"Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography."Maybe it's a volcano, an earthquake, some object from outer space, a Person of Mass Destruction, a nuclear war, etc. Or maybe it's an intentional method of Terraforming. In fiction, many events have a tendency to alter the local geography. Better get to redrawing those maps. Often also a form of Artistic License – Geology. See also California Collapse for one variation of disasters. This isn't meant to be confused with the long-standing geographical differences that might be present on an alternate Earth. Also overlaps with Terrain Sculpting. Victims of this are often throwaway countries. This has nothing to do with changing borders between countries.
— General Sir Charles Harington before the mine detonation at the Battle of Messines, World War I
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Anime & Manga
- Very common in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, where fights tend to level much of the surrounding landscapes, with cities destroyed and islands sunk. All this before planets get blown up as well.
- K has the Kagutsu crater incident, where a Sword of Damocles was dropped on July 11, 1999, resulting in an explosion that killed 700,000 people and left a huge crater in the Southern Kanto Region.
- Deadman Wonderland: The Great Tokyo Earthquake, a magnitude 11.4, sank approximately 75% of the city. The titular prison/amusement park was created as a way of bringing in revenue to help rebuild. This was later revealed to be Shiro/the Wretched Egg attempting to kill herself.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Antarctica was destroyed by the Second Impact, leaving a sea devoid of all Lilith-based life, including microbes.
- After dropping an N2 bomb on an Angel, a NERV officer complains that they'll have to redraw the map of Japan again.
- Gundam: During the One Year War, the Principality of Zeon attempted to drop a depopulated colony onto the Federation's base in South America. Unfortunately, they miscalculated and the colony fell onto Sydney, Australia. This resulted in a massive explosion that vaporized the city and much of the surrounding landscape, leaving behind a 500-kilometer-wide crater known as the Gulf of Sydney.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: the world is still scarred with craters from World War III.
- Aldnoah.Zero has the Heaven's Fall incident, where the moon was destroyed. The resulting debris and gravitational effects badly defaced the Earth.
- Madara from Naruto mentions this as a Badass Boast, saying that it's a good thing that his rival Hashirama isn't present since they won't have to redraw the map "that much". He then cuts a mountain in half. His climatic battle with Hashirama in Naruto's backstory was also what created the Valley of the End, where Naruto and Sasuke battled before the timeskip, in the first place.
- [C] - Control has a metaphysical example occur in a Episode 8, where the Southeast Asian Financial District's collapse causes Singapore to disappear. Not just the city or land, but everything. This is also not the first time this has happened- the collapse of the South American Financial District lead to the disappearance of a nation called the Carribean Republic.
- Collateral damage is barely a concern during the war against the Ogdru Hem in B.P.R.D.. Earthquakes, volcanic disasters, and attacks from the monsters have destroyed cities like Munich, Houston, Seattle, London, New York, Paris, Raleigh, and many others. Additionally, half of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago, including Borneo and Sulawesi, are gone.
- The Amazon/Atlantean war in Flashpoint saw Aquaman sinking Western Europe into the ocean◊ after the Amazons conquered England, resulting a combined total of 132 million casualties.
- Japan gets hit with this quite a few times in the Marvel universe. All of which get reset, thankfully.
- During The Infinity Gauntlet arc, it sinks into the ocean.
- Moses Magnum and Namorita destroyed Japan in one of the Exiles arcs. To add insult to injury, he apparently killed everyone of Japanese descent just to emphasize that he was to be taken seriously. He later did it again in a 1979 issue of The Uncanny X-men.
- The island nation was once again destroyed in the Eternals.
- In Irredeemable, The Plutonian sinks Singapore into the ocean. This is not the worst thing he's done.
- In one issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel), Cobra tricks the Joe team into setting off a large explosion and triggering a fault line. The result: a chunk of land rises in the Gulf of Mexico, becoming an island and Cobra claims it as Cobra Island almost as soon as it stops rising.
