One of the most remarkable and memorable stories in the Bible is that of Noah’s Flood. One man’s righteousness and courage separated him and his family from a vile world of sin. God’s disgust at the world’s wickedness brought about the worldwide Flood in which Noah and the other seven members of his family were the only humans saved, along with representatives of each kind of land-living animal that was alive at the time. This story is so well-known that virtually every children’s Bible story book features a rendition of it, and there are numerous references to it in the New Testament.
As could be expected, some who have read the story in Genesis 6-9 have questioned its validity. How could so many animals fit in the Ark? What would a global Flood even look like? How could the Ark float while being loaded down with so much cargo? Etc. When each of these questions is considered, sufficient answers are available to show that the biblical narrative is both scientifically accurate and historically correct (see Miller, 2014). One challenge that has been repeatedly brought against the biblical account of the Flood is that the author copied the story from previously written material. The most common claim is that the biblical Flood story is a rewrite of an ancient tale from Babylon titled The Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a 2,900-line poem, written on 12 tablets, describing the life of King Gilgamesh and his reign over an area near the perennial powerhouse of Babylon. The tablets date back to about 650 B.C.; and scholars suggest that the material they contain comes from legend and myth that dates back to between 1800-1600 B.C. (Kovacs, 1989, p. xxvi). The 11th tablet of this work contains an account of a massive flood. Supposedly since it predates the biblical account, and is so similar to the story found in the Bible, then the author of Genesis must have copied material from Gilgamesh or its source material. Does this challenge to the biblical record hold up under a thorough investigation? Not at all.
Does the Fact that One Account is First Prove the Later Account is a Copy?
In discussions of this nature, it is often helpful to ask the simple question of what would the situation look like if there really was a global flood that destroyed all but a few people. If those people survived such a flood, what would they have told their descendants? What would have happened in the retelling of the events when their children and grandchildren moved farther away from each other? After such an event, and so many retellings of the story over hundreds of years, would we expect to find differing tales that trace their origins back to the actual event? A brief moment of thought about these questions reveals that if a universal flood occurred, we would expect to find differing stories with (certain similarities) that date hundreds or thousands of years apart, and that arise from various geographical locations and ethnic groups across the globe.
Interestingly, that is exactly what we find. There are over 200 flood legends in different cultures all over the world. For instance, the Aztecs tell of a worldwide flood in which only two people, Coxcox and his wife, survived. Immediately following the flood, giants constructed a pyramid in an attempt to touch the clouds. In China, the legend is told of God sending a messenger to Earth to warn three sons that a flood was coming. The oldest was the only one to heed the warning, and he built a boat. As a result of his hard work he survived the flood. After the flood, the boat landed on a mountain, and the son had three sons that repopulated the earth. These are just two of the numerous flood legends from around the world (see Lyons and Butt, 2003 for more information).
The fact that one of these stories (such as Gilgamesh or various others) was preserved or written down first cannot be used to argue that it is (a) the correct and accurate description of what happened, or (b) the basis for the text of any narrative that was recorded at a later date. To illustrate, suppose that a certain battle occurred in the American Civil War. One soldier who was not there, but heard about it, told his friend. His friend embellished the story as he retold it to many others. One of those to whom he told the story decided to write it down just a few years after the battle occurred. Decades later, however, a young officer who took part in the battle decided to write a history of it. His memory was exceptional and he related the events much more accurately than the story that was being passed around by the soldier who was not even at the battle. If such events are possible, even probable, then we can show that simply because one telling of a historical event predates another does not make it more accurate, and does not mean the later story copied from it in anyway.
How Similar is Gilgamesh to the Genesis Account?
Even though the two accounts of the global Flood have similarities, it is actually quite striking to see the differences that exist between the stories. For instance, Gilgamesh tells of a man named Utnapishtim who, as a result of various gods wanting to destroy all people, was warned to build a boat 120 cubits on four sides by 120 cubits high, making the vessel a giant cube. The boat was finished apparently in five-six days, having six decks, and was loaded with gold, silver, ale, beer, butchered meat, “wine as if it were river water,” and a host of living animals. Just before the boat launched, the god Shamash rained down loaves of bread and wheat from heaven. Utnapishtim and all his family got in the boat, and a massive flood broke apart the Earth and drenched the ground for seven days. When it stopped and Utanapishtim looked out, “all the human beings had turned to clay.” The survivor then waited seven days and sent forth a dove, a swallow, and a raven. The dove and swallow returned, but the raven did not. The survivors then exited the boat and sacrificed to the gods. When the god Enlil saw that humans had survived, he was furious because “no man was to survive the annihilation.” The god Enlil then blessed Utanapishtim and his wife with the ability to be like gods and live an extended life (these details are taken from Kovacs’ translation of the poem, 1989, pp. 99-103).
While the similarities between Gilgamesh and the account of the Flood in Genesis are striking, there are vast differences that the Genesis-copied-Gilgamesh theory does not adequately explain. Why are the number of decks and the dimensions of the Ark different? How does Utnapishtim finish such a massive boat in so brief a time? Why such a large difference in the two accounts between how long the flood lasted (in the Bible Noah and his family don’t exit the Ark for a year, while Utnapishtim seems to spend only two weeks or a little more on the cubical boat). Why doesn’t the Genesis account include the swallow? Why does Gilgamesh say that one of the gods is unaware of the survivors?
The skeptic who insists that Genesis plagiarized Gilgamesh is then obligated to account for the various and serious differences. Once it is admitted, and it must be, that the Genesis account had some other source than Gilgamesh for those differences (i.e. God), then it must be conceded that the Genesis account could also have gotten all the details from that source, including the ones that are similar to the Babylonian poem.
What Would We Expect?
A closer look at The Epic of Gilgamesh presents Gilgamesh as a pagan, idolatrous king who tyrannically imposed his will on the land. One of his laws was to participate in sexual intercourse with every girl in his territory before they were married. This literature is just what one would expect from a society that had departed from the worship of the true God and distorted His Laws as well as an accurate account of the past. When we evaluate the biblical record, we can know that it was penned by Moses (Lyons, et. al., 2003) and is the most historically reliable collection of writings from the ancient world (Butt, 2004). The discovery of The Epic of Gilgamesh and other ancient writings that contain Flood stories does not call the Genesis account into question. On the contrary, it provides evidence that verifies the fact of a global Flood, and is exactly what any person who has given the idea much thought would expect to happen if the Flood were a historic reality.
Some ask how the Flood of Genesis 6-9 could be a global Flood. There simply is not enough water on the Earth to cover “all the high mountains under the whole heaven…covering them fifteen cubits deep” (Genesis 7:19-20, ESV). After considering such apparent quandaries, many resort to interpreting the Flood of Genesis 6-9 as being, not worldwide, but local in its extent. Is the story of the Flood myth? Was the Flood a local, rather than a global, Flood?
The Testimony of Scripture
First, Scripture simply leaves no room for a local Flood interpretation. Here are eight reasons why:
1. If the Flood was local, why waste several decades building an Ark (5:32; 7:6)? Why not just leave the area?
2. Why bring onto the Ark animals from all over the region if the Flood was local—representatives of “every living thing of all flesh” (6:19)? Since God actually sent the animals to Noah anyway (6:20), why not just send them out of the area instead?
3. How would the Ark be able to stay afloat for several months while the water receded if the Flood was local (8:3)? While the Ark could certainly stay afloat on a large lake for a long span of time, large lakes do not dry up or recede in only one year without catastrophic breaches which do not conform well to the uniformitarian assumption that many local Flood advocates hold. The description in the text seems to imply that the Ark was floating in a receding mass of water so large that it took months for it to drain away. As the Flood waters were receding, Noah sent out birds to determine if the Earth was sufficiently safe and dry to exit the Ark. The dove “found no resting place for the sole of her foot” (8:9), and yet doves will often travel farther than five miles in search of food.1
4. How could the biblical terminology—describing the water as covering “all the high mountains that are under the whole heaven” (7:19, ESV)—be reconciled with a local flood? How could water rise high enough locally to cover mountains if the Flood was not greater in its extent?
