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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Fossils and Fossil Rocks Kill Off Evolution! - Part Five (ApologetiX edition)

First, thanks to Piltdown Superman for this:

Sean Pittman's online book on fossils is found here. We go on...

Shale Bed Trace Fossils

Shale beds, such as the Yesnaby Sea Stacks and the Dougherty Gap Outcrop pictured here, are formations that are often composed of alternating layers of shale and sandstone.  The various layers range from one or two millimeters to several meters in thickness.  The layers of shale where once layers of clay that have become compressed and hardened into shale.  It is generally thought that such layers were formed over several million years by the repetitive deposits of shallow lakes, swamps, and rivers.  With the changing sea-levels due to glacial activity, the resulting cyclical drowning of these areas is thought to have resulted in the cyclical deposition of clays, silts and sands over fairly significant spans of time.  Some of these beds are in fact quite thick.  For example, the Haymond Beds average around 1,300 meters in thickness and contain thousands of layers of shale and sandstone.  However, what is especially interesting about many of these layered beds is that they contain "trace fossils". 59  
Trace fossils are the evident remains of tracks or imprints that some creature left behind even though the actual body is not there.  For example, when the shale was first formed as an organically rich clay, many burrowing creatures lived in it, filtering it for nutrients.  As they moved through it, they left trails behind.  When this clay was buried by turbiditic sand flows, the sand filled in these tunnels, trails and other impressions.  As the sand solidified, the casts of these tunnels and other markings were preserved on the underside of the sandy layer.  Since this underside of a layer is called the "sole", the preserved impressions in the clay are called "sole casts."
Many argue that these layers must have been formed over long periods of time because colonies of such burrowing creatures take time to colonize each layer of clay as it forms.  The burrows themselves take a fair amount of time to create.  Glenn Morton, a vocal geologist, comments that, "These burrows are horizontal and the animals don't seem to be digging out.  They are digging through the sediment.  And there are thousands of layers of sediment with the burrows on them." 61  Morton actually suggests that when each sandy turbidite covered a layer of clay that the burrowing creatures didn't burrow out, but died when the sandy layer covered the layer of clay.  He says, "We know that the burrowers who were buried did not survive.  If they had, they would have had to dig up through the sand to escape their entombment.  There are no burrowers going up through the sand.  And, if there had been these burrows, there should be little circular piles of sand with a central crater pocking the entire upper surface of the sand.  We don't see these." 59   
Glenn Morton is not the only one who thinks this way.  This is in fact the prevailing paradigm about how these layers must have formed.  However, there may be an even more reasonable explanation.  If these layers were in fact formed over long periods of time where each individual layer took at least a few years to form, it seems like tunneling organisms would mess up the layers.  Look at the pictures presented here.  Most of these layers are very thin, averaging only a few centimeters in thickness.  And yet, they are extremely crisp and distinct from the layers above and below.  Burrowers living in lake or ocean bottoms or swampy areas, burrow all around and cause mixing of the sediments.  Such mixing is known as "bioturbation."  However, even the thinnest sandstone units fail to show any obvious signs of bioturbation, blurring of bedding contacts, or internal bedding features. Rather they appear as homogenized small-grained sandstones clearly demarcated from the overlying and underlying layers of shale.  Further evidence suggesting a more rapid formation of the layers comes from work done by Kuenen in 1967.  Kuenen documented the differences in sand textures between interdistributary bay deposits and turbidite deposits. Using his work as a reference the sandstone units found at Dougherty Gap best correlate to turbidite emplacement based on both lithology and bioturbation.  Also, the work of Coleman and Prior gives even more support for this idea.  In 1980 they presented photographs of cores taken from a modern interdistributary bay which in no way resemble the stratigraphy or sedimentation found exposed at the Dougherty Gap site. 60 
Another interesting finding is that these layers get thicker as one move up the various outcrops.  This finding is a common characteristic of rapid turbidite deposition and is "believed to reflect the progradation of submarine fan lobes." 60  In any case, this finding is not consistent with a slow cyclic deposition over vast spans of time.
The sand in the sand layers is also, "well sorted" meaning that it probably was not deposited slowly. "Good sorting is particularly significant because the sands are found in an environment where, unless deposition is very fast, one would expect silt and clay to be contributed..." 60
Also, almost every sandstone layer exhibits some degree of sole casts on its bottom surface as well as ripple marks on its top surface.  The upper surfaces of all of the sandstone layers, no matter how thick or thin, were found to contain "asymmetric, linguoid ripples"  According to Sheehan "... these structures formed in response to unidirectional currents which occurred either contemporaneously (at the same time) or penecontemporaneously (immediately following) with sediment deposition." 60
Given all of these findings, what theory makes more sense?  Were these layers deposited slowly where each layer was created over the course of tens, hundreds or even thousands of years, or were these layers formed rapidly by successive turbiditic flows in a highly silted watery environment?  Is it reasonable for those such as Glenn Morton to suggest that burrowing creatures give evidence of a slow formation?  What about the argument that such burrowing creatures must have been killed by each sandy turbidite so that a new colony of burrowing creatures would have had to take over the next layer of clay?  This argument makes no sense at all. Since when does a few centimeters of sand kill any burrowing creature?  This argument sounds almost silly, especially if one has ever tried to bury such creatures under sand at the beach.  They simply dig out in short order.  But, what about the fact that no evidence of "escape burrows" with "little circular piles of sand with a central crater pocking the entire upper surface of the sand" can be found?  No one who considered that the tops of each sand layer shows current ripples would ask such a question because the watery current would surely have removed any such piles of sand in short order as soon as they were made. With each new sandy turbidite the burrowers would simply burrow up through the sand to populate the newly forming layer of organically rich material as it rapidly formed over the turbiditic sand flow in a heavily silted environment. More and more layers would have formed in rapid succession leaving no time for the bioturbation of lower layers. 60
We are left then with the curious findings of thin crisp alternating layers of shale and sandstone showing no evidence of bioturbation between layers and increasing layer thickness as one moves up these formations.  This sort of layering is only consistent with rapid formation and cannot be explained by the prevailing paradigm where millions of years are required to produce such shale bed formations. (Back to Top)