- Supergod has a few cases of this. Unsurprising, considering it features an arms race involving superpowered beings. When Pakistan attempts to nuke Krishina, he responds by sending them back, turning Pakistan into a radioactive lava pit. Malak, Iran's attempt at creating an angel, generates a field that deconstructs all matter around himself. He destroys Tehran and makes his way to India, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. When Krishina throws him into space, he collides with the moon, causing it to partially disintegrate. The effects this has on Earth are catastrophic, to say the least.◊ The crowning achievement, however, has to go to Dajjal. He suicide detonates his power source, causing an explosion that obliterates most of Eurasia.
- Age of Apocalypse takes place in an Alternate Timeline where Xavier is accidentally killed by his time-travelling psychotic son, who was trying to assassinate Magneto. Without Xavier around, the X-men are unable to stop Apocalypse from triggering a nuclear war. This leads to a Villain World where mutant Nazis are hard at work exterminating the remnants of the human race, Europe is a fortress fighting a losing war against Apocalypse, and most of the planet is a toxic◊ Death World.
- Transformers: Shattered Glass: Southern California was destroyed in a cataclysmic attack during World War III in 1988. The entire area, now called Arizona Bay, has been quarantined due to the navigation hazards that the sunken buildings present.
- In The New Universe, Ken Connell accidentally obliterates Pittsburgh and everything 50 miles across trying to get rid of the Star Brand. This leaves behind a huge Forbidden Zone known as The Pitt. It's made especially notable due to the mutagen-like "Pitt Juice" and the seven mile-high "Mt. Pittsburgh" volcano.
- The Heroes fanfic Deep Sleep has Peter and Sylar unintentionally shatter the North American continent during their fight. The resulting Bad Future has a huge gorge running from the Gulf of Mexico, through the Great Lakes, and up into Hudson Bay and along the St. Lawrence river to the Atlantic.
- In From Bajor to the Black, Eleya narrates that the Cardassians blew the top off Mount Bahatan with a battleship's main disruptors so they could use it as a landing site for ore freighters. In the present, the site is a Bajoran Militia training base.
- In We Are All Pokémon Trainers, the Alternate Timeline created by Cyrus using Primal Dialga has Gamer and DS fail to save Hoenn and Sinnoh from their legendary crises, leading to Hoenn getting partially flooded by Kyogre, and the Distortion World pouring into Sinnoh and making it a hellscape, leading all the humans to abandon the region. However, following Cyrus' defeat and its spinning off into a separate universe, Groudon and Giratina manage to fix them back.
- It's very common to have Equestria teleport to Earth in TCB plot lines. However, The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, Twilight points out how much of a terrible idea that would be and just what sort of catastrophic damage this trope would cause.
"Is that what you're saying? That somepony popped Equestria out of our reality and crashed it onto his? How's that even meant to work? Several trillion tons of continent does not make a gentle impact on another world, not without mega-tsunamis and earthquakes that would level entire cities, followed by a dust cloud that would blanket the world in an artificial winter lasting decades! And what about the world we leave behind, what about Equus? Would it just carry on spinning without a care, despite having a hole several-thousand-miles-across gouged out of the planet's crust? Even if you didn't breach the mantle, creating a supervolcano that would pull the planet inside-out, the change in mass and absence of the Princesses would throw the sun and moon out of their orbits, causing them to collide, or even worse, to impact with Equus itself! Anypony – anything, left behind would die, horribly! Every griffon, every dragon, zebra, reindeer, whatever!"
- Scary News out of Tokyo-3: Happened as a result of violent earthquakes in the wake of Second Impact. The remains of Los Angeles and San Francisco are archipelagoes, and several communities in the former Mojave Desert are now only a few miles inland; Lancaster is described as a "thriving seaside community" in a news report.
