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Dating a Young Earth Part 4

Updated on February 22, 2011


Volcanoes are perhaps the most dynamic and photogenic of geologic forces. The picture of a lava fountain, lava lake, or lava river is entrancing, as is the picture of a volcano spewing cubic kilometres worth of dust and ash into the atmosphere. One well remembered volcanic eruption is that of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, an eruption that some have called “God’s gift to creationists.”

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens produced a number of events and features that provided evidence for a young earth. The landslide created a tsunami which filled Spirit Lake with plant debris. Lahars and erosion have produced canyons in years rather than centuries. Pyroclastic flows deposited hundreds of feet of stratified rock in hours. All of these things should have required thousands of years but were produced rapidly.

The landslide which started it all created a tsunami from Spirit Lake which scoured the hills north of the lake of their trees. These trees were then dragged back into the lake creating a log mat over a considerable portion of the lake (in 1975 a land slide on Kilauea caused a tsunami which also produced a vegetation mat NG Dec. 1992). One geologist was very interested in this phenomena as only months previously he had argued his Ph.D. Thesis on the formation of coal from floating vegetation mats. Now he had a chance to observe just such a mat for himself rather than infer one from the geologic record. That geologist was Dr. Steve Austin.

Dr. Austin’s thesis proposed that coal formed when a mat of vegetation floating on an ocean dropped bark and other vegetable matter onto the ocean floor. The deposited matter was covered by sediment and later formed peat and coal. In Spirit Lake it has been observed that all of the floating logs have lost their bark and substantial amounts of bark can be found on the bottom of the lake.

Dr. Austin has also observed that some of the logs and branches in Spirit Lake are floating and sinking in a vertical position. This has implications for Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park (also the site of volcanic activity). Found on Specimen Ridge are petrified trees and logs, many in an upright position. These are interpreted to have grown in place.

What the young earth creationists are proposing is that as is found at Spirit Lake these trees were part of a log mat which sank at different times to become lodged at different levels in the sediment. Tree ring comparisons have shown that petrified trees from different levels show the same growth patterns suggesting that these trees grew at the same time. As the roots from these trees are missing they show the same appearance as the trees found in Spirit Lake.

It has also been discovered that wood can petrify in decades rather than millennia. In reports from Japan and Louisiana wood around hot springs has petrified in only seventy years ( There are thus two reasons to consider Specimen Ridge evidence of a young earth.

In the years following the eruption of Mt. St. Helens Loowit Canyon was eroded. This canyon is a rock canyon and following standard uniformitarian principles it should have taken tens of thousands of years to produce this canyon (as reported in a National Geographic caption May 2000). But Loowit Canyon is not an isolated case. Burlingame Canyon in Washington State was observed to form in six days, this is canyon is 35m deep in some places ( Canyon Lake Gorge in Texas is 24m deep and 2.4 km long, it was carved in just 3 days in 2002. Each of these canyons show that erosion can be rapid even through solid rock ( In the North Fork of the Toutle River flooding has also produced a canyon formation.

In 1982 Mt. St. Helens let loose a Pyroclastic flow. It was not the first and would not be the last. What was notable about this flow is that in the space of hours it formed a stratified layer of rock. Such stratification would be expected of sedimentary rock but this was clearly a volcanic production. Geologists expected that such stratification would take ten thousand years to be produced , but as this was an observed event it could not be argued against that it happened rapidly. French vulcanologists commenting on Mt. Pelee in Martinique made a similar statement regarding the deposits left by Pyroclastic flows there.

Volcanoes in their activity fill us with awe. In moments they are capable of producing massive changes to the earth’s surface. The evidence they provide is not of slow change over millennia but of sudden change, sometimes within a single day.


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