The Coconino Sand Dune Trace Fossils

However, what about those ancient desert sand dune layers in the Grand Canyon?  The popular science of today declares that the Coconino Sandstone layer (third from the top) used to be an ancient desert formed over eons of time.  It is interesting that most of the layers in the Grand Canyon are felt to have formed under water.  However, the Coconino Sandstone layer is felt to be an exception to this rule.  This theory would mean that a layer of water-deposited mud (the Hermit Shale) was followed by a layer of wind-deposited desert sand over the course of between 5 and 10 million years, and then the area was again covered by water and the Kaibab limestone was deposited.  
The Coconino Sandstone layer is quite interesting indeed.  It averages 96 meters in thickness (315ft.) and covers an area of 200,000 sq. miles to include most of northern Arizona from the Magollon Rim, northward to the Utah border.  It is up to 1,000 feet thick at its southern edge and thins to a few feet at its northern boundary.  The total volume of sand is estimates to be approximately 10,000 cubic miles.62 The sand grains themselves are fine grained, well rounded and sorted, and composed almost entirely of quartz with no silt or mud contamination, just like most . desert sand is.  Also, just like in modern deserts, the Coconino Sandstone has inclined cross bedding in it.  Cross bedding in sand dunes are areas were sand from one dune are covered by sand from another dune in a different orientation (different incline).  The Coconino Sandstone is filled with these cross beds just like desert dunes frozen in time.63  The sand grains themselves show microscopic features of long exposure in dry "desert" conditions.  These features include "frosting" and pitting" on the surface of the individual grains of sand.  This similarity between Coconino Sandstone and modern desert sand has strengthened the belief that an ancient desert formed the Coconino Sandstone.64  Then comes the clenching argument:  All throughout the sandstone are preserved footprints of vertebrates such lizards or other similar reptilian or amphibian creatures, as well as less common worm, spider, and arthropod trails - and even some burrows.  The vertebrate tracks have been referred to as "amphibians and/or as reptiles," but from the structure of the tracks the majority of them are most easily interpreted as amphibians however strange it might be to have a majority population of amphibians living happily in a desert environment.  This is generally explained by suggesting that the desert sands bordered the ocean or a seaside area.  The footprints are located on the preserved surfaces of the dunes and are believed to have been covered by the shifting dune sand and thus preserved for all time.65  No other fossils have been found in the Coconino Sandstone to include evidence of any plant life (which seems strange since animals and plants usually go together - even in a desert).  But, given all of these facts, it seems obvious to many that the Coconino Sandstone is in fact a preservation of a very large and ancient desert.  
The popularity of the desert origin for the Coconino Sandstone began with the work of McKee in the early 1930s.74  McKee initially focused on the physical qualities of the sandstone to support his conclusions that the dunes had been wind and not water deposited.  Later he studied the footprints and concluded that they were most likely formed on dry sand.75,76  However, according to Leonard Brand, "Sedimentary features that were formerly thought to be diagnostic of eolian deposits are now known to be non-diagnostic. Stanley et al. (1971) pointed out that "grain frosting is no longer considered a criterion of wind transport," grain size distribution statistics have been ambiguous (for the Navajo), and "it can no longer be assumed a priori that large festoon cross strata prove an eolian dune origin for the Navajo or any similar sandstone because of the essential identity of form and scale of modern submarine dunes or sand waves, as documented during the past decade" (e.g., see d'Anglejan 1971; Harvey 1966; Jordan 1962; and Terwindt 1971)." 72  
  But what about the fact that the Coconino Sandstone has preserved crisp footprints in delicate detail?  Well, does such detailed trackway preservation happen in dry desert sand?  When a lizard walks or runs over dry sand, what happens?  Footprint impressions are made, but nothing near the detail and crispness that has been preserved in the Coconino Sandstone is produced.  Now, consider the likelihood that shifting sand will preserve very small and delicate footprints made in dry sand.  This seems a bit hard to imagine.  In fact, laboratory experiments in real time have shown that the level of detail found in the Coconino Sandstone is best explained by the formation of the tracts underwater or on sand that has been wetted and left standing overnight.  According to Brand's experiments the damp sand trackways that did not stand overnight always had definite foot impressions but the toe marks were rarely seen.  The dampened surface formed a crust of sand that broke apart into many small pieces when the animals walked over it.  Sometimes these pieces of crusted sand would be pushed up into a pile at the back of the footprint or be scattered on around beside the footprint on the surface of the sand.  However, if the dampness of the surface of the sand was thick enough so that it would not break up with the weight of the animal, the sand would become rather hard and resistant to track formation.  The only tracks produced on this kind of wetted sand were a series of small dimples left by the toes.   The fossilized Coconino Sandstone tracks did not match the dry or dampened sand tracks produced in the laboratory by Brand in several ways.  The dry and damp sand tracks rarely preserved toe marks or other details, while the fossilized tracks usually did preserve toe marks.  Dry sand tracks also had large ridges of sand behind them which often flowed back into the previous footprint.  Again, the fossil footprints do not have these ridges nor were jumbled pieces of crusted sand observed to be scattered around the fossilized tracks.  The proportions of the tracks were also different.  Brand noted that the dry sand tracks were longer than they were wide, but the fossilized tracks were short in relative to their width.  The tracks made in the damp sand were simply too indistinct to allow adequate measurements.
Brand also did experiments in which the slope of the sand rose above the water line.  As the animals walked up out of the water their tracks changed as they went higher and higher from the waterline.  Footprints close to the water level were poorly defined while those a little higher were crisp and clear as far as toe marks and sole impressions.  However, as the animal progressed even higher to the more firm sand, the tracks became fainter and fainter until only toe mark dimples could be discerned.  This transition effect from well-defined prints to vague toe marks or scratches is not seen in the Coconino Sandstone.  
So why did Mckee believe that the tracks found in the Coconino Sandstone were made on dry desert sand?  Mckee was heavily influenced in the formation of his desert theory by the influence of a paleontologist by the name of Peabody who told McKee that salamanders do not generally make tracks underwater but prefer to swim from place to place instead of walk.  And, even when they do walk, they are partially buoyed up by the water so that their tracks are vague at best. McKee seemed to indicate that he had experimentally confirmed these suggestions made by Peabody.  Thus, McKee (1947) concluded that the fossil tracks preserved in the Coconino Sandstone were most similar to the dry sand trackways produced in his own experiments because only in dry sand were any definite prints of individual feet formed.  What is strange though is that there is no documentation of how extensive McKee's observations were as far as observing salamanders and their swimming or walking habits while under water.  
Brand, on the other hand, documents that all five species in his study walked on the bottom sands underwater more than they swam from place to place through the water  as long as they had a sandbar or some place in the testing tank where they could rest.  Brand noted that this behavior is also observed in the field.  When walking along the sand underwater all five species selected by Brand produced distinct footprints with toe marks and occasional sole impressions all along their trackways.  Some of the prints also had ridges of sand pushed up behind them, but these ridges never extended back into the previous print.  Brand concluded that, "The underwater tracks were most similar to the fossil tracks. Underwater trackways had toe marks as often as the fossil tracks, and they were uniform in appearance the full length of the sand slope, as the fossil tracks are. Also, the proportions of the fossil tracks were most similar to that of the underwater tracks." 72  However, Brand did leave open the possibility that such trackways could have been formed on a special type of wetted sand that had been wetted for several hours (overnight in his experiments).  Based on this evidence many argue that the desert was wetted on occasion by light mists, dew, or a heavy fog.  This allowed the various creatures living in this ancient desert to make their crisp trackways, which were subsequently covered by dry sand and preserved.  Other dry-land features, such as raindrop impressions, crisp and steep leeward dune fracture faces and cracks in the sand, and the preservation of spider trackways are often cited as evidence in support of this dry-land formation hypothesis in opposition to Brand's underwater hypothesis. This dry land hypothesis quite reasonable in many respects that seem to require open air exposure, but there are still a few other very puzzling features that do not seem so consistent with a true desert-like environment or dune formation.
 What is rarely mentioned in the literature is that the vast majority of the Coconino trackways all head uphill.66  Evidently the lizards/amphibians, arthropods, spiders and other creatures living in ancient deserts did not like going downhill much at all.  Also, trackways often start and stop suddenly without evidence of sand-shift or disturbance - like the creature suddenly vanished into thin air (or swam off in the water).66,67,68 
McKee attempted to explain the relative absence of downhill trackways by suggesting that the animals tended to "slide" downhill, thus obliterating their own tracks in the sliding sand. One might wonder why the animals would slide downhill when they were doing do fine going uphill without the sliding problem.  Those who have ever visited areas with desert sand dunes will find that trackways on such sand dunes go every which way.  Also, one would expect that wetted sand would be much more cohesive than dry sand and preserve tracks just as crisply no matter which direction the creatures were heading.  And, just in case there was any doubt, Brand performed a few more experiments.  Brand actually went to the trouble of inducing his experimental animals to walk both downhill as well as uphill.  On underwater sand, wet sand, and damp sand, almost all downhill trails produced easily recognizable trackways.  On dry sand, the trackways of salamanders were less well defined, but still relatively well preserved, while that of lizards were still quite distinct (both walking or running slowly).  Only when running very fast did their tracks become unrecognizable.  Thus, the almost complete absence of downhill tracks in the Coconino Sandstone layers seems to remain a mystery if they are truly desert formations.  It almost seems as though the creatures were trying to escape something, like rise water levels, and that is why they were all generally going uphill?
Brand also noted one other unusual aspect of some of the Coconino trackways. On occasion, there would be trackways that would head directly across a given slope at one angle or another, but the toe marks of both the back and front feet would be pointed up the slope.  It seems unlikely that the animals that made these trackways would have walked sideways for such distances.  Some have argued that desert lizards sometimes walk sideways in order to angle themselves to reduce the absorption of heat radiated from the scorching desert sand.  The problem with this argument is that the sand was wet and therefore relatively cool - certainly not scorching hot.  Others have suggested that a strong wind blew the animals sideways.  This idea requires a very strong wind indeed to blow a relatively low profile lizard or salamander sideways in an even pattern for significant distances. Brand suggests that the more likely explanation is that these animals were walking in an underwater current, which seems at least plausible.
Also, the architecture of the Coconino sand dunes is not like that of modern sand dunes in modern deserts. The Coconino sand dunes have an average slope angle of 25 degrees while the average slope angle of modern desert dunes is 30-34 degrees (the resting angle of dry sand).69 Sand dunes formed by underwater currents do not have as high an average slope angle as desert dunes and do not have avalanche faces as commonly as deserts dunes do.  Some crisp avalanche faces are found in the Coconino Sandstone dunes suggesting that at least some exposure to open air occurred, but such exposure may have been intermittent and relatively brief.  Still what explanation can be given for the microscopic pitting and frosting of the grains of sand? It turns out that desert sand is not the only sand that can be pitted and frosted. The chemical process of sand cementation in the forming of sandstone can also cause pitting and frosting.70
So, it appears that the evidence does not fit the classic dry desert formation of the Coconino Sandstone layer over millions of years of time.  Many of the trackways may even have been formed underwater or at best on long standing damped sand dunes where all the creatures walked only uphill.  Ocean currents can and do make very pure quartz sand dunes with specific characteristics that match the dunes in the Coconino Sandstone.71 Heavy ocean currents can in fact amass huge quantities of sand in a very rapid timeframe. The sand dune angle found in the Coconino Sandstone layers would require a depth of water of around 300 feet and a fairly brisk current.  In such a scenario, large dunes with cross bedding can be made very quickly.
Consider also that there is no significant erosion between the Coconino Sandstone layer and either the layer above it (the Toroweap Formation) or the layer below it (the Hermit Formation). All of these layers formed like sheets of glass - one on top of the other.77 Isn't it strange that significant portions of these layers have not been weathered away to be filled in by overlying layers in an uneven way? In fact, large contraction cracks penetrating deep into the Hermit Formation (just below the Coconino layer) are filled in with Coconino sandstone.  If the Hermit Formation took millions of years to form, which would surely turn the layers in this formation into solid rock in a small fraction of this time, how did such deep cracks form in solid rock in such a way that the surface was completely flat and yet the cracks themselves were filled with pure Coconino sandstone?  One would think that if such formations and characteristics took long periods of time to form that the boundary between the Hermit Formation and the Coconino sandstone would have been blurred by "bioturbation", disturbed in an uneven way by erosion, and that the cracks found in the Hermit shale would have been filled with other contaminants besides pure Coconino sandstone.  But, these findings are not strange if the layers were all formed relatively rapidly by water deposition instead of over vast expanses of time. Which theory has better explanatory value? (Back to Top)

All references found at the website

Remember Ian Juby's Flume experiments?  First the layers...