Films — Live-Action
- Happening all over the place in 2012. Southern California is destroyed an enormous earthquake, which creates a huge canyon in Coachella Valley before sinking all the land into the ocean. Las Vegas is split in half by a huge fissure, Hawaii is buried under lava, but perhaps the most impressive example, however, is the Earth's crust shifting 23 degrees to the southwest, which places the new magnetic south pole somewhere in Wisconsin and conveniently moves the Himalayas closer to Jackson and his family. This also somehow causes the African continent to rise by several thousand feet, saving it from the resulting floods.
- Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) (1973). A weather survey group discover that the Japanese archipelago is moving towar the Japanese trench, which will cause all the land to sink into the ocean.
- Escape from L.A.: On August 23, 2000, a massive earthquake causes the San Fernando valley to flood, turning the Los Angeles area from Malibu to Anaheim into an island. The theocratic president for life decides to use it as the country's new maximum security prison, exiling anyone who doesn't conform with his new "Moral America" laws.
- A.I.: The ice caps have melted, causing the oceans to rise significantly. When David and Teddy visit the ruins of New York City, the Statue of Liberty's torch and most of the buildings are just ruins sticking up out of the water.
- Waterworld has a similar situation to the above, except the entire world is underwater. Aside from the very tops of the Himalayas.
- Lex Luthor's plan in Superman Returns involves creating an entirely new continent in the Atlantic utilizing Kryptonian technology. This will destroy most of North America and cause cataclysmic damage to the rest of the world. He intends to force them to turn to him as a savior.
Luthor: You can print money, manufacture diamonds and people are a dime a dozen, but people will always need land. It's the one thing we aren't making anymore.
- King Kong (2005): The tie-in book to the movie explains that Skull Island is gradually shrinking◊ thanks to a combination of erosion and geological activity. Because of this, in a reflection of what happened at the end of the Cretaceous period, the predator population is outpacing that of the herbivores and is destined to crash as well before the entire island sinks into the sea.
- Mortal Engines: During the Sixty Minute War, the Earth's geography was forever changed. South China was flooded, Antarctica de-frosted, seas moved around, pretty much everything north of New York City froze solid, and Central America ceased to exist.
- This seems to be the Modus operandi for the Endbringers. Leviathan in particular has a streak of defacing local geography with his macro-hydrokinetic abilities. He's responsible for sinking Kyushu, which turned Japan into a third-world nation, and Newfoundland. He nearly does this to Brockton Bay, attempting to sink the city into an aquifer.
- Later on, Scion obliterates Great Britain with relative ease. The island is said to fold "like crumpling paper in a hand."
- A non-violent example (surprisingly) in The Man in the High Castle: during Project Farmland, the Germans drained the Mediterranean Sea, turning it into a fertile farmland.
- In The Wheel of Time, the Breaking of the World was a cataclysm sparked by the Dark One corrupting and driving insane every magically capable male in the Age of Legends. Their uncontrolled power rearranged the map, flooding some regions and raising impassable mountain ranges; the ruins of one coastal city are found halfway up a mountain in the middle of a desert.
- Mistborn's world of Scadrial has had a couple, courtesy of an artifact that bestows the power of a Piece of God for a few seconds every millennium:
- In the Lord Ruler's Ascension, he moved his home country's mountain ranges, just to hide the evidence of his Ascension, and raised the Mordor-esque volcanoes that cover his Empire in ash.
- In the Final Ascension of Sazed, he fixes the damage the Lord Ruler caused the planet and creates a perfectly fertile river basin to nurture the new civilization.
- 11/22/63: In the Bad Future, there's an offhanded mention that the earthquakes, which are caused by the protagonist's meddling with time, caused Hokkaido and three smaller Japanese islands to sink sometime in 2007.
- RCN: In the backstory, The War of Earthly Aggression ended about a thousand years ago with a massive asteroid bombardment that left the planet's geography unrecognizable. The plot of book three starts out as a treasure hunt for a large diamond engraved with the pre-bombardment continents.
