets me ahead of myself a bit.
The reason people thought of Lemuria in the first place is these things:
This is a ring-tailed lemur, a kind of primate found only in Madagascar, off the south-west coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The fact that Lemuria has the word “lemur” in it is no coincidence. Over in southeast Asia in the meantime, there are various other very similar and clearly closely related primates such as this tarsier:
By mtoz – originally posted to Flickr as Tarsier, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3814411
Considering that Southeast Asia and Madagascar are separated by more than five thousand kilometres, it was hypothesised that at one point in the distant past the ocean between them was substantially dry land, namely a land bridge like Central America, or perhaps even a continent, which enabled the lemurs to get from A to B.
Land bridges were a popular concept at the time used to explain why organisms were found widely scattered and separated by oceans across the planet. This concept was in fact popular right up into the 1950s, because until then nobody could work out how to make the theory of continental drift work. In fact, even in the 1976, a teacher locked me in a cupboard when I mentioned continental drift, so a lot of people didn’t like it even then.
It eventually got worked out that continents were moving around the planet as if they were on conveyor belts, splitting up and crashing into each other, and when primates first appeared, Southeast Asia and Madagascar were close together, only later drifting thousands of kilometres apart. In fact, there is a kind of “pulse” to the movements of landmasses, where they join together in various configurations as a single giant continent every few hundred million years before being split up by volcanic activity and scattered across the globe again, also in various configurations, until they crash into each other again. The last time this happened was around the start of the age of dinosaurs, and that continent is now called Pangaea – “all earth”:
By en:User:Kieff – File:Pangaea continents.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8161694 – modified
There are bits of land on this map which don’t obviously fit in to today’s map of the world although they often fit in somewhere. Also, if a continent or two had gone AWOL at some point, they wouldn’t be showing up on this map as this is mainly of the land which is still above water now. It has been suggested that the bay along the east coast between Eurasia and Africa wasn’t really there but occupied by a continent, but I don’t see any reason why Pangaea would have been a differently-shaped supercontinent. It’s not like it’s a neat rectangle or something after all.
The concept of Lemuria died out in scientific circles because of the advent of the theory of continental drift, or rather, once a mechanism for that had been suggested, but Helena Blavatsky, one of the founders of the esoteric movement known as theosophy in the nineteenth century, adopted the idea and said it was the home of one of her “root races” in the distant past, who were egg-laying hermaphrodites. Consequently, many people, such as New Agers, still believe in Lemuria. Moreover, the Tamils used the concept too as Kumari Kandam, and in fact thousands of years before the place was called Lemuria, there are ancient Sanskrit texts which refer to a sunken land under the Indian Ocean. This is sometimes thought to be a reference to the real land bridge between Sri Lanka and India. The Tamils believe it to have been their original home and since the languages of Southern India are not related to any others in the world, this would at least explain that although this is probably because they were the previous inhabitants of India before the Aryans got there.
Fifty million years from now, there may also be a new continent in the Indian Ocean which Dougal Dixon christened Lemuria. It can be seen in this map from the book After Man:
This is a development of the African Rift Valley where humans originally evolved. Clearly if Lemuria in that form had appeared, human history would either have been completely different or there wouldn’t be any humans at all, so that’s not an option for a possible Lemuria.
If you want Lemuria to exist, it seems there are two options. Either the continent is an extra bit of land in the Indian Ocean, perhaps now below sea level, or it’s made up of bits stolen from other continents. If the former were the case, there would be more land than there now is, and that does sometimes happen in the history of this planet and was true only a few thousand years ago during the last Ice Age. If the sea level was lower, the area around Kerguelen would be exposed. This has an area of 1 250 000 square kilometres, about two-thirds the size of Alaska. It sank 20 million years ago and is now over a kilometre down, so the sea level would have to fall a really long way for it to be exposed. There would need to be more than ten times the amount of ice at the poles, or elsewhere such as in glaciers on mountain ranges, for this to happen, or it could go the other way and be accounted for by evaporation, which would mean much of the surface of the planet would have to be heated by the Sun well above the local boiling point of water.
Clearly neither of these things has happened recently. If Lemuria was an extra landmass, it would occupy an area of the surface of the planet currently covered by water several kilometres deep, which would be like throwing stones in water, and therefore the sea level all over the world would be higher. If it constituted only a tenth of the current land area, sea level would be a quarter of a kilometre higher than at present. Most large cities are either on rivers or near the coast, so such a sea level rise would submerge them completely. Conversely, a landmass that size disappearing would cause an equal drop in sea level, to the extent that the British Isles would become physically part of the European landmass and Alaska and Siberia would be joined by a broad land bridge, among other things. Extra land would also make the planet as a whole drier, so the deserts would all be bigger and the rain forests smaller.
There is, however, another option: carve Lemuria out of land borrowed from other continents. It could, for example, be the area shaded in “chartreuse”:
This would have the benefit of leaving the amount of land the same, at the cost of making Mozambique, Angola and Australia smaller, scooping a bit out of Antarctica (but who cares? It would make little difference to our history in itself if Antarctica was slightly smaller and a different shape), and swallowing up the whole of Sri Lanka and Madagascar. All of this land would then be originally part of Antarctica and then drift northwards across the Indian Ocean, without colliding with India, in the late Cretaceous shortly before the (non-bird) dinosaurs died out. This is the least intrusive version of Lemuria, although bear in mind that there basically was something quite similar to the continent until fairly recently, although not where the Tamils or Victorians wanted it to be.