5. How could the biblically-stated purpose of destroying man (and beast) from the face of the whole Earth (6:13; 7:4) be accomplished with a local flood? Conservative estimates indicate there could have been 215,000,000 people on the planet by the time of the Flood—given the long life spans of the pre-Flood era, the robustness of the young human genome, and God’s command for humans to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth (Genesis 1:28). Given that large buildings had likely not yet been engineered, such a large population would surely have been spread out a great distance, and yet all humans were killed. Further, Genesis 9:19 indicates that after the Flood, “the whole Earth was populated” through the three sons of Noah who were on the Ark with him—Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
6. God made a promise to man and the creatures of the Earth never to again destroy the Earth with a Flood in the way He had done (9:8-16). If the Flood was local, then God lied, breaking His covenant with man, since local floods occur all the time. A global Flood, however, has never again occurred.
7. Peter used the universal destruction of the Earth in the Flood to describe what judgment day will be like (2 Peter 3:6-7). If the Flood was not universal, then logically, judgment also will not be universal.
8. The Flood was so devastating to the Earth that seedtime, harvest, winter, summer, and even day and night were severely affected for many months (8:22). How could Earth processes have been thus affected if the Flood was merely local?
The Bible is clear: the Noahic Flood was global in its extent.
The Testimony of Science
Science is also clear on the universality of the Flood. A scientific theory is validated through testing its predictions. If a global, rather than a localized, Flood occurred, what would we predict we would find upon examination of the physical evidence? Here are nine scientific evidences that verify global Deluge predictions:
Scientific Evidence #1: Sedimentary Layers across Continents and Even Between Continents
Sedimentary rock is understood typically to be the result of sediment deposited by water. As would be predicted if a global Flood occurred, the bulk of the surface of the Earth is comprised of sedimentary rock. Some 80-90% of the Earth’s surface is covered with sediment or sedimentary rock, as opposed to igneous or metamorphic rocks.2 While in the geologic column the upper layers, known as the Cenozoic strata (often considered post-Flood by Creation geologists), are characterized by geographically localized beds of sedimentary rock, many of the Flood layers (Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata) traverse extensive regions. Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata can often be traced across continents and, in some cases, between continents.
For example, geologists have identified six “megasequences” of sedimentary rock layers at the Grand Canyon that can be followed across North America.3 The chalk beds of the cretaceous period (e.g., the “White Cliffs of Dover”) extend from Ireland through England, across the English channel into Europe, and on down to the middle East, Egypt, and even Kazakhstan.4 Even more notable is the fact that the same chalk beds—found sandwiched between the same strata—are found in the Midwestern USA and in Western Australia.5 Similarly, the Pennsylvanian coal beds of America extend into Britain, Europe, and even further—to the Caspian Sea of Russia.6 Additionally, the distinctly different Permian coal beds of the southern hemisphere extend between Australia, Antarctica, India, South Africa, and South America.7 Such widespread deposition of sediment speaks loudly in support of a global, aqueous event that deposited vast amounts of sediment in a process like none that we witness today.
Scientific Evidence #2: Marine Fossils on Continents and Mountains
If a Flood once covered the Earth, wherein the ocean floor was broken up and fountains of material were released on the Earth (Genesis 7:11; Proverbs 3:20) followed by all of the Earth’s mountains being covered with water (Genesis 7:19-20; ESV, NIV, RSV, NASB), one would predict marine fossils to be discovered over the entire Earth—on all continents and atop mountains.8 It is no secret that marine fossils are found well above sea level worldwide and at the summits of mountains. Even the tallest mountain range in the world—the mighty Himalayas—hosts marine fossils.9
Continental rock (including that which comprises mountains) and the basaltic rock that comprises the ocean floor are fundamentally different. The rock that raised to form mountains, therefore, was never at the base of the ocean. How, therefore, are the marine fossils found across continents and mountains to be explained? Did the continents “dip” down below sea level several times in the past to allow marine creatures to travel onto continents and be buried in several distinct layers? Since continental rock is less dense, it “floats” in the mantle like a cork—unable to dip in such a way.10 Instead, the ocean had to have risen high enough at some point to flood the continents, bringing with it the marine creatures that are found fossilized across continents—even in what are now mountains.
Scientific Evidence #3: Lack of Erosion (or Rapid Erosion) Between Rock Layers
Uniformitarian geology predicts the gradual deposition and erosion of sediment across the planet over long periods of time—present processes are the key to understanding the past. Uniformitarianism, therefore, would predict the joining surfaces between strata to be rough and uneven, with dips and plunges. After all, normal terrain has hills, valleys, riverbeds, and other geographic features that detract from smooth, level topography. If the Flood occurred, however, many of the strata found in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic layers were laid down while saturated with water and with little time between their sequential deposition. The joining surfaces of many strata, therefore, would be smooth and flat, with little evidence of erosion. The enormous, beautiful rock outcrops of the Grand Canyon allow visitors to see for themselves the distinctive sedimentary rock layers that characterize the Paleozoic era—what Creation geologists argue is the beginning of the Flood. One characteristic feature of those layers is that the joining surfaces of the layers are generally very smooth, with little evidence of the erosion or deposition processes that should characterize the rock layers if they were formed over long periods of time.9 The evidence indicates that the worldwide sedimentary layers of the geologic column were deposited rapidly in a worldwide aqueous event.
Scientific Evidence #4: Catastrophic Burial
Most living creatures do not fossilize upon dying. In order to fossilize, they must be buried rapidly and sequestered from oxygen which causes the rapid decomposition of soft-bodied animals. Fossilization, therefore, is a rarity, especially for land-dwelling creatures.10 The conditions must be just right. While individual dead carcasses might be envisioned as being covered and preserved from time to time by a localized mudslide or rapid sediment deposition process, non-catastrophic conditions that could kill and preserve the exquisite remains of a larger animal (e.g., a sauropod or large theropod dinosaur) are much more difficult to envision. And yet fossils of dinosaurs that were killed by an aqueous burial event are typical throughout the fossil record—just as the Flood model would predict. For instance, the classic dinosaur death pose—known as the opisthotonic posture—often characterizes dinosaur fossils when the articulated remains of a skeleton are discovered.11 The dinosaur’s head is “thrown back over the body, sometimes almost touching the spine,”12 as if drowning and gasping for air.
Even if localized, non-catastrophic conditions could reasonably explain the preservation of individual enormous creatures, the hundreds of fossil graveyards of the world with numerous preserved fossils at each site, demand catastrophic, aqueous conditions.13 The quick execution and burial of a group of animals is much harder to explain under uniformitarian circumstances, especially when that group of animals is comprised of dinosaurs. Upon close examination, the contemporary explanation of dinosaur graveyards does not hold up. Paleontologists speculate that many dinosaur graveyards are the result of dinosaurs dying during local flood season while crossing a river and being carried to a river bend and successively buried year after year. The physical evidence, however, does not substantiate this idea. In Newcastle, Wyoming, for instance, a dinosaur graveyard of over 5,000 disarticulated dinosaurs has been discovered organized into a graded bone bed. If dinosaur corpses were piling up on a river bend each year and being rapidly buried there, one would expect the bones to be found in a river current orientation with many of the skeletons articulated—the bones found joined together as skeletons or partial skeletons. Instead, the graveyard is comprised of randomly oriented, disarticulated bones. Furthermore, if the dinosaur bones were being deposited upon one another annually, one would predict bone beds at different levels representing successive events. The bones in the dinosaur graveyard, however, are organized in a single, graded bed, with larger bones at the bottom and smaller bones as you move upward—indicating a single, rapid, catastrophic event that was responsible for the destruction, transportation, and burial of the thousands of dinosaurs in the area, including Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, Pachycephalosaurus, and various varieties of Tyrannosaurus.
Many other fossils testify to catastrophic, rather than uniformitarian, flood conditions as predicted by the Flood model. From fossils of Triassic (middle Flood) ichthyosaurs being catastrophically buried while giving birth,14 to Jurassic (late Flood) Aspidorhynchus fish buried with Rhamphorhychus (pterosaur) in its jaws,15 to Eocene (late or soon after Flood) aspiration fossils—fish killed and buried while eating other fish:16 fossils that verify the predictions of the global Flood model abound.
Scientific Evidence #5: “Unearthly” Seismites
A seismite is a special rock layer that forms when an earthquake vibrates a layer of sediment (like sand) that is covered with water—like the soggy sand that is under water along a shoreline. When an earthquake happens, it shakes the soggy sand, and the water within it tries to escape upward from the sand as it settles, like magma from a volcano. If the sand were to dry out after the earthquake and lithify (i.e., turn to stone) and then you cut the sandstone in two and looked at the inside layers, you would see the squiggly lines caused by the movement of the shaken water. These are called fluid avulsion structures, and they are usually only a few centimeters thick today. If the Flood happened, and “all of the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11) and “the mountains rose, the valleys sank down” (Psalm 104:8, ESV), in conjunction with water saturated continents, the existence of seismites in the rock layers associated with the Flood would be predicted.
Not only have many such seismites been discovered, but in Lance Creek, Wyoming, dozens of distinct seismite layers have been discovered that are several meters thick, rather than a few centimeters thick like seismites forming today.17 Such abnormal seismites would be termed “unearthly” by geologists, since no known earthly process (i.e., none witnessed today) can account for their formation. These layers have been traced over several miles and are potentially continent wide. This means that (1) the whole area was once covered with massive amounts of water (enough to make several meters of sand soggy); and (2) several major earthquakes happened—dozens of earthquakes so intense that there is no modern reference point to interpret their strength. When comparing modern seismites and their correlated earthquakes with the Lance Creek seismites, one infers that the Lance Creek seismites necessarily were caused by an unknown, abnormal phenomenon—possibly the earthquakes generated by the rapid formation of the Rocky Mountains during the Flood when, for example, the Pacific oceanic plate collided with and subducted beneath the North American plate along the west coast of the United States.
Scientific Evidence #6: Long Distance Sediment Transportation
Sedimentary rock layers are the result of sediment being deposited by water, and in some cases, wind. Rivers, for example, will pick up dirt from their beds and banks, carry them along for a certain distance, gauged by the speed and depth of the river, and re-deposit the sediment, which may eventually become sedimentary rock if the conditions are right. The type of sedimentary rock will be based on the type of material that comprises the rock, and the type of material is based on the source of the sediment that the river is carrying. If a global, rather than merely local, flood occurred, one would predict that enormous amounts of sediment would have been transported great distances, as opposed to the smaller amounts of sediment that are transported shorter distances today.
Once again, when we examine the physical evidence in the Flood rock layers, we see certain kinds of sedimentary rock whose material source is hundreds and, in some cases, even thousands of miles away. The Coconino Sandstone in the Grand Canyon, with an average thickness greater than the length of a football field and surface area greater than the state of California, can be traced beyond Utah to the north. The source of the Supai Group at the Grand Canyon is postulated to be extremely far from the Grand Canyon, and the source of the Navajo Sandstone of Utah appears to be the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States—over 1,800 miles away.18 While the physical evidence is difficult to reconcile using the conventional paradigm of uniformitarianism, it verifies yet another prediction of the global Flood model.
Scientific Evidence #7: Cambrian Explosion
According to Genesis chapter one and following, a few thousand years ago, God directly created all “kinds” of life within four days, not by evolution over four billion years.19 Approximately 1,650 years after that initial Creation, the Flood occurred. If the Flood was, in fact, global in its extent, then it destroyed all birds and land-living creatures that were not on the vessel prepared for the eight survivors of that catastrophic event. Based on that information, Creation geologists can make several scientific predictions. Since the Earth is young and God did not create life through gradual evolution, and since the Flood was apparently the first (and only) major, global catastrophic event on the Earth post-Creation and catastrophic events are generally the cause of fossilization, the following would be predicted: (1) Very few fossils likely would have been formed prior to the Flood; (2) Transitional fossils between major phylogenic groups would be non-existent in the fossil record; (3) Instead, living creatures would appear fully formed, distinct, and functional the first time they appear in the fossil record; (4) When the global Flood began, we would predict a significant marker in the geologic column that represents the commencement of the worldwide Flood event; (5) We would further predict an explosion of fully formed fossils above that line, worldwide, representing the deaths of living creatures due to mud slides and other fossil-forming processes during the global Flood.
When one examines the fossil record, testing the validity of these global Flood predictions, we find that all five of the predictions are easily verified. One observes beginning at the base of the record, in the Pre-Cambrian layers (i.e., pre-Flood layers), very little is found by way of fossils—namely fully formed stromatolites (predictions 1 and 3). Above the Pre-Cambrian strata, a distinct line is observed that extends across the entire planet, called the “Great Unconformity” (prediction 4).20 That line marks the beginning of the Cambrian strata (i.e., the Flood) and an explosion of fully formed fossils—called the “Cambrian Explosion” by paleontologists (predictions 3 and 5). These fossils appear worldwide in sedimentary rock with absolutely no evolutionary history preserved in the fossil record (prediction 2), and to all intents and purposes, effectively reflect the beginning of the fossil record21—precisely what would be predicted if Creation and the global Flood occurred, and decisively contrary to the conventional evolutionary paradigm. One well-known evolutionary biologist even conceded concerning the fossils of the Cambrian: “It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists.”22 Even Charles Darwin recognized the Cambrian Explosion as a problem for his theory.23 The Cambrian Explosion not only falsifies evolutionary predictions, but it verifies at least five global Flood predictions.
Scientific Evidence #8: Flood Legends
If the Flood occurred, but was merely local in its extent, one would not expect a record of the limited event to have been passed down in separate societies worldwide. One might expect distinct legends of localized floods to be passed down within separate societies, but they would not show significant similarities if they were describing different events. If the Flood occurred and was global in its extent, however, it would be inconceivable to suppose that stories about such a catastrophic event would not be passed down through the ages to virtually all societies. Since the incident at Babel occurred soon after the Flood (Genesis 11), where God directly created several distinctly different oral languages, but apparently not written languages, stories of the Flood were likely not written down for many years. Instead, they were passed along orally—a medium more prone to inaccuracies in transmission. The event, therefore, would certainly be remembered, but many of the details would not generally be expected to be accurate.24 When comparing separate accounts of the event from different societies, if the details matched precisely, one would suspect collusion at some point between the societies (i.e., that the Flood stories originated from one later source, rather than from the original witnesses). Sure enough, once again, we find decisive evidence from archaeology of hundreds of worldwide, distinct but curiously similar legends of a catastrophic Flood.25 The details do not perfectly match, as predicted, but amazingly match in the essentials, suggesting a true, single event thousands of years ago that affected the whole world rather than a small geographic area.