- 10.5 ends with the titular earthquake, which turns Los Angeles into an island. The sequel series, 10.5 Apocalypse turns things Up to Eleven with an ancient fault line that proceeds to split North America in half.
- Defiance: During the Pale Wars between humans and Votans, the alien ships were mysteriously destroyed, causing their terraforming technology to rain down on Earth and begin affecting the planet. Geography, geology, and even the biosphere were radically changed◊; the planet is covered by dust and debris, the atmosphere is saturated by electromagnetic radiation and dangerous hybrids of earth and alien life run rampant. Perhaps no better example is the establishing shot of the St. Louis Gateway arch.
- Doctor Who: In "The Parting of the Ways", the Dalek fleet bombards the Earth so severely that they distort the shapes of the continents.
- In the backstory to Sisko's plot in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Storyteller", Cardassian miners diverted the route of the River Glyrhond for their own purposes, disrupting a treaty between two local tribes that had set the river as their border.
- The Star Trek: Voyager episode Future's End makes mention of the Hermosa earthquake that hits Los Angeles in 2047, causing it to partially sink into the Pacific. By the 24th century, it's become the world's largest coral reef.
Myths & Religion
- Atlantis could be considered the Ur-Example. It was described as a continent in the Atlantic ocean, just west of the Pillars of Heracles (today known as the Strait of Gibraltar). 9,000 years ago, the gods struck the nation down for their greed and hubris, hitting it with earthquakes and floods. The prosperous island nation disappeared into the sea within a single day and night.
- Warhammer 40,000: Earth (now called Terra) lost its oceans long ago and several mountain ranges have been leveled to make way for colossal cities.
- Gamma World 1st Edition. The epic battle between the terrorist group The Apocalypse and its opponents released powerful energies that caused continents to buckle and oceans to boil, massively changing the surface of the Earth. Among other things, it caused inland seas to appear in the North American continent.
- During the Great War in Fallout's backstory, it's said that entire mountain ranges were created as the ground buckled and moved under the strain of thousands of atomic explosions.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, over the course of the Courier's travels through the Divide in the Lonesome Road DLC, in order to move forward they launch a nuke and inadvertently create a mile-wide crater Ulysses refers to as the "Courier's Mile".
- Tyranitar's Pokédex entry states that it can knock down mountains and bury rivers when it's angry. Maps have to be redrawn accordingly.
- Aggron does the inverse of Tyranitar, restoring its environment after natural disasters such as landslides or file by hauling over topsoil and planting trees.
- Kyogre possesses the ability to expand the oceans by flooding the land, while Groudon can expand the continents by raising land and boiling away the water. They did battle in ancient times.
- In Pokémon Gold and Silver, according to legend the Lake of Rage was formed from a bunch of Gyarados creating a massive storm that left a giant crater, which then filled with rainwater, creating the lake we know today.
- In Omega Ruby And Alpha Sapphire, Sootopolis City's new backstory has it being formed from a meteor striking the area where it's located now, rather than it being an extinct volcano crater like in the original.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Floraroma Town used to be a desolate hill until someone expressed thanks for a blessing of nature and the entire hill burst into bloom, which is implied to have been the work of Shaymin. The evidence being that during the Oak's Letter event it turns the rocky hill both Lucas/Dawn and Professor Oak are standing into a grassy flower field after the former gives thanks for their journey, before heading off to the Flower Paradise.
- In background material for Deus Ex, a massive earthquake hit the West Coast in the 2030's, destroying much of San Francisco and dumping all of California south of Lompoc into the sea. The ruins of Pasadena now sit on the new coastline and world maps show North America missing the Baja California peninsula.
- At the halfway point of Final Fantasy VI, Kefka unbalances the world and completely changes the landscape. Continents are split, separating towns once a short walk from each other, a new island appears in the corner of the world, and the Serpent Trench, which used to run underwater, now sits above the surface.
- In Grand Theft Auto III, a massive construction site sits where there was a neighborhood in Liberty City Stories. Why? Because Toni set off a massive explosion under it under orders from Donald Love.
