Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Biblical-Type Floods Are Real, and They're Absolutely Enormous
Discover Magazine ^ | 29 Aug 2012 | David R. Montgomery

Posted on 09/04/2012 8:31:09 AM PDT by Theoria

Geologists long rejected the notion that cataclysmic flood had ever occurred—until one of them found proof of a Noah-like catastrophe in the wildly eroded river valleys of Washington State.

After teaching geology at the University of Washington for a decade, I had become embarrassed that I hadn’t yet seen the deep canyons where tremendous Ice Age floods scoured down into solid rock to sculpt the scablands. So I decided to help lead a field trip for students to see the giant erosion scars on the local landforms.

We drove across the Columbia River and continued eastward, dropping into Moses Coulee, a canyon with vertical walls of layered basalt. We gathered the students on a small rise and asked them how the canyon had formed. They immediately ruled out wind and glaciers. The valley was not U-shaped like a typical glacial valley, and none of us could imagine how wind might gouge a canyon out of hard basalt. But neither were there rivers or streams. After a while I pointed out that we were standing on a pile of gravel. I asked how the rounded granite pebbles came to be there when the closest source of granite lay over the horizon. Silence.

Hiking through eastern Washington canyons littered with exotic boulders is a standard field trip for beginning geologists. It takes a while to register what you see. A dry waterfall hundreds of feet high in the middle of the desert. Giant potholes where no river flows today. Granite boulders parked in a basalt canyon. Gradually the contradictions fall into place and a story unfolds. Where did wayward boulders the size of a car or house come from? What was the source of the water that moved them around and carved the falls? Today, even novice geologists can conjure up eastern Washington’s giant floods.

Long before the discovery of the scablands, geologists dismissed the role of catastrophic floods in interpreting European geology. By the end of the 19th century such ideas not only were out of fashion but were geological heresy. When J Harlen Bretz uncovered evidence of giant floods in eastern Washington in the 1920s, it took most of the 20th century for other geologists to believe him. Geologists had so thoroughly vilified the concept of great floods that they could not believe it when somebody actually found evidence of one.

Bretz was a classic field geologist and a controversial figure throughout his career. In 1925 he presented the story of the region’s giant floods, seeing what others at first could not—and then would not—see. He spent his lifetime piecing together the story of how a raging wall of water hundreds of feet high roared across eastern Washington, carving deep channels before cascading down the Columbia River Gorge as a wall of water high enough to turn Oregon’s Willamette Valley into a vast backwater lake.

Bretz found exotic granite boulders perched on basalt cliffs hundreds of feet above the highest recorded river level. In the scablands, a desolate region stripped of soil, he came across dry waterfalls and potholes hundreds of feet above the modern river. Gigantic gravel bars deposited within dry valleys implied deep, fast-flowing water. Streamlined hills rose like islands, extending more than 100 feet above the scoured-out channelways.

He realized the chaotic landscape had been carved by an enormous flood that chewed deep channels through hundreds of feet of solid basalt. The ancient flood deposited an enormous delta around Portland, Oregon, backing up flow into the Willamette Valley. The waters, he eventually realized, could have come from catastrophic drainage of Lake Missoula, an ancient, glacier-dammed lake in western Montana.

Bretz was ridiculed until 1940, when geologist Joe Pardee described giant ripple marks on the bed of Lake Missoula. The 50-foot-high ripples, he said, were formed by fast-flowing currents and not by the sluggish bottom water of a lake. Only sudden failure of the glacial dam could have released the 2,000-foot-deep lake. The catastrophic release of 600 cubic miles of water through a narrow gap would sweep away everything in its path. In 1979, when Bretz was 97 years old, the Geological Society of America awarded him its highest honor, the Penrose Medal.

Recognition of the Missoula flood helped other geologists identify similar landforms in Asia, Europe, Alaska, and the American Midwest, as well as on Mars. There is now compelling evidence for many gigantic ancient floods where glacial ice dams failed time and again: At the end of the last glaciation, some 10,000 years ago, giant ice-dammed lakes in Eurasia and North America repeatedly produced huge floods. In Siberia, rivers spilled over drainage divides and changed their courses. England’s fate as an island was sealed by erosion from glacial floods that carved the English Channel. These were not global deluges as described in the Genesis story of Noah, but were more focused catastrophic floods taking place throughout the world. They likely inspired stories like Noah’s in many cultures, passed down through generations.