Scientific Evidence #9: Rapid Deposition of Strata
As discussed earlier, uniformitarianism, the standard assumption used to interpret geologic observations today, would suggest that the sedimentary rock layers of the Earth were deposited gradually over millions of years. One would not expect sediment layers well below the surface to be soft after millions of years, but rather to have been lithified. If a global Flood occurred, then catastrophism, not uniformitarianism, is a better interpretive principle to be used in geology. If a global Flood occurred, then the sedimentary layers of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic layers (i.e., the Flood rock strata) were laid down rapidly—possibly in as little as one year’s time. Many of the strata below the surface at any point during the Flood, therefore, would still be soft—not yet lithified. Which prediction is borne out upon examination of the physical evidence? The global Flood model prediction is verified when we observe tightly folded rock strata, for example, in the Paleozoic Tapeats Sandstone and Muav Limestone of the Grand Canyon.26 Since rocks break, rather than bend, observing several meters of unbroken, tightly folded rock strata implies the layers were not yet rock when they were bent—precisely what would be expected if the global Flood occurred and laid down the worldwide sedimentary layers of the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras.
Further evidence of the rapid deposition of strata is seen when we observe polystrate fossils. Polystrate fossils are individual fossils that span multiple (“poly”) strata (“strate”), such as fossilized trees and other organisms across the world.27 Surely only fanciful, blind “faith” would lead one to accept the postulate that a tree could remain dead, undecayed, and sticking out of the ground for hundreds of thousands or millions of years while sediment slowly accumulated around the tree, burying it. Polystrate fossils worldwide suggest rapid deposition of the sedimentary rock layers also worldwide.
Where Did the Water Go?
Both science and Scripture support a global Flood, but if the waters of the Flood really did once cover the Earth—even the mountains—where did the water go after the Flood? The water could not have disappeared from the Universe—it must be accounted for, unless God chose to suspend the First Law of Thermodynamics and directly remove the water from the Universe.
The account of the Flood event is certainly laced with God’s supernatural activity. He directly communicated with Noah, informing him how to build the Ark (Genesis 6:14-16), sent the animals to Noah (Genesis 6:20), personally shut the door of the Ark (Genesis 7:16), and apparently initiated the Flood (Genesis 6:17; 7:4,23). The possibility of other supernatural activity on God’s part, therefore, cannot be ignored. However, before assuming “God miraculously did it” as an explanation for everything that we do not know—which could lead to false conclusions, scientific laziness, and a lack of valuable knowledge about the natural realm and God’s amazing glory as reflected therein28—let us consider if there is another plausible explanation as to where the water from the Flood went.
If the entire current Earth’s atmosphere released its water, it would only cover the globe to a depth of about one inch above sea level.29 If all of the present land ice of the Earth melted—including glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets—it would raise the sea level approximately 230 feet.30 If all of the water within the Earth’s crust was pumped onto the surface of the Earth, it would raise the sea level another 600 feet,31 which is much more significant, but when we consider that many of Earth’s mountains tower over the Earth above 25,000 feet in height, such numbers pale in significance.32 Where is the water from the Flood? Answer: apparently the same place it came from—primarily the oceans (Psalm 104:6-9).
While Scripture does not give many details about what occurred during the Flood, it does provide a few important clues.
When the Flood began, the “fountains of the great deep (i.e., the oceans) were broken up”—all of them (Genesis 7:11; Proverbs 3:20). Such terminology suggests the breakup of the ocean floor and the release of water and magma from below the Earth’s surface onto the ocean floor. Using our knowledge of geology in the 21st century, such terminology suggests plate tectonics (i.e., the breakup and initiation of the movement of the plates that comprise the surface of the Earth) may have been activated at that point.
The breakup of the great deep is mentioned, followed by (i.e., perhaps causing) the opening of the “windows of heaven”—intense rain (Genesis 7:11) for 40 days and nights (7:12).
The waters “increased” (7:17)—“greatly increased” (vs. 18)—prevailing for 150 days (vs. 24)—roughly five months. After that point, “the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained,” a great wind passed over the Earth, and therefore, the waters began to recede continually (8:1-3) until the Ark came to rest several weeks later (vs. 4).
Psalm 104 (ESV) speaks of Creation and the Flood. Verses 6-9 refer to the Flood33 and tell us that the mountains rose and the valleys sank down during the event. While some higher elevation locations apparently existed prior to the Flood (7:19-20), the taller mountains formed during the Flood.
Psalm 104:9 (ESV) indicates that the geologic activity that ensued in the Flood created a geographic setting that now disallows a global flood to occur again.
Is there physical evidence to support and further explain these statements in Scripture? Undeniably.
When the fountains of the great deep were broken up—apparently commencing plate tectonics34—magma from the mantle would have touched the waters of the ocean, superheating it and blasting it into the atmosphere as superheated vapor, where it came back down as rain. Many of Earth’s divergence zones35 stretch for hundreds of miles at the base of the oceans. Geyser-like activity would have, therefore, created worldwide fountains that drenched the continents with immense amounts of water for possibly weeks (40 days?) until the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates slowed.
We are able to observe today the effects of Earth’s tectonic plates as they move relative to one another, converging and subducting, diverging, and transforming. Most geologic activity on the Earth occurs along the margins of tectonic plates as they move—earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building, for example. Subducting plates angle downward, slowly diving into Earth’s mantle and dragging with them the ocean floor. On the rear side of the plate, plate divergence occurs—plates being pulled away from one another—forming gaps between plates, and new material surfaces from the mantle to fill the gaps, replacing the material that has been pulled towards the subduction zone. While plates move on the order of centimeters per year today (forming mountains and volcanoes very slowly), when plate tectonics began (i.e., at the beginning of the Flood), simulations show the rate would have been on the order of meters per second, forming mountains rapidly.36
If tectonic plates have always moved at the same slow rate that they are moving today, the subducting plate material would have heated and reached thermal equilibrium with the mantle material long before reaching the core/mantle boundary in its descent. If the global Flood model is correct, however, and the plates were moving rapidly at the onset of the Flood only a few thousand years ago, immense slabs of colder material from the ocean floor would be predicted to be piled at the core/mantle boundary that has not yet warmed to mantle temperatures. Sure enough, yet another Flood prediction was verified when technology progressed to the point that the Earth’s internal structure could be studied. Colder slabs of material were discovered piled under subduction zones, deep in the mantle in the mid-1990s.37
The new material replacing the cold, dense ocean floor that is pulled towards subduction zones is much hotter, and thus, less dense. The effect is that the new material “floats” higher in the mantle. As the ocean floor was rapidly replaced with new mantle material during the early weeks of the Flood, therefore, more and more of the ocean water was continually being displaced onto the land until the entire ocean floor was replaced. Geologists and geophysicists estimate that, at its peak height, the ocean floor would have been over 3,000 feet higher than its initial level.38 Plate motion would have slowed at that point, allowing the new ocean floor to cool, become denser once again and, therefore, float lower in the mantle—creating the valleys that would allow the Flood waters to return to the oceans. The new height of the mountains and the topography of the ocean floor now prohibit the possibility of the reoccurrence of a global Flood—as Psalm 104:9 implies.
Our ever increasing scientific knowledge continues to provide more and more clues that support and explain the global Deluge of Noah. Whether the Flood water was removed supernaturally or naturally, there is no quandary created for the global Flood model.
The Bible speaks of a major Flood, roughly 1,650 years after Creation. While skeptics scoff at the possibility of a global Flood and many Bible-believers scratch their heads in incredulity at such a prospect, both inspired Scripture and science agree: the Flood occurred—and it was global. Once again, there is no reason to question the validity of Scripture. When one carefully examines the evidence prior to drawing conclusions (1 Thessalonians 5:21), the claims of Scripture are verified, without exception. One need only “be diligent” as an unashamed worker, being careful to correctly handle God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
Does it matter, though, whether or not the global Flood happened? Most certainly. Jesus called the attention of His audience back to the Flood in Matthew 24, warning:
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (vss. 37-39).