What would this version of Lemuria be like and what consequences would it have?
First of all, considering that it split from Antarctica in the late Cretaceous, it would be carrying mammals, birds, reptiles and dinosaurs with it. The dinosaurs would die out with the rest around 65 million years ago – this is not going to turn into a Lost World-type scenario. Even so, both Madagascar and New Zealand have been host to giant flightless birds, which are the closest thing human beings have encountered to classic dinosaurs, so it might be expected that such a continent would be covered in giant birds like these:
This shouldn’t be hugely surprising because, after all, the continent due south of it is in reality dominated by birds, such as penguins.
Unlike Antarctica, however, there would also be plenty of mammals, but not necessarily of the type found in the world today. There are three major types of mammal now: placental ones like us, marsupials and the two or three egg-laying types. On this continent, however, egg-laying mammals would be dominant, and instead of there just being a few of them, there would be hundreds of species, probably including a lot superficially like the other mammals in the rest of the world, looking like anteaters, cats, horses, dogs, mice and so forth. Furthermore, since the northern coast of Antarctica was the stretch of land over which marsupials originally made their way to Australia from their original home in South America, there would be no marsupials in the latter continent! It would probably end up with various egg-laying mammals just like Lemuria, and the only place marsupials survived would be in the Americas. There might also be giant reptiles, like the nine metre long monitor lizard found in Australia when the Aborigines originally got there. Flora would also be different, although predictable because much of the flora of the southern hemisphere appears to be descended from forms on the single continent which was once down there.
Concerning climate, Lemuria would be tropical, possibly consisting of a belt of savannah, one of desert and one of rain forest, depending on where exactly in the Indian Ocean it was. Speaking of climate, a large area of land would have consequences for ocean currents in the area, meaning that the distribution of warmer and colder weather would be different. If it was far enough south to be in the current Southern Ocean, it would interrupt the only currents and winds which manage to flow all the way round the world. This would change the climate of Antarctica, possibly making it more hospitable.
As for humans, there would seem to be two possibilities. Either humans would have reached Lemuria early on in their history and there would be an ethnically distinct population there, which assumes that the land is near another populated land such as Australia or Africa, or it would have been colonised late on in a similar manner to the way Pacific islands and Madagascar were settled during the Christian era by Polynesians. Just as “advanced” civilisations such as the Maya and Great Zimbabwe, or for that matter the Babylonians, Greeks and Chinese, arose in isolation, it’s just as likely that there would have been such a culture in such a continent. I can imagine this culture eating distinctive mammalian egg tortillas and maybe farming the same species of mammal for milk, eggs, wool and meat. There would also be distinctive food plants not found elsewhere in the world, just as the Americas gave the world maize, potatoes, tomatoes and chilli. Moreover, with such a continent acting as a stepping stone to the now milder Antarctica, it could be imagined that there would be indigenous people in northern Antarctica, although the nature of that coast would differ due to having had this continent come out of it. Those peoples would then have their own cuisines, cultures and languages, which would influence European culture. We would have words in English for vegetables, fruits and spices which we don’t have. We would also eat those on a regular basis. There would probably even be spiritual traditions which don’t exist in this timeline.
This is all, naturally, completely fanciful. However, I am making a serious point here, related to the Mandela Effect. It’s entirely plausible for a particular difference in recent history, such as Shirley Temple having not died in childhood as I and numerous other people distinctly remember her doing, not to have enormous consequences for the nature of the world. I can therefore accept that the likes of Nelson Mandela dying in prison or Shirley Temple living into this century could be genuine examples of reality shifts if I’m going to go with the parallel universe explanation of this. However, I cannot accept that the parallel universe explanation is compatible with something like New Zealand being replaced by Lemuria. Some of the other examples, such as the planet being 10% smaller, are even more earth-shattering, almost literally in that case. Consequently, in those cases I do, regrettably, have to put them down to confabulation. It may in fact be that there is a parallel timeline where Lemuria does exist, but it’s going to have much bigger consequences than simply a globe in a 1990s movie looking slightly different. That means I would have to go with the idea of reality being a simulation if I were to accept a realistic leak in the timelines for that kind of thing. However, if that were so, there would have to be few anomalies, or there would be no scientific explanation for New Zealand being in the tropics, having the same topography but a temperate climate. Everything else would also have to change.
For that reason, I’m currently thinking that the Mandela Effect is a mixture of two things. Some of it at least is confabulation. When it is, that confabulation seems to be associated with other things which are hard to explain, suggesting that we are all being tricked by the way our minds work. An example of this is the distinct recollection some Australians have of being able to travel on a day trip to New Zealand by ferry. Accepting that could potentially undermine most of what we think of as reality and we start to lapse into Last Thursdayism, which is the idea that the Universe has recently come into existence with false memories corresponding to reality in the arbitrarily recent past. This is of course conceivable but too disturbing for me to accept. The other alternative is to maintain some degree of trust in memory, but to admit the possibility that in at least some cases there really is a leak between timelines, either of people or memories. This has the merit of being somewhat compatible with the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. However, there does seem to be a lot of weird psychological noise going on at the same time.