Since devastating floods were a fact of life on the margins of the world’s great ice sheets, people in those areas probably witnessed them. Early missionaries in eastern Washington reported stories of a great flood among Yakima and Spokane tribes, who could identify locations where survivors sought refuge. An Ojibwa Indian legend from around Lake Superior tells of a great snow that fell one September at the beginning of time: A bag contained the sun’s heat until a mouse nibbled a hole in it. The warmth spilled over, melting the snow and producing a flood that rose above the tops of the highest pines. Everyone drowned except for an old man who drifted about in his canoe rescuing animals. The native inhabitants of the Willamette Valley told stories of a time the valley filled with water, forcing everyone to flee up a mountain before the waters receded.

The Legend: Local folklore describes a traditional Buddhist pilgrimage that circled a small peak ringed by lake terraces. The pilgrims commemorated how Guru Rimpoche brought Buddhism to Tibet by defeating a powerful lake demon, draining its home to reveal fertile farmland. A local temple, which sits on top of a stack of ancient lake sediments, has a striking mural of Guru Rimpoche above a lake at the gorge entrance. The Temple’s head lama believes the ocean once covered all of Tibet.

The Evidence: During a 2002 expedition, geologist David Montgomery studied how the Tsangpo River once sawed through rock, carving the world’s deepest gorge. His team discovered ancient shorelines and 1,200-year-old wood fragments in lake sediments dating to around the time Rimpoche arrived in Tibet. At the head of the gorge, glacial debris was plastered on both sides of the valley, confirming that a massive tongue of ice once plunged down a nearby 25,000-foot-high peak. Two levels of terraces extending upstream indicated a wall of ice and mud had dammed the river, backing up a lake that filled the valley. Once the lake filled enough to breach the dam, a rush of water roared down the gorge, scouring out everything in its path.

Grand Canyon Flood

The Legend: A local Native American tribe, the Havasupai, attributes the canyon’s carving to a catastrophic flood down the Colorado River that occurred when the god Ho-ko-ma-ta unleashed a tremendous rainstorm. A more benevolent god, Pu-keh-eh, put his daughter in a hollowed-out log to save her from the monstrous current. After the flood receded, she crawled out and became mother of all humanity.

The Evidence: The rocks exposed in the canyon walls could not have settled during a single flood because they alternate many times in color, grain size, and composition. Although floods did not create the canyon [pdf], evidence suggests they helped shape it. Huge boulders are perched hundreds of feet above the river. Floods capable of stranding boulders so high would have been spectacular. The breaching of cooled lava dams that impounded the river may have launched these catastrophic floods. But these deluges occurred at least 400,000 years ago, long before people made it to the continent. The Native American tale of how the canyon formed is apparently an attempt to make sense of mysterious landforms.

Black Sea Flood

The Legend: In the story of Noah’s Ark, the book of Genesis says Noah lived during a time when all other people on Earth were evil. God became angry and decided to create a giant flood to kill everyone except Noah and his family. God told Noah to build a boat called an ark, big enough for himself, his wife, his sons, their wives, and at least two of every animal. Once the ark was built, God sent a rainstorm that lasted 40 days. The deluge rose higher than the tallest mountain. When the waters receded, Noah’s family and animals left the ark and repopulated the Earth.

The Evidence: After refuting the possibility of a global flood, geologists dismissed suggestions that the story of Noah’s Flood might be rooted in some sort of fact. Then, in 1993, oceanographers Bill Ryan and Walter Pitman of Columbia University used sonar to survey the floor of the Black Sea—and found evidence supporting the story after all. Submerged beneath the surface were ancient streambeds, river-cut canyons, and shorelines. High-resolution seismic reflection profiles showed a former land surface buried in the seafloor sediments. Drill cores from the seafloor contained roots of shrubs covered by marine mud. Ryan and Pitman argued that over 7,000 years ago, the Mediterranean began to rise, breaching rocks along the Istanbul Strait, a waterway that helps form the boundary between Europe and Asia today. The event caused the Mediterranean to spill into the Black Sea, triggering a catastrophic flood.

Were early farmers in the area forced to flee as their world disappeared underwater? Archaeologists found the rising waters coincided with the onset of the initial migration of farming cultures into Europe and the floodplains of Mesopotamia. Wherever they came from, the first farmers arrived in southern Mesopotamia shortly after the filling of the Black Sea. Did they bring the story of a great flood that destroyed their world?