Sadly, mankind has forgotten the message that God’s Flood conveyed.The Flood was a physical depiction of how God feels about sin. The Flood is a reminder about God’s holiness, and the necessity of human repentance and obedience in order to be pleasing to Him. It is a reminder that judgment can always be just around the corner, when we least expect it. In 2 Peter 3:3-6, Peter reminded his audience of the Flood, and then warned:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness (vss. 10-11)?
The global Flood of Noah is a reminder of the global judgment that looms in the future and God’s demand that we live a holy and godly life.
But the Flood is also a reminder of God’s grace. God, through Moses, went out of His way to repeatedly highlight how Noah was different—he consistently obeyed God (Genesis 6:22; 7:5,9,16). The Flood is a reminder that those who obediently submit to God can be saved through water—and receive the benefits of God’s grace—if we will only believe Him. Peter, once again, used the Flood in 1 Peter 3:
[T]he Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (vss. 20-21).39
1 Ronnie George (no date), Mourning Doves in Texas, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, p. 11.
8 Note that most of the Earth’s mountains likely were raised late in the Flood, after the fossils therein had already been laid down.
9 J.P. Davidson, W.E. Reed, and P.M. Davis (1997), “The Rise and Fall of Mountain Ranges,” in Exploring Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall), pp. 242–247.
19 Eric Lyons (2014), “Creation and the Age of the Earth,” Reason & Revelation, 34:86-94, https://apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/34_7/1407w1.pdf; Jeff Miller (2017), Science vs. Evolution (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition; Jeff Miller (2019), “21 Reasons to Believe the Earth is Young,” Reason & Revelation, 39:2-5,8-11.
21 Stephen J. Gould (1994), “The Evolution of Life on Earth,” Scientific American, 271:86, October.
22 Richard Dawkins (1986), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton), p. 229.
23 “Discovery Of Giant Roaming Deep Sea Protist Provides New Perspective On Animal Evolution” (2008), UT News, November 20, http://news.utexas.edu/2008/11/20/giant_protist; Daniel Osorio, Jonathan Bacon, and Paul Whitington (1997), “The Evolution of Arthropod Nervous Systems,” American Scientist, 85:244.
24 And one would expect local religious beliefs and superstitions to be interwoven with the historical facts.
25 Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2003), “Legends of the Flood,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=64; Duane Gish (1992), Dinosaurs by Design (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Publishing), p. 74; Robert Schoch (2003), Voyages of the Pyramid Builders (New York: Jeremy Parcher/Putnam), p. 249; Graham Hancock (1995), Fingerprints of the Gods (New York: Three Rivers Press), p. 190.
26 Andrew Snelling, “Rock Layers Folded, Not Fractured,” Answers 4, No. 2 (April-June 2009):80-83; Morris, pp. 108-113.
27 Michael Oard and Hank Giesecke (2007), “Polystrate Fossils Require Rapid Deposition,” CRS Quarterly, 43:232-240, March; John Morris (2011), The Young Earth (Green Forest, AR: Master Books), pp. 102-105; Andrew Snelling (1995), “The Whale Fossil in Diatomite, Lompoc, California,” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 9:244-258.
33 Otherwise, if they refer to Creation, then verse nine was violated during the Flood when the water covered the Earth again.
34 Or as Creation scientists call it, Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.
35 I.e., places where tectonic plates are moving apart with new material from the mantle replacing the ocean floor.
36 Steven Austin, John Baumgardner, D. Russell Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, Larry Vardiman, and Kurt Wise (1994), “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History,” Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, ed. R.E. Walsh (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship), pp. 609-621.
37 S.P. Grand (1994), “Mantle Shear Structure Beneath the Americas and Surrounding Oceans,” Journal of Geophysical Research, 99:11591-11621; J.E. Vidale (1994), “A Snapshot of Whole Mantle Flow,” Nature, 370:16–17.
Explore compelling geologic evidence for the Worldwide Flood presented by Michael J. Oard.
Researcher and scientists Michael J. Oard uses his knowledge of the Ice Age and Missoula Flood to lay out his case for a Global Flood. He shares how many geologic features on the surface of the earth just can’t be explained through slow and gradual processes, but rather, one worldwide Flood. These features include water and wind gaps, the continental shelves, submarine canyons, planation surfaces, pediments, and the spread of exotic rocks. His convincing evidence will challenge conventional thinking, showing how the biblical record makes much more sense of the evidence.
Meteorologist Michael J. Oard takes you on a tour down the path of the Missoula Flood, from Montana to Oregon.
In the 1920’s J. Harland Bretz, a secular geologist proposed a massive flood across eastern Washington. He was rejected by his colleagues because the flood seemed too “biblical”. He was shunned, for forty years, until satellite images proved him right. Scientist Michael Oard explores the Missoula Flood, demonstrating how the geologic features are a small scale example of the Genesis Flood. Michael Oard will take you on a tour of the ancient shorelines, lake sediments, glacial moraines, over-deepened lakes, gravel bars, channeled scablands, coulees, giant dry falls, silt hills, giant ripple marks, catastrophically cut basalt canyons, sediment rhythmites, and glacial erratics. He’ll present strong evidence there was only one Missoula Flood, caused by the single Ice Age, after the Global Flood, all happening just a few thousand years ago. Michael J. Oard will then apply the effects of the Missoula Flood to how the Global Flood impacted our earth.
Michael J. Oard explores the evidence for only one Ice Age caused by the global Flood just a few thousand years ago. He also looks at the associate mysteries of the Ice Age.
Since the 1700’s we’ve been told that the there have been many ice ages over millions of years, but now meteorologist Michael Oard shares evidence the main-line scientific community won’t tell you. He’ll share compelling evidence for only one Ice Age not long after the end of the global Flood as recorded in the Bible. He’ll show how the Flood produced the right conditions to develop the Ice Age in 500-700 years, then how a catastrophic melt off transpired in only 50-70 years. He’ll also share why only one Ice Age explains many associated mysteries such as the extension of the woolly mammoth and other mammals, massive permanent climate change, and the spread of man and animals after the Flood. He’ll show how the Biblical record makes much more sense of what we find the in the geologic record.
Dr. Steve Austin explores how the events at Mount St. Helens could give us a key to the past in understanding how the catastrophic world wide flood changed the face of the earth.
In 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted and quickly became known as “God’s gift to Creationists.” Thirty years later geologist Dr. Steve Austin returns to the volcanic monument to share about the catastrophic processes which reshaped the terrain and how they support the Biblical record of earth’s history. He presents his research on how the events at Mount St. Helens reveal catastrophic processes in other geologic features such as the Grand Canyon and petrified forests at Yellowstone. The formation of these features have been thought to have taken millions of years, but because of the events at Mount St. Helens, can now be explained by catastrophic processes, especially the Global Flood recorded in the Bible.
Did the flood really happen the way it’s described in the Bible? Or was it just a local flood that got exaggerated over time? Could Noah get all those animals on the ark? Where did the water come from?
Apart from formerly glaciated areas, woolly mammoth remains are abundant in the surficial sediments of the mid and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, including western Europe, northern and eastern Asia, Alaska and the Yukon. There are probably millions of mammoths buried in the permafrost of Siberia alone. The mammoths are found with a wide variety of other mammals, large and small, many of which were grazers. They lived in a grassland environment with a long growing season, mild winters, very little permafrost, and a wide diversity of plants—quite different from the climate in the region today.
The mammoths and other animals colonised the region after the Flood during the ice age. The region’s climate during the ice age was ideal for rapid population growth and, in the 600 or so years before their demise, the population had grown to many millions of animals. They were buried in the dust storms that deposited the loess blankets found in those regions today. Some were entombed in a standing position. The good state of preservation of the stomach contents does not call for super-rapid freezing of the carcasses. Rather than food digestion, the mammoth stomach acts as a food storage pouch. The mammoths became extinct when, at the end of the ice age, the climate in the region became more continental, with colder winters, warmer summers, and drier conditions.