- In the backstory of Mass Effect, an unknown civilization fired a kinetic weapon with such power that a glancing blow from its bullet left the planet Klendagon with a rift hundreds of kilometers long. Mass Effect has a sidequest set on that planet's moon, giving you an ample opportunity to see the rift with your own eyes.
- World of Warcraft has a Cataclysm Backstory involving the Great Sundering. Ten thousand years ago, Queen Azshara created a portal for Sargeras in the Well of Eternity, the heart of Azeroth's magical power, to lead his forces to conquer the world. With no other choice, Malfurion Stormrage and his troops destroyed the well, which set off a catastrophic chain of events. The continent of Kalimdor shattered into four smaller landmasses and several islands. The area where the well occupied is now a swirling vortex known as the Maelstrom.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In the backstory of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the golden goddesses flooded Hyrule in order to save it from Ganon, creating the Great Sea and its many islands.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the Lanayru Desert was originally a lush coastal area, before it dried out over the centuries, which you see when Link activates a Timeshift Stone.
- In Erfworld, the Dirtamancer Sizemore gets to do this through a powerful Mental Fusion that lets him awaken a dormant volcano. Once the rush runs off, though, he's absolutely horrified.
Sizemore: It was magnificent, Warlord. Horrifying, but... I can't describe it. I actually modified the terrain type, like a Titan.
- Has happened on more than a few occasions in SCP Foundation, but they've all been covered up as just being part of Earth's natural geography. For example, the Marianas Trench wasn't around before a massive containment breach. It also wasn't initially underwater.
- What If? entry Drain the Oceans shows maps of Earth in various phases of being drained from water by a portal at the bottom of Challenger Deep. The "sequel" follows that up with maps of Mars getting filled with water dumped from Earth.
- Episode 6 of Super Mario Bros. Z is called "Brawl on a Vanishing Island" for good reason. When Axem Red uses a chaos emerald to power up the Breaker Beam, the resulting blast levels the mountains. By the end, Mecha Sonic blows up the entire island.
- The nuclear war in 1983: Doomsday devastated much of the world. The Netherlands lost much of its levee system and is now a forgotten land buried under a brackish, radioactive swamp. New York City was hit with so many nukes that, when scouts finally arrived back in the city a few years later, they found open water where Manhattan and Brooklyn used to be.
- It's not yet confirmed if the major geographic divergences in Steven Universe are due to the Gems' alien interference and advanced terraforming technology, but it's been heavily implied. These changes include: Florida being an island; Australia divided by a winding trench; a large chunk of western Africa seemingly moved across the Atlantic and stuck onto South America with an island chain between them; and Russia being largely replaced by a massive sea. Gem activity has also been shown to have created large swathes of rugged, infertile terrain in the process of incubating new Gem soldiers.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: At the start of Season 3, a new city called the Crystal Empire appeared in an area that used to be a frozen wasteland. Canon maps of Equestria drawn since then have had to change to incorporate the new city.
- A creative example occurs in The Fairly OddParents! when Timmy wishes for an older brother. To explain his absence, Timmy states that he'd been studying medicine in Tibequador and then wishes that the country were real. Cosmo and Wanda situate the nation in Central America and it seems to be populated mostly by tribal peoples. Later, in Timmy the Barbarian, Mr. Crocker (as a powerful wizard) asks Timmy what the capital of Tibequador is, implying that the nation was never unwished.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Almost 300 years before the start of the series, a powerful earthbending warlord named Chin the Great had conquered most of the Earth Kingdom, save for Ba Sing Se and the peninsula home to Avatar Kyoshi. In order to protect her home, Kyoshi severed it from the rest of the continent, creating Kyoshi's island. As a consequence, Chin, who had been standing at the mouth of the peninsula, ended up plummeting to his death as the ground beneath him became unstable.