TOPICS: History; Science
KEYWORDS: aliaksu; bible; blacksea; blackseaflood; catastrophism; channeledscablands; danuberiver; doggerland; englishchannel; flood; geology; godsgravesglyphs; grandcanyon; grandcanyonflood; greatflood; gururimpoche; iceage; liviugiosan; megaflood; noah; noahsflood; petkodimitrov; richardhiscott; robertballard; straitsofdover; tsangporiver; wa; washington

1 posted on 09/04/2012 8:31:12 AM PDT by Theoria
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Water, ping. Can’t help but wonder at all the pre-Clovis evidence that has been washed away over time.


2 posted on 09/04/2012 8:32:26 AM PDT by Theoria (Romney is a Pyrrhic victory.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Theoria
Also, for book FReaders.


3 posted on 09/04/2012 8:35:24 AM PDT by Theoria (Romney is a Pyrrhic victory.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Theoria
These were not global deluges as described in the Genesis story of Noah, but were more focused catastrophic floods taking place throughout the world.

How about natural after-shock like effects from trapped water after Noah's flood waters receded?

4 posted on 09/04/2012 8:43:13 AM PDT by Raycpa
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Theoria

bump


5 posted on 09/04/2012 8:52:54 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Theoria

Bookmark for later.


6 posted on 09/04/2012 8:54:59 AM PDT by ConjunctionJunction
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Theoria
That is an excellent point. As to the story of Noah, a catastrophic post ice age glacial flood would resound in a community for millennium.

Had such an event occurred in the area around the fertile crescent or East Asia as little as 8,000 to 5,000 years ago, the scars on society and the belief of global catastrophe would have been immense and leave a significant impression on any that survived.

Noah was said to have had a warning from God, a premonition so to speak, of a massive flood that would destroy all mankind. He built a large vessel and took his family and much livestock with him into the ark and a deluge occurred.

That kind of story would resonate for more than mere decades or centuries, but for millenniums. Told and retold over the many centuries by the descendants.

very interesting.

7 posted on 09/04/2012 8:56:22 AM PDT by Jim from C-Town (The government is rarely benevolent, often malevolent and never benign!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Theoria

The literally interpreted Noah’s flood covered everything.


8 posted on 09/04/2012 9:13:36 AM PDT by DManA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

i love it when a plan comes together.....


9 posted on 09/04/2012 9:14:40 AM PDT by raygunfan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Raycpa

Huh?


10 posted on 09/04/2012 9:21:12 AM PDT by stormer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: DManA

And according to the literally interpreted Bible it only happened once so the thesis of the article must be wrong.


11 posted on 09/04/2012 9:21:17 AM PDT by DManA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: DManA

Also, according to the flood legend, the water also sprang forth from the ground.


12 posted on 09/04/2012 9:31:16 AM PDT by Theoria (Romney is a Pyrrhic victory.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Theoria
I've spent a great deal of time in the Scablands. For those unfamiliar with the range of environments in Washington, especially those that think of the Evergreen State as one big forest, you would be surprised at the variety of landscape.

Anyway, this author also wrote "Dirt - the Erosion of Civilization", a very interesting look at how the role of soil management in the development and decline in societies. I highly recommend it.

13 posted on 09/04/2012 9:40:24 AM PDT by stormer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: stormer

Our family visited the are when I was a kid back in the early 60s. Even then it was widely accepted that it was formed by a flood. I remember at the dry falls that they estimated more water flowed over it than two Niagra falls.


14 posted on 09/04/2012 10:04:48 AM PDT by DManA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Theoria
"The rocks exposed in the canyon walls could not have settled during a single flood because they alternate many times in color, grain size, and composition."
Ignorance speaks.
15 posted on 09/04/2012 10:11:26 AM PDT by ME-262 (Ichabod)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ME-262

Really? What’s your background in geomorphology, especially as related to fluvial processes?


16 posted on 09/04/2012 10:28:07 AM PDT by stormer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: 75thOVI; agrace; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; aristotleman; Avoiding_Sulla; ...
Thanks Theoria.
 
Catastrophism
 
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic · subscribe ·
 

17 posted on 09/08/2012 5:33:43 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Theoria; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Theoria. None of the examples given describe the Biblical flood, but it's still an interesting discussion.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


18 posted on 09/08/2012 7:47:30 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Theoria

http://mesocosm.net/category/articles/comparative-religion-and-mythology/

..... the Tlingit used to live in peace and abundance in Glacier Bay [ALASKA]....But this girl was kept there for three years, which is a very long time. One day she saw a glacier very far away, and perhaps because she was unhappy with her seclusion, she called to it like a dog, saying “Glacier, here, here.”