Preliminary reports of sedimentation experiments held at Glen Rose, Texas, March 2007

Written by Ian Juby

Various footage taken during these experiments can be viewed in my Video Logs (VLOGs) on Youtube:

In mid-march, 2007, M.E. Clark (Professor Emeritus, U of Illinois @ Urbana), Andrew Rodenbeck and myself performed a series of experiments over two weeks at Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. The museum grounds have a rotary flume which was constructed by M.E. and Dr. Henry Voss, and was transported to Glen Rose some years ago. M.E. also brought down "Archimedes," a specially designed and constructed liquefaction tank which will be discussed later. While we were there, we also constructed a linear flume, and had intentions to experiment with silica lithification processes, but ran out of time.

Many lessons were learned which altered my personal views on a number of things and have significance for the geology caused by the global flood of Noah. Specifically, the rotary and linear flumes, and just about everything we did with water (including a simple garden hose) produced layers. Probably the most dramatic results were the production of complex cross-bedding. The process was remarkably easy and solidifies the arguments that crossbeds within the geologic record were indeed formed by a global flood, and not by desert dunes as some have argued. Newts were also placed into the linear flume during runs and their behaviour also confirmed some hypotheses regarding the formation of the coconino fossil trackways that are so prolific throughout the Grand Canyon and area.

While it seemed everything we did led to sedimentary layers being formed, much like what is seen in road cuts, liquefaction was the ultimate destroyer of layers. For myself, this was a fairly radical change in my thinking, as I had wanted for years to perform experiments in liquefaction, and the results were pretty much the exact opposite of what I expected.

The Rotary Flume:

Shown on the right is the rotary flume. The operation is quite simple: The outer, plexiglass wall and the inner, green wall form a tank roughly 12 feet in outer diameter and 8 feet in inner diameter. The paddles are in the upright position in the photo, but spring-lock into a downward position during the runs (paddle at far left is in the "locked" position). The tank is filled with water and sediments, and the paddles drag in the water. The paddles are spun in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing the water in the tank around in the circle, which picks up and carries the sediments in suspension. When the rotation is stopped, the now forward-moving water pushes the paddles out of the locked position, which then spring up out of the water to avoid the turbulence and drag of a stopped paddle in the now flowing water.
The sediments settle out of the water as the water slows down and eventually stops.

Click here to see a video of one of the run-ups.

The principle of the rotary flume is to produce an infinite flow or wave. When we first arrived, this was the first time using the flume with the new, spring-loaded paddle mechanism. We did not know what to expect entirely, but had some educated guesses. Sand was hauled and cleaned, extremely fine dust was also obtained from a wash along the Paluxy River, and extremely fine, white, silica sand was bought from the local hardware store.

Upon filling the tank with water and pouring in sediments, we immediately saw what was to become the rule: The sediments sorted themselves out in very clear layers. This became so common that by the end of two weeks, we jokingly referred to Andrew's law as "It's difficult not to make layers," and Clark's law as "It's easy to make layers." Later on, I proposed the "law" that liquefaction destroys layers, as much to my surprise as that was.

We ran up the flume in a series of tests with essentially the same sediments for the first couple of runs while varying the water depth. Multiple layers of varying numbers were made throughout the flume, and numerous cuts made in specific locations (randomly selected at first, then simply copied in later runs), followed by a complete circumferential cut on all runs. Posts on the outside frame were labeled by myself, and in hindsight I wish I had labeled them differently: The first, double post for each section was labeled with a negative number; i.e., A-1. Going counterclockwise, looking from the top, they then increased in sequence until the next double post marked the next section. Thus, A-1 and A1 can easily be confused. So, please be aware of this denotation throughout the rest of this report.

Because of Guy Berthault's previous research with flumes years ago, we half-expected to get three layers. Instead we got everything from one uniform layer to seven layers. Before the first run, Andrew correctly pointed out that the inner diameter of the flume would have slower-moving water than the outer diameter, and thus the sediments would settle on the inside first. Not only was this true, but usually the sediments settled out without us seeing it at all, as the sediments would never reach the outside, plexiglass wall.

The differential water speeds also led to complex vortices and helix spirals in the water, which led to complex and confusing layering. However, several principles were verified, namely the fact that layers are formed by flowing water - and quite easily.

Of especial interest was interbedding that was quite apparent, with three layers fingering in to one solid layer, then fingering to five layers.

Also of special interest was a small worm that accidentally got mixed in with the sediments. Andrew happened to cut exactly the correct spot on one of his sectionings. The worm was polystrate (yes, it cut through layers), and the top portion of it was bent over flat within a layer. The reason this is of interest is because this is precisely how a fossilized worm was found in the overburden limestone removed from the Paluxy riverbed in 2003. Also on display within the Royal Tyrell museum in Drumheller, Alberta, is a depiction of three polystrate worms found in the Burgess Shale of Canada. The Paluxy is quite unique in that fossil worms (sometimes still with pigment) are plentiful, and I was quite happy to see the same effect in the Burgess shale.
The point here is that a sediment-laden water flow deposited a dead worm in the upright position, precisely the same way one was found in the Paluxy limestones, which also have plentiful indications of being deposited by a strong current. (I apologize for the lousy photo - my macro mode got turned off without my realizing, and I weren't none too happy 'bout it neither!)

In the end, we saw pretty much every stratigraphical feature produced: Crossbedding, fingering, thinning and thickening of layers, interbedding, and scours.

The Linear Flume:
Due namely to time constraints, our linear flume was very simple. It was a clear-walled (acrylic plexiglass), long box, measuring 6 inches wide, 1 foot tall and 8 feet long. A steel trough, or funnel, was at one end to facilitate ease of loading sediments and water being poured in. The other end was left open, emptying into a container which was merely to recycle the sediments while allowing the water to overflow the container.
A conventional cement mixer was used to keep the sediments homogenized, and a continuous stream of water was added to the mix during the runs.

The linear flume not only gave us plenty of radical lessons to ponder, but also enlightened us as to some of the complexities of layering within the rotary flume. Specifically, we took the lessons learned from Berthault's experiments and not only found them to be true, but that they applied to a much broader scope of sedimentology than I personally thought - both in the field, and in the lab. For example, it appears now that horizontal layers we see throughout the geological record (and which we produced in the flumes) may really just be extremely long-wave crossbeds.
Berthault's main point from his experiments is that sediments sort out by particle size, not density! This certainly seemed true in all of our experiments. While obviously density played a role, it was a minimal one which was usually so insignificant it could be safely ignored.

The reason is not so obvious at first. I very much like the way Andrew explains the sediments being held in suspension: He refers to the particles as "flying," which really is what they are doing. They are flying in a very dense fluid - water.

The density between two sediments may be as large as 0.1 g/cm3, for example - but when you are talking about two particles 10 microns in diameter, their difference in density is so small as to be extremely difficult to even measure. However, the velocity of water needed to suspend and carry a particle 20 microns in diameter is significantly greater than that required to carry a 10 micron particle.

To bring this to layman's terms, envision a boulder made of quartz that's 30 centimeters in diameter, and a boulder of limestone that's 60 centimeters in diameter. The quartz is considerably denser than the limestone, yet the larger rock is obviously much heavier than the smaller rock, and thus will require water moving at significantly higher velocity to pick it up and carry it. If they were both the same size, the water speed required to pick up both rocks would be different, but the difference would be nowhere near as great as the difference between two boulders of differing sizes.

The unusual thing noted when observing settling sediments is the tendency to sort out into three layers: fine on the bottom, coarse in the middle, and fine on top. Berthault's explanation seems to hold water: The flow of water at the bottom of the tank (or river, or lake bed, or stream bed) is almost zero because the bottom of the tank is not moving with the water. Friction causes a rolling of water along the bottom, thus there is a very thin layer of almost stationary water at the bottom of the tank. We refer to this as the "boundary layer."

Because the larger grains require the fastest moving water to carry them, they wind up settling out of the flow first, as the flow slows down. However, within this boundary layer, you get water velocities which may be slow enough for all grains to drop out of the flow. The largest grain winds up settling first, and the gaps between it and the other largest grains are filled in with the finer grains - up to the top of the largest grain. This makes the first, bottom layer that appears at first glance to be all fines.

As the water slows down, the large grains then drop out, largest to smallest, making a "pile" which grows horizontally. Finally, the fines are the last to drop out because they require the least amount of water velocity, and thus they make up the final layer of fines on top.

I will continuously refer to these three-layer sequences as they continually cropped up, and are probably related in some way to cyclothems which are well known in the rock record.

Experiment #1: rapid emptying of entire sedimentary batch.

For the first experiment, I was operating the mixer. It was filled with our variety of sediments and topped off with water. After a brief mixing run to homogenize the sediments, I simply poured out the entire contents rather rapidly. Total contents was probably around 12 gallons worth of water and sediments, poured out in roughly five seconds. I had built a hill in the middle of the flume, which was promptly wiped out by the flow and had little to know effect on the very evident layering:

The layering was very long and the layers thin.

Experiment #2: Slow, continuous pour

The second run was a continuous pour of the same contents, with continuous water flow. The whole pour probably lasted roughly 8 minutes or so and also produced very distinct layering.

Experiment #3: Pulsed flow

M.E. and Dr. Voss produced a paper1 on the subject of tidal action during the flood of Noah for the 1991 ICC. The scriptures are quite clear that it took 150 days for the floodwaters to rise above the highest mountains, and thus during this time you will have tidal action influencing the continually advancing floodwaters. Every twelve hours would see a mini-tsunami encroach upon the land, each higher than the last one.

To simulate this, we pulsed the flow of sediment-laden waters. This produced the most dramatic horizontal layering, with the number of three-layered sets corresponding the number of pulses, or waves, we sent through the flume. This is probably related to the cyclothems we see within the rock record. Note the repeating sequence of layers, from bottom to top: coarse, white, red; coarse, white, red, etc....

Experiment #4: Uphill flow

This experiment led, serendipitously, to the most dramatic find of the two weeks. We merely tilted the flume so that the water and sediments had to go uphill a mere 2 degrees. This produced some rather dramatic crossbedding.

Allow me to introduce what a crossbed is. This photograph is from the Navajo formation, taken within Zion National Park. You'll notice thick layers on top of each other, and within those layers are angled layers. These angled layers are called crossbeds, and the crossbeds are composed of three parts: The topset (the top, swooping downward curve), the foreset (the face of the slope), and the bottomset (the curve leading from the slope, leveling out against the top of the last layer).

I had a personal goal to produce crossbedding while we were down there, so I was thrilled to say the least. However, none of us were expecting the ease at which it was produced. This one experiment led to an understanding of their genesis, and led to a series of experiments in the linear and rotary flumes.

The secret was standing water. While Andrew and I were well aware that Berthault had produced crossbeds in the lab, we considered his method unrealistic in nature. In Berthault's experiments, they had a horizontal, linear flume in which they had water and sediments flowing through. He then dropped a door at the end of the flume, causing a backwash up the flume. Neither Andrew nor I considered this realistic to nature, nor applicable to the global flood of Noah: What was this magical dam that suddenly appeared on land, blocking the floodwaters of a worldwide flood?

However, sediment-laden waters encroaching on land and encountering an uphill will pool standing water ahead of the sedimentary deposit it's producing. It isn't the uphill that's the key, but merely standing water - which could be an inland lake, water coming from the other side of the continent during the flood, or pooled water from the last tidal wave flowing back out to sea.
The fast-flowing water is carrying sediments in suspension. Once it hits the standing water, it suddenly drops speed dramatically - well below the velocity required to hold the sediments in suspension. The sediments "drop like a rock" (pun intended), and make a steep slope much like a conveyor belt will as it drops sand in a pile. In this case though, the conveyor belt moves along with the pile!

The sediments fill in the standing water area, moving the front edge of the standing water ever farther back and making an ever-longer platform for the fast water to ride on. Thus, the crossbeds continually build into the standing water - sometimes at remarkable speeds. Here is a video of them being produced.

This also has some interesting ramifications: If the flow truly is going uphill, then the standing water and the incoming water have no place to go - thus, the crossbeds will thicken inland as the standing water deepens.

Back to the rotary flume:
At this point, Dr. Clark suggested tilting the rotary flume to acheive an uphill on one side. The rotary flume is mounted on several jackscrews, so we applied roughly a 2 degree tilt. We added extra water and ran it. If there were crossbeds, they were formed from the center out, on an extending, radial arm. However, this experiment demonstrated that it was not the uphill nature of the deposition that produced crossbeds, rather it was flowing water hitting standing water. Because all of the water in the rotary flume travels together, there was essentially no standing water and only brief pulses of backflow.

The high point was at C-1, with the low point obviously being between E2 and E3. Layers were produced, but I would say less that we had before - it seemed to make a mess more than orderly layers, but still produced them in line with Andrew's and Clark's laws. Essentially no recognizable crossbeds were formed. The following radial cut was made at E1:

More experiments in the linear flume:

We then proceeded with a couple of experiments relating to crossbedding.

We first performed a run with a very aggressive introduction of sediments and water into a 1 degree uphill slope. Andrew and M.E. were operating the equipment, and both Dr. Carl Baugh and myself witnessed very steep-sloped crossbedding being formed, but within a fairly thin bed (the reasons for this will be discussed later). This is mentioned in passing because while both Baugh and myself witnessed the crossbeds being formed (see video here), when we were finished, the sediments were so uniform as to appear to be one thick layer with no crossbedding! Thus, it appears that perhaps some layers within the geological record may very well have been formed by a cross-bedding process, but leaving no distinct crossbedding. For myself personally, I will be looking at layers and rocks differently in my investigations in the future, though hindsight of all that I've seen has not brought to remembrance any layer anywhere that looked like a solid layer that broke apart into angled layers like crossbedding.

Addendum, April 25: Only weeks after we completed these experiments, I was out on a field trip with Mike Oard and Andrew Snelling in the Rattlesnake Mountains water gap in Montana. I stumbled upon this layer which usually appears as a simple layer of sedimentary rock. However, differential erosion had revealed that it was indeed crossbedded, but the crossbeds are not visible except by differential erosion.

Again remembering our model of tidal formation of layers, we would have a main tidal wave every twelve hours. Riding on top of this wave would be countless smaller waves; perhaps as big as ocean waves today - which easily achieve 5 to 10 feet high. In this particular experiment, waves were superimposed on the flow of sediment and water being introduced. The waves were not deliberate, but rather simply the result of the equipment being used. As a wave would charge into the standing water, it would displace the standing water with a standing wave. This wave would then collapse into the "vacuum" left behind at the face of the crossbed, slamming the sediments into the crossbed and producing incredibly steep crossbeds. Here's a video of it.

In an attempt to make two sets of crossbeds on top of each other (much like is seen at Zion National Park), we performed two runs. We produced crossbeds in the first run with the flume merely tilted uphill at 1 degree. We then blocked the drain end of the flume, creating a 4" high dam, and filled the flume with standing water.

While Andrew and I objected to Berthault's dam at first, we realized that the dam was not the point: The standing water was the point. There is a variety of ways that standing water can be produced inland during a global flood: The rains being trapped, lakes, small seas, etc... I had proposed that because the east coast had essentially no crossbeds, yet the west (Arizona through Utah) had extensive crossbeds, that perhaps this is the where the two water flows of Noah's flood met (the Rocky mountains having not yet formed)- one flow from the east coast, and one from the west coast. Andrew shot this idea down in flames by pointing out the dinosaur tracks among and above the crossbeds. However, later on I also proposed that one big wave will build up a heap of sediments along a shoreline. When we are dealing with a global flood, I have no qualms envisioning a very large sedimentary build-up forming a dam on the shores of the coasts; thus the dam is not in front of the flow, but rather behind it. This dam would trap water inland from the last tidal wave.

At any rate, standing water was the key, so we produced some by merely blocking the end of the tank and filling it up, on top of our previously formed crossbedded layer. We then ran an agressive run, same as before.

Global flood skeptics have argued that wet sand will not produce crossbeds as steep as dry sand. Such a suggestion is ridiculous: If one merely takes a moment to ask oneself, "Which can produce a steeper bank? Dry sand? Or wet, sticky sand?", the answer becomes quite obvious. We also had Dr. Floyd with us on the last day of the runs, and he surprised me by saying that the geology textbooks specifically say that water will not produce crossbeds steeper than 30 degrees. This amazes me because we produced 37 degree crossbeds with little effort, using fairly crude techniques! I am fairly confident that if we worked at it, we could achieve crossbeds meeting or exceeding 40 degrees. This photo is from the run we performed for the TV crew:

The grain size had no effect on the angle. However, in our experiments, because of the equipment we were using, grain size tended to coarsen throughout the run.

Further crossbeds, and the reactions of newts:

We also ran one experiment which produced crossbeds with newts in the water. This was done to examine their behaviour in flood conditions which produce crossbeds, in hopes that our observations would shed light on the prolific fossil tracks found in the coconino sandstone crossbeds - which I think it did.
To finish off the experiment and produce crossbeds to be left for the next day when a TV crew that was there, we cleaned up the flume and loaded the mixer with a double load of sediments. We left the 4-inch high "dam" at the end of the flume and put in some standing water, though it was not filled completely. The newts being as newts are, were quite content in the water and very docile. It probably would have been better to have creatures (such as lizards which are not amphibian) which are not inclined to "hang out" underwater, but the newts still provided quite an education.

The crossbeds were produced, same as before. While one newt swam around, the second was quite content to stay at the bottom of the crossbeds being formed. The answer became obvious: he was sitting the eddy currents; the place where the water was the slowest. Thus, the newt really didn't have to move or fight any current. He was quite content to just sit there.
The encroaching crossbeds would eventually begin to cover him up, so the newt would simple "step up" onto the new crossbed.

Several lessons were learned:
  • This can explain why fossil tracks are so prolific on the foreset and bottomset of crossbeds. The tracks in the coconino have not been positively identified but could be either lizards or salamanders. They are quite consistent in only traveling uphill. If the tracks are from salamanders, the same salamander could potentially be producing multiple trackways on the foresets of hundreds of feet, or perhaps even miles, of crossbeds. The salamander would "hang out" in the eddy at the bottom of the crossbed, and would simply walk up the crossbed when he was getting buried, float away and catch the eddy once more, returning to the bottom of the next crossbed.
  • Animals (such as lizards) which are swept away by the flowing waters would be sucked into the hydraulics and trapped by the eddy currents. Every year people die by being trapped in the hydraulics at the bottom of decorative dams and small waterfalls - the water is very powerful, even in small volume. In this case, the forming crossbeds make the escarpment that the hydraulics form at, thus trapping animals in them. The only way out was to go up the hill. Thus we see why the trackways in the coconino are almost always going uphill, and often show the creature being bouyed up to produce a trackway that goes from heavy foot impressions, to lighter, to claws only, to completely disappearing - often within only a few feet.
  • The preservation of tracks within the crossbeds is now easily explained: The water along the face of the foreset is virtually still. Simultaneously, there is a continuous dumping of sediments on top of any freshly made tracks, thus protecting them until lithification of the sediments.

Conclusions of crossbed research:

  • the depth, or thickness of the crossbedded layer is determined by the depth of the standing water. With an agressive flow, the layer will be slightly thicker than the depth of the standing water, otherwise it will pretty much be the same thickness as the depth of the standing water.
  • the crossbed dip increases during the formation. The maximum angle of the crossbeds are determined primarily by the speed of the water carrying the sediments and forming the crossbeds. More research needs to be performed to determine the relationship. The only other factor in this is the distance from the starting point of deposition. As can be seen in the videos and pictures, a "base" needs to first be deposited, built up to the depth of the standing water. The crossbeds begin to form immediately, increasing to their maximum angle shortly after the deposition depth has matched the standing water depth. Once the maximum angle is acheived, it varies with the flow speed of the incoming water.
  • the crossbeds which are sometimes thin and sandwhiched between perfectly horizontal layers are now easily explained: The layer in the middle was simply formed with trapped, inland, standing water present while the layers above and below were not. A simple beach dune, produced by the last inland flow of water, would trap water inland which then became the standing water during the next depositional episode.
I'll interject my own, personal opinion here which is not necessarily shared by M.E. or Andrew: I am now quite convinced that the crossbeds of the coconino and navajo formations (as well as gravel crossbeds in various locations) are produced by water; convinced to the point that I will be dogmatic about it. The evidence overwhelmingly points to a watery origin.

Crossbeds as a paleocurrent indicator:

Water-formed crossbeds are, in my opinion, easy to recognize compared to wind-blown sand dunes. Wind-blown sand dunes have remnants of the windward and lee sides preserved somewhat in the crossbeds. For example, this is a photo of a sand dune in eastern New Mexico that had been cut by a bulldozer:

While the dune did have bedding planes (layers), and if one were to look strictly at one side, one might interpret that one side's layers as "crossbeds." However, looking at the breadth of the dune, one can see the layers curve right over to the lee side (on the left), within only a few feet. The crossbeds we see throughout the west go on for many, many miles with no windward side evident. This is exactly what we would expect with a continentally-deposited crossbed layer, and completely contrary to what we see with modern sand dunes. While a lot of the crossbed layers we see in the stratigraphic record are considerably thinner than the height of the sand dune above, we can see layers on both sides of the sand dune (roughly 12 feet high)- but never see the windward side of the crossbeds.

There is one wildcard here: Andrew would suggest that there are many, giant sand dunes in deserts today which were laid there during the flood; and I would tend to agree.

Addendum, April 25: David Lines pointed out that there are clear crossbeds within the White Sands of New Mexico which match our crossbeds identically. This of course has been used to argue that wind-blown sand dunes produce crossbeds. However, I would contend that this evidence precisely demonstrates that the white sands were originally laid down by water and are now being reworked by the wind! The above photograph is of a sand dune which has clearly been formed only by wind. The dune has moved enough that if it had been originally laid down by water, any remnants of the layering left behind by the working of that water has been destroyed by the reworking of the wind. Thus, what we see are only the effects of wind and not large quantities of water. Crossbeds are only formed by water.

Thus, water-produced crossbeds which are positively identified within the stratigraphic record (be they sands, gravels or boulders), can be used as a paleocurrent (ancient water flow direction) indicator. I have personally examined crossbedded layers by the hundreds throughout North America, and I cannot think of a single one that even has the potential to be a wind-blown sand dune. They are all missing the tell-tale windward side of the dune. Thus, we can incorporate crossbeds into the mapping of megatrends in paleocurrents: A valuable study reflecting what went on during the global flood of Noah.

Liquefaction Experiments:Liquefaction is a state in which sediments are temporarily suspended in water, usually from water percolating up through them. This effect can be seen by working wet concrete, vibrating mud, or even during earthquakes.

was built by our late friend, Don Yeager, from Oklahoma. Sadly, Don passed away literally the day we returned home after performing our research. Archimedes consists of a sealed acrylic box designed to withstand some pressure. Spaced off of the bottom is a membrane which allows water to pass through but not sediments. Beneath this is the inlet from the water pump, and water from this pump goes through a series of baffles to spread out the flow so that it is as uniform as possible throughout the base of the entire unit.

Sediments are loaded into Archimedes on top of the membrane, and the pump intake sticks down from the top of the unit.

In the center of the top is a large, rolling-gasket piston which cycles up and down to induce pressure upon the water and sediments inside the unit. This is to simulate the pressure of waves during the global flood, and the pump's water flow is to induce liquefaction of the sediments. The two mechanisms can be used separately, or in conjunction with each other.

I came to the table with a long-standing desire to perform research in this area of liquefaction, as it relates to the global flood of Noah. I had high expectations that not only would the process produce layers, I had more than one model I had developed in which I used liqeufaction to explain anomolies in the geological and fossil record. I suspected this research would verify some suspicions I had.

Much to my surprise, it became evident very quickly that liquefaction does not produce layers, it destroys them.

I do need to qualify this statement however: liquefaction did indeed sort (more or less) the sediments by density. However, the resulting "layers" were hardly layers at all; they blended together and if the system was to become lithified (cemented, or hardened into rock), it would be one, thick block. If I saw these layers in the geologic record, they would be interesting and noteworthy, but I wouldn't call them layers; I would call it a layer fining upward.
Futhermore, in an attempt to homogonize (uniformly mix-up) the sediments that were loaded into Archimedes, I stuck a high pressure garden hose into the pump return hole and blasted the sediments with high-speed water. To my surprise, this made layers! In fact, try as hard as I could, the only thing that best homogenized the sediments was liquefaction!

Some have suggested (and I personally believed, until now) that cycles of liquefaction during the flood were what produced layers. To affirm/refute this, long period cycles were run in Archimedes. All effects were finished with about 30 seconds, whether liquefying or settling the sediments. We ran 20 cycles of 1 minute duration, pump-induced liquefaction, followed by 1 minute of settling (no moving water). The results were virtually identical on each and every cycle - to the point that it was boring, it was so predictable. It did not produce anything I would call layers, but did definitely (and very, very rapidly) destroy the very definite layers I had inadvertantly produced!

I did run a few long-period cycles with the piston being operated simultaneously, both during liquefaction and settling cycles. The pumping action had no visible effect, except to flex the 1/2" acrylic walls in and out. To be honest, I did not expect the pressure differential to accomplish much. The flexing was enough that it was producing more of an effect than the pressure difference; so the piston action was abandoned.

In the end, the results were the same, no matter what. If we ran the pump any longer than 30 seconds, no change was noted, and no layers were recovered.

There has been some question of flow rates, and this is part of future research. Flow rates will be controlled very accurately, but I strongly suspect this will make no difference on the final outcome except the time required to produce the same results.

Introducing a heresy:

Andrew and I both share a simliar skepticism for the metamorphic interpretation of gneises and schists, and after examining the Llano granite uplift, we both came to the same conclusion: It's a giant, sedimentary rock dome. I know for myself, I believe granite simply has a supernatural origin - there is no natural way to produce it. Contrary to common belief, it is impossible to form it from a melt. This has been borne out both in the lab in and in nature. While Andrew and I both agree that the granite batholith was a sedimentary rock, it's formation still requires previously existing granites! It is granite that has simply been crushed up, transported, and relithified elsewhere. This is a continuing research which I will not discuss here.

One thing I personally noted with the liquefaction sediments was a stark resemblance to schist, gneiss and granitic outcrops I've examined in so many different places: They have stratification, but it's a disordered mess, in the midst of giant plumes. This is precisely what we saw, on a small scale, in the liquefaction tank.

The liquefaction went through several distinguishable phases: Plumes, which brought lower layers through to the top, which caused a tilting of the upper layers downward. This led to "boiling" where all of the layers would eventually go to vertical or near vertical, followed by collapse of all of the structures, including the plumes. I have seen all of these stages within the rock record, namely in the "basement" rocks.

While I cannot be dogmatic on this, it appears as though the granite plume now known as the Llano uplift, was precisely that: A plume. However, it was not formed by a melt (as is conventionally believed), as that is impossible - so it must have been formed "cold" or at lower temperature. I am suggesting that water, supersaturated with silica, produced a liquefaction plume of granitic gravels. The silica precipitated out of the water, cementing the granite gravels into sedimentary granites. The cementing silica (quartz) appears to simply be a part of the granite, as quartz is one of the three main constituents of granite.

Andrew and I were supposed to perform considerable research into silica supersaturation and sedimentary cementation while at Glen Rose, however we simply ran out of time. Andrew has pointed out some processes which are now known which greatly simplify silica super-solubility, even in room termperature water. This may play a major role in explaining the massive beds of silica-cemented sediments around the world.

Conclusions to liquefaction:

Liquefaction doesn't produce layers, it destroys them. However, it may very well be the father of plumes (such as those seen at Kodachrome basin) and the presumed metamorphic rocks referred to as the gneiss and schists so common throughout the Canadian Shield and in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Some granites and granite "dykes" within these rocks may also very well be simply the cemented sediments from a liquefaction event - layers that were tipped up during the liquefaction process and solidifed before liquefaction destroyed all of the structures.

References and footnotes:1) M. E. Clark and H. D. Voss, Resonance and Sedimentary Layering in the Context of a Global Flood, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, R. E. Walsh and C. L. Brooks, Editors, 1991, Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, Vol. 2, pp. 53-63.


Just as David defeated Goliath, Creationism will take out Darwinism, with evidence as the rock and the testimony of changed lives as the sling.   Bye-bye Darwinism! 


Jon W said...

I must admit to being impressed.

It takes a truly Olympian feat of mental legerdemain to look at rock strata that:

* are made of fine-grained sediment that only settles in very slow, quiet water

* contain preserved burrows, indicating that the stratum in question was the seafloor when it formed, because burrowing animals still need circulating water to bring them food and oxygen, and so can't live deep in the mud

* contain multiple layers of such preserved burrows, indicating that each such stratum was the seafloor for long enough that animals had time to burrow into it

-- and reinterpret them as evidence for the Flood, an event that supposedly involved high-speed movement of water, continents, and seafloors, plus many feet of sediment being deposited per day.

Yup. An Olympian effort indeed. It won't convince sensible folk, of course, but I suppose it does well enough for creationists...

Nick K, Austin, Texas said...

Jon W appears to be making obtuse and false statements. Siltstone (mudstone), sandstone, and shale can all be derived from sheet flow deposition that was subsequently buried under high effective stress. In Texas we have wide valley regional flood deposits that are gradational from coarse to fine, indicating the lower deposits were laid during high velocity water flow and the shallower deposits made when the flood event dissipated with a reduction in water surface elevation as well as velocity. Overbank flood deposits are commonly fine-grained and can exist across very large horizontal distances depending on topography. If buried they can subsequently harden into rock. Fine-grained sedimentary rock is not derived exclusively in "quiet water".

Burrows can form quickly under shallow overburden as deposition occurs. The burrows can only be preserved if buried relatively rapidly. Multiple levels of burrowing indicate stages of burying and re-establishment of the burrowing organisms as they try to stay above the sedimentation.

Flood water events are not static, high speed to low speed (flow velocity) will occur depending on stage and topography and water level. There is overwhelming evidence of catastrophic sedimentation in many geologic formations and environments across the planet.

Sensible folk who actually study the evidence will discover that presumptions of uniformitarianism are ridiculous.