- The Legend of Korra:
- it's revealed that the Spirit Wilds that covered the globe during the Era of Raava were created when Vaatu first broke the barrier between the human and spirit worlds.
- Following Korra's defeat of Unavaatu, part of Republic City gets covered with vines from the Spirit World.
- After bending the energy of the spirit cannon during the final episode of the series, Korra ends up creating a third spirit portal, leaving a vine covered crater around it.
- Adventure Time: After the Great Mushroom War, the land of Ooo was left with a large piece missing.
- Transformers Animated has Dinobot Island, originally known as North Sister Island, as a volcanic island inexplicably set in the middle of Lake Erie. A large portion of it ends up getting destroyed thanks to Blackrachnia's experiments with transwarp.
- The page quote refers to the Battle of Messines in World War I, when the British Army attempted to break through German fortifications by tunneling beneath several strong points and planting explosives. The craters left by the operation are still visible today.
- This naturally happens over long stretches of time with continental drift. The biggest example is the collision between India and Asia creating the Himalayan mountains.
- Land reclamation involves artificially claiming new land from bodies of water.
- An accidental example would be the (re)creation of the Salton Sea. In the early 1900's, farmers were irrigating the basin known as the Salton Sink using canals dug to the Colorado River. In 1905, heavy rain and melting snow caused the river to swell, overflowing the canals and diverting the water into former riverbeds that emptied into the basin. This gradually caused it to flood over the course of two years as engineers tried desperately to stop the flooding. Today, the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. It's also the least-appealing.
- The 2011 Tohoku earthquake moved Japan up to eight feet sideways in some places.
- 3,600 years ago, the Greek island of Santorini experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. It lead to the disappearance of the Minoan civilization and transformed the island into an archipelago.◊
- Sea levels can entirely change the shape of landmasses. During the last ice age, the sea level fell enough that British Isles were joined to Europe as a peninsula, Australia merged with New Guinea, and a land bridge joined Siberia with Alaska. This bridge is believed to be how many species, including humans, migrated to the Americas. On the other end of the scale, many dire predictions about climate change suggest major coastal regions will be underwater.◊
- The Cumberland Gap is a 12-mile pass through the Cumberland mountains, a region of the Appalachians. It was a key passageway through the mountain range for both natives and settlers. A major feature of this gap is the Middlesboro crater, which is home to the town of Middlesboro, Kentucky. Geological analysis has suggests this was formed from the impact of an asteroid the size of a football field around 300 million years ago.
- Atlantropa was a proposal to build a series of giant dams across the Mediterranean, causing the water level to drop by 200 meters. Once this happened, there would be plenty of land available for colonization between Europe and Africa, along with massive amounts of power generated by the dam. The designer hoped this would put an end to growing hostilities and usher in a new era of peace. Except that all the new land would be salt flats; completely unusable for any kind of agriculture. Plus, as some meteorologists have suggested, the project could have diverted the Gulf Stream and sent temperatures falling across most of Europe.
- Volcanic eruptions can cause this. Some examples include:
- Surtsey, an island south of Iceland, was created by a volcanic eruption that lasted from 1963 until 1967. In fact, many islands are created via undersea eruptions.
- Parícutin is a volcano that emerged from a fissure in a farmer's cornfield on February 20, 1943. The eruption lasted until 1952, when the volcano reached a height of 424 meters.
- When Sakurajima erupted in 1914, the amount of lava released was so much that once it cooled the island had become a peninsula.
- Mount St. Helen's before and after◊ the big 1980 eruption◊.
- Long Island and Manhattan Island, as well as the rest of the region referred to as the Outer Lands, were carved out of the North American continent by retreating glaciers roughly 11,000 years ago.
- An early theory about the similar fossils found in distant lands was that they were all once connected via land bridges. The most famous of these is probably Lemuria, named in Philip Sclater's 1864 article The Mammals of Madagascar, which he claimed once connected India, Madagascar, and Western Australia before sinking. This theory was superseded by Plate Tectonics and later discredited entirely.