To everyone’s alarm, the glacier started to grow, started to advance on the Tlingit, fast, faster than a dog could run. Everyone saw it charging toward them and they got into their boats to flee, to leave Glacier Bay and find a new place to dwell...

When I spoke to Bertha, I told her I had read this story, and I wanted to know, how do the Tlingit hold these stories today? Are they valued as legends, or are they believed, the way history is believed?

She told me that it may be hard for you to accept that a glacier would run as fast as a dog, but we’ve researched the area and we know that the Tlingit of her village came down from Glacier Bay, and they regard it as their sacred home. The archaeological evidence indicates that the area was inhabited around 2000 years ago by a people evidencing cultural continuities with the Tlingit of today, until they were driven out by a long period of ice. When the glaciers receded after the end of the Little Ice Age in the Middle Ages, the Tlingit appear to have moved (back?) into the area.

She told me that there are many stories that can be told to outsiders, like the ones I read in my book, and many songs that are sung for anyone. But then there are stories and songs that are private, known to the families and houses, and those stories have a lot to say about the world, and who we are.


19 posted on 09/08/2012 9:29:41 PM PDT by 21twelve (So I [God] gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. Psalm 81:12)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv; Theoria

I’ve been to the Scablands and Moses Coulee. Makes for a great field trip.


20 posted on 09/09/2012 6:18:07 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Theoria; SunkenCiv
I've just returned from a 2 1/2 week trip by car to CA. Part of our trip took us across Wyoming (Highway 80). There we saw the most interesting rock formations rising out of the plain.

This picture is especially dramatic, but formations like this were everywhere. The sides of the "towers" were obviously sedimentary, but the rock on top was solid and probably was formed by a volcano. What erodeded the sides? Glacier? Flood?

21 posted on 09/09/2012 7:54:09 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic (Joe Biden is reported to be seeking asylum in a foreign country so he does not have to debate Ryan.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: afraidfortherepublic

22 posted on 09/09/2012 8:01:49 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Jim from C-Town
Noah was said to have had a warning from God...

Perhaps Noah was not all that dumb. If you see the glacier melting and there's a whole bunch of water (like as far as the eye can see) behind it.....maybe a big boat might be worth the effort.

23 posted on 09/09/2012 8:10:02 AM PDT by stboz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Theoria; SunkenCiv
Bretz was a classic field geologist and a controversial figure throughout his career.

This is the money quote from the article and the cause of much trouble in the sciences. How many classic economists (more akin to sociologist/psychologists) were driven from their craft by technicians wanting only pretty, perfect formulas?

If the pointy heads don't ever leave their ivory towers and get into the field they don't know if their theories help or harm. Whenever I meet liberals and they talk about poverty I laugh in their faces. I'm with the poor in their homes and involved directly in their lives. Liberal solutions hurt the poor and most of the poor know it.

The controversy comes from the Harvard and Ivy League types who know they know everything. Thereby dismissing the calls of reality from the field.

24 posted on 09/09/2012 8:42:20 AM PDT by 1010RD (First, Do No Harm)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: afraidfortherepublic
This picture is especially dramatic, but formations like this were everywhere. The sides of the "towers" were obviously sedimentary, but the rock on top was solid and probably was formed by a volcano. What erodeded the sides? Glacier? Flood?

A very long processes, not formed from a single glacier or a single flood. And the formation it’s self is not sedimentary rock but a volcanic formation and much harder than the surrounding rock.

http://www.nps.gov/deto/naturescience/geologicformations.htm

25 posted on 09/09/2012 12:47:51 PM PDT by MD Expat in PA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: 1010RD

Bretz had the last laugh — he lived into his nineties, and was finally recognized for his contribution to modern, secular catastrophism near the end of this life. But he put up with lots of crap for decades, ridiculed and/or ignored.


26 posted on 09/09/2012 7:17:23 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Then he knows what it’s like to be a conservative. We’re in the field.


27 posted on 09/10/2012 2:24:31 AM PDT by 1010RD (First, Do No Harm)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: 1010RD

:’D


28 posted on 09/10/2012 3:11:10 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: afraidfortherepublic
What erodeded the sides? Glacier? Flood?

Legend has it as being bear claws.

29 posted on 09/10/2012 4:27:03 PM PDT by ROCKLOBSTER (Celebrate Republicans Freed the Slaves Month.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

If anyone ever tells you that “scientists” and “academicians” can’t be hide bound, stubborn, anachronistic, viciously protective, willfully blind and ignorant, sell them the nearest bridge.


30 posted on 09/12/2012 11:16:52 AM PDT by Yollopoliuhqui
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson