Skip to comments.Research shows part of Alaska inundated by ancient megafloods
Posted on 04/28/2010 12:23:15 PM PDT by decimon
New research indicates that one of the largest fresh-water floods in Earth's history happened about 17,000 years ago and inundated a large area of Alaska that is now occupied in part by the city of Wasilla, widely known because of the 2008 presidential campaign.
The event was one of at least four "megafloods" as Glacial Lake Atna breached ice dams and discharged water. The lake covered more than 3,500 square miles in the Copper River Basin northeast of Anchorage and Wasilla.
The megaflood that covered the Wasilla region released as much as 1,400 cubic kilometers, or 336 cubic miles, of water, enough to cover an area the size of Washington, D.C., to a depth of nearly 5 miles. That water volume drained from the lake in about a week and, at such great velocity, formed dunes higher than 110 feet, with at least a half-mile between crests. The dunes appear on topographical maps but today are covered by roads, buildings and other development.
"Your mind doesn't get around dunes of that size. Obviously the water had to be very deep to form them," said Michael Wiedmer, an Anchorage native who is pursuing graduate studies in forest resources at the University of Washington.
Wiedmer is the lead author of a paper describing the Wasilla-area megaflood, published in the May edition of the journal Quaternary Research. Co-authors are David R. Montgomery and Alan Gillespie, UW professors of Earth and space sciences, and Harvey Greenberg, a computer specialist in that department.
By definition, a megaflood has a flow of at least 1 million cubic meters of water per second (a cubic meter is about 264 gallons). The largest known fresh-water flood, at about 17 million cubic meters per second, originated in Glacial Lake Missoula in Montana and was one of a series of cataclysmic floods that formed the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington.
The megaflood from Glacial Lake Atna down what is now the Matanuska River to the Wasilla region might have had a flow of about 3 million cubic meters per second. Another suspected Atna megaflood along a different course to the Wasilla region, down the Susitna River, might have had a flow of about 11 million cubic meters per second. The researchers also found evidence for two smaller Atna megafloods, down the Tok and Copper rivers.
Wiedmer, who retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 2006, began the research in 2005 when he discovered pygmy whitefish living in Lake George, a glacial lake 50 miles from Anchorage. The lake has essentially emptied numerous times in its history and was not thought to support much life. Examination of physical traits indicate those fish are more closely related to pygmy whitefish in three other mountain lakes, all remnants of Lake Atna, than they are to any others of that species. Their existence in Lake George, some distance from the other lakes, is one piece of evidence for a megaflood from Lake Atna.
"Lake Atna linked up with four distinct drainages, and we think that helped it act like a pump for freshwater organisms," he said.
The megaflood also could explain some of the catastrophic damage that occurred in the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. Wiedmer noted that much of Anchorage is built on marine sediments, and one layer of those sediments liquefied and collapsed, allowing the layer above to slide toward the sea. As the upper layer moved toward the water, structures built on top of it collapsed.
Though the marine sediments extend about 200 feet deep, the failure only occurred within a narrow 3-foot layer. Scientists later discovered that layer had been infused with fresh water, which was unexpected in sediments deposited under salt water. The ancient megaflood could account for the fresh water.
"We suspect that this is evidence of the flood that came down the Matanuska," Wiedmer said. "The location is right at the mouth of where the flood came down, and the time appears to be right."
The work was supported by grants from the UW Quaternary Research Center, the UW School of Forest Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For more information, contact Wiedmer at 206-402-4070 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Montgomery at 206-685-2560 or email@example.com; or Gillespie at 206-685-8265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The paper is available at http://bit.ly/9VKp1n
In you it ping.
So Alaska at one point was on “Melting Ice Cap Gore Alert Level 10”?
Gore was trying to drown Todd Palin's ancestors.
“So Alaska at one point was on Melting Ice Cap Gore Alert Level 10?
Gore was trying to drown Todd Palin’s ancestors. “
What did he use to get there, the Re-TARDIS?
“So Alaska at one point was on Melting Ice Cap Gore Alert Level 10?
Gore was trying to drown Todd Palins ancestors.
What did he use to get there, the Re-TARDIS? “
FYI: I directed that comment DIRECTLY at Al Gore, because even though god gifted him with a somewhat normal human Brain he has decided NOT to use it.
Oh, the irony! ;^)
Marge would have needed a few extra rolls of Bounty to clean up them ‘spills’.
That's a good start.
I used to live in Wasilla on a bluff overlooking the “Palmer Hayflats” through which this flood flowed. I kept having a recurring dream that I woke up and there was water lapping at the base of the bluff.
Then I moved to Pocatello, Idaho where the Bonneville Flood that drained Great Salt Lake flowed through the Portneuf Narrows.
Now I live in Sandpoint, ID along Lake Pend Oreille. The lake was the terminus for the glacier that dammed up the Clark Fork River and formed Glacial Lake Missoula.
What IS it with me and prehistoric mega-floods?
The only question is how long until they throw us all out for building on wetlands.
Yes, yes, it's obvious you are suffering Noah Complex. Be honest now, how many pets have you had?
OK, you got me there. Two of everything... Four of some... Only one wife though!
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Thanks decimon for the two-list topic! Here's something smaller (still impressive) and much more recent -- Do you want to hear a real earthquake story? Here you go... [Lituya Bay Alaska, 1958, Posted on 03/01/2001 20:08:41 PST by Trailer Trash]
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
No, but I love gladiator movies. Don't tell anyone.
Probably still not enough.
The global warming that ended the last ice age led to a lot of flooding. There weren't too many places that escaped some impact from it.
I took basic geology courses at Idaho State and they included a field trip to the Portneuf Gap. The Lake Bonneville deluge down the Snake really must have been something to behold!
That would be a spectacular lake today. Kirk Douglas not so much. ;-)
That lake ringed by those mountains...amazing.
With the mountains and glaciers hemming it in, the lake must have been very deep.
I live on a 1600 foot Appalachian mountain and I can’t take a step without tripping over a rock with a scallop [or other sea critter] fossil in it.
We’ve also got more glacial boulders than we know what to do with.
It cracks me up that people think the earth is some static, fragile thing.
Human history is so ridiculously brief compared to geologic time we somehow tend to think we're important. In the great scheme of things we're not. There is massive public ignorance of geologic processes that are well understood by science. That ignorance leads to a whole lot of foolish and short-sighted human behavior.
Too bad you couldn’t fit that on a bumper sticker....:)
[and now I can’t get “Dust In The Wind” outta my head]....LOL
Scientists have gone to lengths to explain how mammoths might have lived, commissioning artwork showing mammoths trooping through snow-covered tundras, their massive fur coats much in evidence. What these pictures don't show is silos or grocery stores in those tundras; the mammoths would need them.
The problem is that the bulk of mammoth remains are found in the far reaches of Canada and Alaska, and in Island groups to the North of Siberia in the Arctic circle.
The question is, how given anything like the standard version of Earth history, did vast herds of such large creaturesever find food when the entire territory is covered by ice ten months of the year? Elephants are gluttonous; they spend most of their wakinghours eating, in fact, McGowan has stated that he does not understand how anythingever ate enough to get bigger than elephants since there would not appear to be time inthe day for it.
You could literally take the healthiest elephant on Earth, fit him with the best fur coat and the best pair of jogging shoes in the world, start him off from any point on Earth habitable to elephants, and build for him a highway to the Liakhovs, and he would never get there. Winter would arrive and he would starve before he got there.
This conundrum has scientists flamboozled to so great an extent that their pronouncements on the subject often don't even sound coherent. Typical would be the mammoth article in the Talk.origins/Ediacara/Toromanura "FAQ" system which, aside from an irrelevant discourse on whether the occasional specimen found in the ice was quick-frozen or mummified, discusses every adaptation which the mammoth supposedly had for life in cold climes other than the vital one, i.e. what adaptation did they have for living without eating? Typically, the article notes that Arctic climes must have been significantly warmer than they are now to allow for mammoth herds, without telling us how that might have been given any possible history of our Earth which could be projected backwards to those times starting from present conditions and known processes, i.e. without using the dread non-word "catastrophe".
Velikovsky claimed that these vast herds, the remnants of which are seen in those arctic circle island groups, were peacefully grazing on vast fields which were in temperal zones, when the entire surface of the Earth shifted due to one of the catastrophes hediscusses, that they very quickly thus ended up in arctic regions along with their fields,and froze to death or otherwise died due to effects of the catastrophe itself.
Again, the real problems are:
1. how did vast herds of mammoths ever inhabit regions which a mammoth today could not even get to much less live in?
2. how do the vast bulk of their remains come to be found in obvious scenes of vast destruction?
Vine Deloria, in "Red Earth, White Lies", notes that standard origins theories require Indian ancestors to have exterminated the mammoths and other megafauna in North America and, in the process of making a shambles of that notion, notes that:
In even the most prejudiced murder trial there is one essential element: there has to have been a killing. Fancy legal terminology generally requires a body the corpus delictus as the TV detec- tive shows are fond of telling us. It would seem reasonable, if one was to promulgate a theory of blitzkrieg slaughter as have Martin and Diamond, to identiiy where the bodies are buried and then take the reader on a gut-wrenching tour through a graveyard of waste and butchery. We are deprived of this vicarious thrill because the evidence of the destruction of the megafiuna suggests a scenario well outside the orthodox interpretation of benign natural processes. Therefore mere mention of the reality of the situation is anathema to most scholars. So let us see what the actual situation is.
The first explorers of the northern shores of Siberia and its offshore northern islands and of the interior of Alaska, and some of its northern islands, were stunned to discover an astro- nomical number of bones of prehistoric animals piled indis- criminately in hills and buried in the ground. The graveyards of these animals were classified as "antediluvian" (prior to Noah's flood) by the majority of scientists and laypeople alike who still believed the stories of the Old Testament. Near these grave- yards, incidentally, but located in riverbanks on the northern shore of Siberia, are found the famous Siberian mammoths whose flesh was supposedly edible when thawed.
Reading an extensive set of quotations is always tedious to readers but I hope you will bear with me in this chapter be- cause it is only in the repetition of the reports of the discoveries of these areas that the entire picture of the demise of the mam- moths and other creatures really becomes clear. These Siberian remains are not the thousands of mammoth bones which Jared Diamond thinks are searched frantically by archaeologists seek- ing signs of human butchering. It is doubtful that any archaeol- ogists or paleontologists have made extensive studies of the skeletons in these locations or we would certainly have a far different view of megafauna extinction than is presently ac- ceptable to orthodox scholars.
Russian expeditions to Siberia and the northern islands of the Arctic Ocean began in the latter half of the eighteenth cen- tury, and with the discovery of these large mounds of animal bones, most prominently the tusks of mammoths and other herbivores, franchises were given to enterprising people who could harvest the ivory for the world market. Liakoff seems to have been the first iniportant ivory trader and explorer in the late eighteenth century. After his death the Russian govern- ment gave a monopo~ to a businessman in Yakutsk who sent his agent, Sannikofi, to explore the islands and locate additional sources of ivory. Sannikoff's discoveries of more islands and his reports on the animal remains found there are the best firsthand accounts of the Siberian animal graveyards.
Hedenstrom explored the area in 1809 and reported back on the richness of the ivory tusks. Sannikoff discovered the island of Kotelnoi, which is apparently the richest single location, in 1811. Finally, the czar decided to send an official expedition and from 1820 to 1823, Admiral Ferdinand Wrangell, then a young naval lieutenant, did a reasonably complete survey of the area. Since these expeditions and explorations were inspired by commercial interests and not scientific curiosity; the reports are entirely objective with no ideological or doctrinal bias to slant the interpretation of the finds.
Around the turn of the century interest in the Siberian is- lands seems to have increased, whether as a result of the few Christian fundamentalists who were not reconciled to evolu- tion frantically searching for tangible proof of Noah's flood, or as part of the leisure activities of the English gendemen of the time, we can't be sure. The definitive article on the Siberian prehistoric animal remains was written by the Reverend D. Gath Whitley and published by the Philosophical Society of Great Britain under the title "The Ivory Islands in the Arctic Ocean." It drew on older sources, primarily reports of expedi- tions of the ivory traders, and captured the spectacular nature of the discoveries well.
Liakoff discovered, on an island that now bears his name, rather substantial cliffs composed primarily of frozen sand and hundreds of elephant tusks. Later, when the Russian govern- ment sent a surveyor, Chwoinoff, to the island he reported that, with the exception of son~e high mountains, the island seemed to be composed of ice and sand and bones and tusks of ele- phants (or mammoths) which were simply cemented together by the cold.Whitley reported:Sannikoff explored Kotelnoi, and found that this large island was full of the bones and teeth of elephants, rhi- noceroses, and musk-oxen. Having explored the coasts, Sannikoff determined, as there was nothing but bar- renness along the shore, to cross the island. He drove in reindeer sledges up the Czarina River, over the hills, and down the Sannikoff River, and completed the cir- cuit of the island.All over the hills in the interior of the island Sannikoff found the bones and tusks of ele- phants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, and horses in such vast numbers, that he concluded that these animals must have lived in the island in enormous herds, when the climate was milder.5
Hedenstrom explored Liakoff's island in 1809 and discov- ered that". .. the quantity of fossil ivory . . . was so enormous, that, although the ivory diggers had been engaged in collecting ivory from it for forty years, the supply seemed to be quite undiminished. On an expanse of sand little more than half a mile in extent, Hedenstrom saw ten tusks of mammoths stick- ing up, and as the ivory hunters had left these tusks because there were still other places where the remains of mammoths were still more abundant, the enormous quantities of elephants' tusks and bones in the island may be imagined?' Indeed, a number of explorers reported that after each ocean storm the beaches were littered with bones and tusks which had been ly- ing on the sea bottom and brought to shore by wave action.
The elephant or mammoth bones and tusks were the most spectacular finds primarily because they were so plentiful and consequently they attracted public attention the most. The is- lands contained an incredible mixture of bones of many extinct and some living species of mammals. Mixed with the animal bones were trees in all kinds of conditions. Whitley quoted some of the Russian explorers as reporting "it is only in the lower strata of the New Siberian wood-hills that the trunks have that position which they would assume in swimming or sinking undisturbed. On the summit of the hills they lie flung upon another in the wildest disorder, forced upright in spite of gravitation, and with their tops broken off or crushed, as if they had been thrown with great violence from the south on a bank, and there heaped up?'7
A few conclusions can be drawn from the reports of the Russian ivory traders. First, it appeared that several reasonably large islands were built primarily of animal bones, heaped in massive hills and held together by frozen sand. To indicate the scope of the debris, we should note that all of these islands are found on modern maps of the area, indicating that we are not talking about little tracts of land of limited area. Second, the sea floor north of Siberia and surrounding the islands was covered with so many additional bones that it was worthwhile for the ivory traders to check the beaches after every storm to gather up tusks and other bones.
Third, and very important for estimating the scope of the disaster, the ivory was of outstanding quality, so much so that the area provided most of the world's ivory for over a century. Estimates of the number of tusks taken from the islands range in the neighborhood of 100,000 pairs taken between the 1770s and the 1900s. Whitley noted that Sannikoff himself had brought away 10,000 pounds of fossil ivory from New Siberia Island alone in 1809.9- In reality; however, only about a quarter of the ivory was of commercial grade, so the true figure must approach half a million pairs of tusks.
Fourth, an amazing variety of animals, many extinct, were mixed with the mammoth and rhinoceros bones, although these two animals have become symbolic of the whole menagerie. Fifth, trees, plants, and other floral materials were in- discriminately mixed with the animal remains, sometimes lead- ing the Russians to suppose that the islands represented a sunken isthmus or broad stretch of land where these animals and the companion plants lived in a warmer climate. The chaotic na- ture of stratification of the remains soon abused that notion.
Finally, it is important to note that none of the bones of any of the species had carving or butchering marks made by human beings. N. K.Vereshchagin wrote: "The accumulations of mam- moth bones and carcasses of mammoth, rhinoceros, and bison found in frozen ground in Indigirka, Kolyma, and Novosibirsk lands bear no trace of hunting or activity of primitive man. Here large herbivorous animals perished and became extinct because of climatic and geomorphic changes, especially changes in the regime of winter snow and increase in depth of snow cover."9 The "climatic and geomorphic changes" must have been very sudden indeed and exceedingly violent, consid- ering the fact that these bones are always described as "heaps" of material deposited as if they had been thrown into a pile by an incredibly strong force.
The testimony regarding the richness of the animal remains in the Arctic north of the continental masses is not restricted to Russian sources. Stephen Taber, writing in his report "Perenni- ally Frozen Ground in Alaska: Its Origins and History," had this to say about the Siberian islands:
Pfizenmayer [citation omittedj states that in the New Siberia island collectors have "found inexhaustible sup- plies of mammoth bones and tusks as well as bones and horns of rhinoceros and other diluvial mammals"; and Dr. Bunge, during expeditions in the summers of 1882-1884, "gathered almost two thousand five hun- dred first class mammoth tusks on the new Siberian is- lands of Lyakhov; Kotelnyi, and Fadeyev;" although many collectors had previously obtained ivory from the islands since their discovery in 1770 by Lyakhov.~~
It would seem obvious to anyone seriously pursuing the question of the demise of the mammoth and the other mega- herbivores that a good place to locate the bodies to determine the cause of their demise would be the islands north of the Siberian peninsula. Yet we hear not a word about them in sci- entific articles and books concerning the overkill hypothesis.
When we inquire if the Alaskan area has similar deposits, we learn that the situation is the same. Early gold miners in Alaska discovered that in many cases they had to strip off a strange de- posit popularly called "muck" in order to get to the gold-bearing gravels.The muck was simply a frozen conglomerate of trees and plants, sand and gravels, some volcanic ash, and thousands if not milhons of bits of broken bones representing a wide variety of late Pleistocene and modern animals and plants.
Two scholars describe the scenes of destruction and chaos which the muck represents. Frank Hibben, in an article survey- ing the evidence of early man in Alaska, said that while the for- mation of muck was not clear,". . . there is ample evidence that at least portions of this material were deposited under cata- strophic conditions. Mammal remains are for the most part dis- membered and disarticulated, even though some fragments yet retain in this frozen state, portions of llgaments, skin, hair, and flesh. Twisted and torn trees are piled in splintered masses con- centrated in what must be regarded as ephemeral canyons or arroyo cuts."'1
Stephen Taber's report echoes the same conditions. He says: "Fossil bones are astonishingly abundant in frozen ground of Alaska, but articulated bones are scarce, and complete skeletons, except for rodents that died in their burrows, are almost un- known."'2 Many laypeople will be confused by this technical language and fail to grasp what Taber is saying, allowing him to imply a benign orthodox interpretation when the situation re- quires that a clearer picture be drawn.
When a scholar says "articulation" of bones he means an arrangement of bones that a person observing them would identify as a complete skeleton and from which an experienced observer could identify the species.To say that articulated bones are scarce, then, means that the bones are scattered and mixed so badly that expert examination is needed to idemify even the bone itself, let alone the species from which it comes. Remem- ber this problem of articulation, for we shall meet it again in another context. Taber concludes with the observation that "the dispersal of the bones is as striking as their abundance and indicates general destruction of soft parts prior to burial."13 In other words,Alaskan muck is a gigantic pile of bones represent- ing a bewildering number of species, a good number of them the megafauna I have been discussing.
We find the missing megafauna of the late Pleistocene in the Siberian islands, in the islands north ofAlaska, and in the muck in the Alaskan interior. Obviously we have here victims of an immense catastrophe which swept continents and left the de- bris in the far northern latitudes piled in jumbled masses that now form decent-sized islands. Most anthropologists and ar- chaeologists avoid discussing these deposits because the ortho- dox uniformitarian interpretation of the natural processes precludes sudden unpredictable actions.
Paul Martin, in private correspondence with me in June 1993, stated flatly that the mammoths could not have been de- stroyed by any such force or event.14 The sole basis he gave for that conclusion was radiocarbon dating of mammoth remains in the Siberian and Alaskan muck. I will have more to say about the reliability of radiocarbon dating below but if we were to accept his argument, then we would have to create a scenario where Paleo-Indians kill all these animals without leaving a trace of a spear point or hatchet blade, drag the carcasses out to sea some 150 miles north ofAlaska, and dispose of the evidence of their misdeeds. Here friendly wolves would not be much help.
Although Martin maintains that his thesis explains the disap- pearance of the megafauna, his argument really centers on the loss of three species: mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths, with an occasional reference to horses and camels that makes it appear as if the important species have been covered. But overkill avoids asking about the possibly half-million mammoth skeletons lying frozen in the Arctic regions because that would completely negate the theory.
A coincident warming period? Sounds right to me.
A lot of high/low spikes around that time.
All right, Sunken Civ, time to post that Firestone, et al book again.
BTW, I've read the book. VERY good read even if it does get a little sciency at times. Alls I know is something REALLY BIG happened ~13,000 years ago.
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes:
Flood, Fire, and Famine
in the History of Civilization
by Richard Firestone,
Allen West, and
I agree, a very good read. However, I thought the science part was most interesting. It gave a really clear picture of the complexities of the science applied to draw a valid conclusion, but in a way simple enough for an intelligent layperson to follow. I would be delighted to use this book in a high school science class to illustrate the scientific method at work.
Ditto your points. So easy an old East Texas Country Boy could follow along. To this layman the science seemed solid enough, and THAT with a well deserved helping of skepticism for many things scientific; even theories/conclusions I tend to agree with.
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