Frozen carcasses and many thousands of tons of bones and tusks of woolly mammoths are buried in Siberia and Alaska. In March 2000, the Discovery Channel produced a special on the excavation of a carcass in north central Siberia, called the Jarkov mammoth. This mammoth was cut out of the permafrost and transported by helicopter into cold storage for future analysis and possible cloning.1
Mammoth remains have puzzled scientists and laymen for hundreds of years. Many explanations have been offered. One of the most popular hypotheses is that one eventful day, the hairy elephants were peacefully grazing on grass and buttercups when suddenly, tragedy struck, and millions of them froze instantly.
This article examines the life and death of the woolly mammoth in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon Territory of Canada. These areas, together with the surrounding shallow ocean (Bering Strait), are called Beringia. There are still unknowns associated with the woolly mammoth and its environment in Beringia. Some information is conflicting. However, the data is pointing to a unique environment and extinction of the woolly mammoths in Beringia.
What is a woolly mammoth?
A woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) is one of several types of mammoths in the genus Mammuthus within the order Proboscidea. The woolly mammoth is essentially a hairy elephant with a large shoulder hump, a sloping back, small ears, tiny tail, unique teeth, a small trunk with a distinctive tip and two finger-like projections, huge spirally curved tusks up to 3.5 meters long, and spiral locks of dark hair covering a silky underfur.2
Mammoths are classified mainly on variables such as molar hypsodonty (height of the crown), number of lamellae (ridges on crown), and enamel thickness. History shows there has been much taxonomic splitting of mammoths, as well as other members of Proboscidea. It is likely that they are all descended from a single created kind.2 In general, there seem to be two main varieties of mammoths on both Eurasia and North America. The woolly mammoth is the smaller variety that generally inhabited the north. The second, more southern variety, from both Eurasia and North America can be lumped together for simplification and referred to as the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi).
Mammoths are commonly found in surficial sediments from western Europe eastward through northern and eastern Asia, Alaska and the Yukon (Figure 2).3,4 Mammoth remains are also found on some of the islands in the Bering Sea5,6 and are dredged from the shallow continental shelves surrounding Beringia.7,8 Enormous numbers of ice age mammals, most commonly mammoths, are dredged up from the unconsolidated sediments of the North Sea by trawlers.9 Woolly mammoths are found in abundance south of the North American ice sheet. They are rare in formerly glaciated areas. Mammoth and mastodon teeth have been dredged from 40 sites along the continental shelf off the eastern US in water up to 120 m deep.10
In Siberia, the woolly mammoth inhabited the whole area from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Their east-west distribution is generally uniform, except that they are especially abundant in northeast Siberia.11 Their numbers increase farther north.12,13 Mammoth remains are amazingly abundant on the Lyakhov Islands14 and the other islands of the New Siberian Islands, 230 km north of the Arctic coast.12,15 Frozen mammoth carcasses are usually found eroding out of river banks and along the shore of the Arctic Ocean.
Woolly mammoths are not the only fossil mammals found in the permafrost of Beringia. There are a wide range of other mammals, large and small, that accompany the mammoths. These include the woolly rhinoceros, wolf, fox, lion, brown bear, camel, deer, ground sloth, pika, wolverine, ferret, ground squirrel, moose, reindeer, yak, musk ox, giant beaver, lemming, porcupine, coyote, skunk, mastodon, antelope, sheep, voles, hare and rabbit, plus many species of birds, rodents, horses, and bisons.4,16–19 Frozen carcasses of these animals, especially the woolly rhinoceros, are also found. Generally, the same animals are found together throughout much of the mid and high latitudes of the Northern HemiÂsphere.3,20
How many mammoths are buried in Siberia?
There has been much controversy over how many woolly mammoths are frozen in the permafrost of Siberia. A few scientists attempt to downplay the number,21 but practically all observers describe the number in superlatives.
The top expert on woolly mammoths in Siberia, Nikolai Vereshchagin, has spent nearly a half century of research on the mammoth fauna. He states that there are many hundreds of thousands of large mammals buried in Siberia22 and also many millions of bones.23 One estimate he made for one region of Siberia would suggest five million mammoths buried.24 Is he exaggerating? It would be conservative, therefore, to conclude that several million mammoths are buried in Beringia.
Perplexing mammoth data
There are many perplexing aspects to the Siberian mammoth finds, including the existence of frozen carcasses and the good preservation of their stomach contents. In addition, a number of the carcasses and skeletons have been unearthed in a general standing position, as if the animal sank in a bog.25–27 The Selerikhan horse was entombed in a general standing position.28 The new Jarkov mammoth was dug up in a standing position.
It is also relevant that an analysis of several features of the carcasses shows that three woolly mammoths and two woolly rhinoceroses suffocated, including the Beresovka (or Beryosovka) mammoth.29–32 The Beresovka mammoth also had a broken pelvis, ribs, and right foreleg.13,27
For carcasses to be frozen and the bones and tusks well preserved, quick burial is necessary. But how could all these woolly mammoths have been forced into the rock hard permafrost, which starts about half a meter deep, below the summer melt zone?
Beringian paleoenvironmental deductions
The animals themselves tell us much about the paleoenvironment —a controversial subject.33 The diversity of animals was so great that there must have been a highly diverse vegetation.34 The only similar diversity of mammals is on the Serengeti of East Africa.34,35 Practically all the large mammals were grazers that ate a wide variety of herbaceous vegetation, mainly grasses. Based on the large numbers of healthy individuals, Beringia, as well as Europe and western Russia, must have been mostly one huge grassland during the ice age, called the mammoth steppe or steppe tundra (Figure 2).3,34,36,37
To maintain a large variety of herbaceous vegetation on the mammoth steppe would have required a long growing season with warm soil and rapid spring growth.38 This contrasts strongly to the current environment where green vegetation does not appear in northern Siberia until mid June to early July.39 Ninety percent of the biomass of grass is in the roots below the surface, and the grass cannot grow until the snow melts and the soil warms up. Therefore, winters must have been milder with light snowfall. The growth pattern of the mammals reinforces the deduction of a longer growing season.34 The shaggy ruffs, heavy horns, long tusks, and enormous antlers are what wildlife managers would recognise as indicators of high-quality habitat with light competition and a long growing season.40 Open range with light snowfall during winter is also supported by the existence of several animals that are intolerant of deep snow, such as the saiga antelope, bighorn sheep, Dall sheep, and wolf (Figure 3).41
With milder winters and a longer growing season over an extensive grassland, it is likely that there were no significant areas of permafrost. This is because permafrost would have caused a boggy substrate in summer, making it difficult for much grass to grow. Further paleoecological evidence for a lack of permafrost comes from the existence of some animals with small hooves, such as the saiga antelope. This animal cannot manage on boggy substrate. Furthermore, there is plenty of other evidence that the climate of Siberia was once much warmer, but again this evidence is somewhat obscured by uniformitarian dating and pigeonholing the evidence into supposed ‘interglacial’ and ‘interstadial’ periods.42
Mammoth uniformitarian problems
How millions of mammoths became entombed in Siberian permafrost really taxes the uniformitarian principle. Why would multitudes of mammoths, plus the many other animals, even want to live in Siberia with its fierce winters and summer bogs? What would these large beasts eat? Siberia today supports only a very few large animals, and these are especially adapted to boggy vegetation and often migrate to escape the full force of winter. Most perplexing of all, how did the woolly mammoths die in Siberia? Was it a quick freeze? Was man the hunter responsible for the demise of the mammoths?
Today, Siberia is well known for its bitterly cold winters. The lowest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere is -68°C at Verkhoyansk.43 Large mammals can usually tolerate a fair amount of cold. But could the mammoths, horses, bison, and other animals tolerate 6 to 9 months of bitter cold with even colder wind-chill temperatures in blizzards? Vereshchagin and Baryshnikov44 state: ‘There would be no place for mammoths in the present arctic tundra of Eurasia with its dense snow driven by the winds.’
Could the animals have lived in Siberia today during the relatively warm summer, perhaps migrating there from the south? The temperature likely would have been pleasant for them, but the environment deadly. Siberia today is in the permafrost zone where up to a metre of the surface melts in the summer. Water pools on the surface forming massive bogs and muskegs, making summer travel difficult, if not impossible, for man and beast.44,45 Tolmachoff46 states that a few inches of this sticky mud makes the substrate practically impassable for a man, and that a foot or more would probably trap a mammoth.
Siberia may be lush with vegetation in the summer, but it is the wrong type. Although there are patches of grass, bog and muskeg vegetation predominates, and these are low in nutrition for grazers.47 The taiga forest vegetation south of the current tundra is also poorly digestible for grazers.48 Comparing living elephants to mammoths, the daily requirement for a woolly mammoth would have been about 200 to 300 kg of succulent vegetation49 and 130–190 litres of water! Vereshchagin50 flatly declares: ‘Neither mammoth nor bison could exist in the sort of tundra that exists there [in Siberia] today.’
The problem is even more paradoxical in a uniformitarian ice age climate. Ice age climate simulations are of variable quality, depending upon the initial conditions, the approximations employed for complex variables, the particular physics, the number of variables, whether the simulation is a general circulation model, etc. Nevertheless, the better general circulation models demonstrate that the glacial climate of Siberia (assuming uniformitarianism) would have been colder (about 10–20°C) than today: ‘During glacial and stadial stages, the climate of Siberia was much colder than at present.’51 This deepens the mystery of why the lowlands of Siberia and Alaska were never glaciated!
Except possibly on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean,52–54 the woolly mammoth died out in Siberia at the end of the ice age. Furthermore, the woolly mammoth and many of the other large mammals, including 33 genera from North America, disappeared on whole continents or went extinct. There are two main hypotheses to account for all this extinction at the end of the ice age: either they were killed by man in a great blitzkrieg slaughter, or they died because of climate change.55 Uniformitarian scientists do not know the answer to this, but it has been extraordinarily controversial for more than 200 years. At a recent mammoth conference, Alroy expressed his frustration:
‘After many decades of debate, the North American end-Pleistocene megafaunal mass extinction remains a lightning rod of controversy. The extraordinarily divergent opinions expressed in this volume show that no resolution is in sight.’ 56
Such confounding enigmas, not only about the mammoth and the mammoth steppe fauna, but also about the ice age itself, have naturally produced many hypotheses. Early scientists produced a lot of confused writing. For example, Sir Henry Howorth,7,12 who gathered copious observations from Siberian explorers that are considered fairly accurate, believed the mammoths met their demise in a continental-scale flood, but that this flood was not Noah’s Flood.
Immanuel Velikovsky wrote two influential popular books on astral and earth catastrophes, called Worlds in Collision57 and Earth in Upheaval.58 In these books the demise of the woolly mammoths in Siberia played a lead role. He weaved the mysteries of the mammoth, the ice age, and many other puzzles from the earth sciences into a catastrophic adventure featuring Venus and Mars, occurring about 3,500 years ago. Velikovsky is sharp at pointing out the many earth science puzzles of the past, which a large number of scientists seem to either ignore or minimise. However, he cannot help but add an element of hyperbole, such as the following in referring to the ‘muck’ of Alaska:
‘Under what conditions did this great slaughter take place, in which millions upon millions of animals were torn limb from limb and mingled with uprooted trees?’ 59
His mechanism for explaining the extinction of the woolly mammoth, supposedly living in a warm climate and then suddenly being quick frozen, is a catastrophic poleshift to a more vertical Earth axis (to warm the region up) and then back again to near the present23½ degrees (to cool it down). The idea of a quick freeze is based mainly on the presence of food in the mammoths’ mouths and not enough time for their last meals to decay in their stomachs. Other popular writers have accepted and embellished Velikovsky’s ideas.60–62
Charles Ginenthal63 provides an updated, more elaborate defense of Velikovsky’s pole shift hypothesis. There is one major problem, among many, with Ginenthal’s and Velikovsky’s hypothesis, and that is a pole shift to a more vertical axis will cool the region, not warm it up.
The information on the woolly mammoths in Siberia is confusing, and most of it is published in Russian. All this data, and the many hypotheses, were bound to influence creationists, who also have been attempting to interpret the evidence in a catastrophic framework related to the Flood. Harold Clark64 recognised that the extinction of the mammoths in Siberia was a major puzzle that needed a creationist explanation: ‘One of the most perplexing phenomena of geology is that of the so-called “frozen mammoths” of Siberia.’
Many creationists have leaned towards a Flood demise.65–68 Joseph Dillow,69 who wrote an in-depth book on the vapour canopy, focussed considerable attention on how the woolly mammoth became extinct.70 He proposed that the hairy beasts were quick-frozen just before the Flood. Walter Brown32 included a chapter in his hydroplate model on what happened to the woolly mammoths. He proposed that the woolly mammoths died during the Flood by a quick freeze. Dillow and Brown made several mistaken deductions on the data related to the woolly mammoth and its environment in Beringia, such as that there is over 1,200 m of ‘muck’ containing animal and vegetative remains.71,72
Clark,64Harold Coffin,73 and myself 74 believe that the woolly mammoth lived and died during the ice age after the Flood.
Did Siberian mammoths die in the Flood?
There is abundant evidence that the woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon died after the Flood. They were truly denizens of the post-Flood ice age.
The woolly mammoth is part of an ice age mammoth steppe community that ranged across the non-glaciated portions of the Northern Hemisphere (Figure 2).3 Strong arguments favour a post-Flood origin for the mammoth steppe animals outside of Beringia. The animals are found in: 1) glacial till near the edge of the ice sheets, 2) river flood plain debris, 3) river terraces, 4) tarpits, 5) caves or rockshelters, 6) loess, 7) sinkholes, and 8) peat bogs. There are an estimated 51 predominantly male mammoths that are found in a sink hole at Hot Springs, South Dakota.75 In northwest Siberia, mammoths are found in sediments above glacial till.76 Spear points are associated with or embedded in the remains of mammoths at a dozen or more localities in North America.77 Woolly mammoths are commonly depicted in cave art from Europe eastward to the Russian plain and Ural Mountains.78,79 Ivory carvings are rather common in early-man sites in southern Siberia.80 More than 70 mammoth bone huts have been discovered on the Central Russian Plain.81,82 Such surficial features and deposits would be virtually impossible to form during the Flood and must be post-Flood. To isolate the woolly mammoths in Beringia for a special catastrophic extinction during the Flood, while ignoring the fate of the remainder of the post-Flood mammoth steppe fauna does not make sense.
Another strong argument against the mammoth death-in-the-Flood hypothesis is that the Beringian animals are buried in unconsolidated surficial sediments overlying lithified sedimentary rocks. If the animals were killed by an ice or hail dump from space during the early Flood, as envisioned by Dillow and Brown, the animals should be found in the lower portion of the sedimentary strata, a little above crystalline rocks. This surficial sediment with indications of post-Flood processes lies upon hundreds of meters of consolidated sedimentary rock that a large majority of creationists would attribute to the Flood. For instance, the Selerikhan horse carcass was found in frozen loam between peat layers and above a gold placer that lay over Mesozoic rocks.83 The baby mammoth, Dima, was found within slope wash on the 10 m terrace of the Kirgilyakh River. The terrace was carved out of Jurassic shales and sandstones.84,85 Below the surficial sediments that contain the mammoths, most of Siberia is composed of sedimentary rocks from all ages of the geological column.86 The bedrock below the Cape Deceit fauna of Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, consists of Paleozoic metaÂlimestone, Paleozoic schists, and Pliocene basalts.87
The post-Flood rapid ice age
Mammoth remains in the northern hemisphere are associated with events during the ice age. However, uniformitarian ice age models cannot explain the mammoths, or even the ice age itself. The August 18–25, 1997, issue of US News & World Report had a long series of articles on eighteen great mysteries of science. One of those mysteries is: ‘What causes ice ages?’88 The June 1996 issue of the popular earth science magazine Earth, reported on a new theory of the ice age. Daniel Pendick89 starts his article titled ‘The dust ages’ by saying: ‘If they hadn’t actually happened, the ice ages would sound like science fiction’. However, the unique creationist post-Flood ice age offers a reasonable solution for the mammoth mysteries.
The ice age was caused by the climatic aftermath of the Genesis Flood.55 As a result of this great tectonic and volcanic upheaval, the stratosphere would have held great quantities of dust and aerosols immediately after the Flood. Copious post-Flood volcanism would have reinforced the polluted stratosphere. Thus sunlight would have been partially reflected back to space from the volcanic products trapped in the stratosphere (Figure 4). Less sunlight would have meant cooler land surfaces, as was observed at various locations after the great volcanic eruption in ad 535.90 During the Flood, warm water from the ‘fountains of the great deep’ would have produced a warm post-Flood ocean. Evaporation would be much greater at mid and high latitude than today due to the much warmer water. Copious evaporation close to the ice sheets would have been most favourable for their rapid growth. After many centuries, once the oceans cooled, the ice sheets would have melted rapidly. Many other aspects of the ice age have been estimated, including the average thickness of the ice sheets, the length of the ice age, the number of ice ages, etc.55
Mammoth population explosion
Was there enough time for the mammoth population to increase to millions by the end of the post-Flood ice age? We can estimate the mammoth growth after the Flood by examining the reproductive habits of African elephants, a good analogue.91
The elephant reproductive rate can vary significantly.92 Elephants do not reach sexual maturity until age 10 to 23.93 They live 50 to 60 years. Eltringham94 states that generally, elephants produce a calf at intervals of four to five years with twins 1.35 % of the time. However, some have suggested that elephants can give birth every two to three years, and there is a case of a zoo elephant giving birth two years and five months after its first birth.95 The reproductive rate is especially enhanced in a favourable environment as when the population is low or the animals are being hunted regularly.92,96–99 There are no natural enemies for a mature elephant, except man,100 but calves are subject to predation.So, mammoths have the potential to increase rapidly following the Flood.
Based on doubling rates of 10 years101 and 25 years91 observed in Africa, there would be (assuming ideal circumstances with no predation or calf mortality) 2.1 million mammoths in 300 years or 8 million mammoths in 550 years,102 respectively. In other words, there should be no problem for the population of woolly mammoths to reach many millions toward the end of the ice age some 600 years after the Flood.
The post-Flood rapid ice age would have had milder winters and cooler summers with little if any permafrost, mainly because the Arctic and North Pacific Oceans were warm, and ice-free.55 It would not have been the formidable landscape observed today or deduced from uniformitarian ice age expectations. Since the lowlands of Beringia were not glaciated, another uniformitarian conundrum, Beringia would have been a favourable environment for many mammals.
Extinction of the mammoths at end of ice age
Of all the questions related to the mammoths, their extinction has been the most perplexing. It was not only mammoths that became extinct at the end of the ice age, but also many other large animals. Why? We will first discuss their extinction in Siberia and then the extinction of the mammoths and other ice age mammals on whole continents or worldwide.
Were woolly mammoths quick-frozen in Siberia?
The existence of carcasses with identifiable stomach remains and well-preserved bones and tusks has suggested a ‘quick-freeze’ to many. This has been reinforced by the research of the Birds Eye Frozen Foods Company, which calculated a sudden fall to below -100°C based on heat conduction.103
Creationist quick-freeze advocates32,69 postulate that the quick-freeze was directly related to the Flood. However, as previously discussed in the section ‘Did Siberian mammoths die in the Flood?’ the evidence is strong that the Siberian mammoths are buried in post-Flood sediments associated with the ice age. All the arguments presented in that section, such as the mammoths of Beringia being part of one Northern Hemisphere ice age fauna, would apply against the quick-freeze hypothesis.
There are other arguments against the quick-freeze hypothesis.
1. The number of frozen carcasses, in spite of under-reporting, is very small compared to the number of mammoth bones that underwent normal decay and are entombed in the permafrost.104,105
2. The carcasses are often partially decayed with fly pupae and display signs of scavenging,3,79,106,107 not expected during a quick-freeze.
3. The unique condition of several of the carcasses, such as the famished condition of Dima and the headless Selerikhan horse (Figure 5),3,83 indicate some time elapsed before final burial.
4. For some of the carcasses, death appears to have occurred at different times of the year.83,108 A quick-freeze during the Flood, especially as advocated by some creationists, would have occurred in a single instant.
5. The characteristics of the permafrost that entombs the carcasses and bones, show that it was not dumped quickly from above. It is doubtful that ice wedges would form during a quick drop of ice or hail from above.
How are the stomach contents explained?
The fact that the stomach contents were only partially decayed can be explained satisfactorily by understanding the digestive physiology of the elephant, which was little known until the 1970s.109 From studying 50 freshly killed elephants, it was discovered that the main digestive process of elephants does not occur in the stomach, but after the food passes the stomach, especially in the caecum and colon.109,110 Digestion is achieved mainly by bacteria and protozoa. Yet the researchers found no protozoa, no fermentation and very little hydrolysis of cellulose taking place in the stomachs, although the stomach had a very acidic pH of about 2. This high acidity is expected to partially degrade the stomach vegetation. It is clear, therefore, that the stomach is mainly a storage area before digestion.111,112
Further evidence that the stomach contents should not necessarily decay completely upon death is provided by the preserved stomach contents of mastodons found in North America. Preserved vegetation from the gastrointestinal tracts of mastodons, which are generally found in former peat bogs, have occasionally been reported from the northeast United States.113–115 Recently, the skeleton of a mastodon was discovered within peat on top of an ice age end-moraine in Ohio.115 The remains yielded a discrete, cylindrical mass of plant material found in association with the articulated vertebrae and ribs.
Thus a quick chill is not needed to explain the partially preserved stomach contents of the mammoth carcasses.
The big chill and desiccation at the end of the ice age
Near the end of the ice age, as the ocean surface temperature cooled at mid and high latitude, and evaporation slowed, the equable ice age climate would have changed to a drier, more continental climate with more seasonal extremes.116 Permafrost would begin developing in Beringia, and the substrate would become boggier in summer. As the climate became more continental during deglaciation, many animals in Siberia would tend to migrate closer to the Arctic Ocean, where the waters were still unfrozen and the climate would have been less continental. However, the changing climate finally caught up with them and they ended up buried in the permafrost that has continued to this day.
Extinction of woolly mammoths in Siberia
With this climatic change, there are a number of ways the mammoths and other animals could have died and become interred into the permafrost. One is by becoming trapped in bogs.73 I once thought the cold and wind, itself, could have simply killed them off,117 but it is probable that the mammoths could have endured much cold. I am sure some of the animals were trapped by the flooded rivers draining ice sheets and were buried in fluvial or lacustrine deposits.83,118 Upon further investigation, I now believe the vast majority of the mammoths and other mammals died and were interred into the permafrost by none of the above mechanisms. I believe the secret to their demise and burial can be found in the type of sediment surrounding the woolly mammoths.
According to those who have studied these deposits, the vast majority of the animals are found in the ‘yedomas’ of Siberia22 and the ‘muck’ of Alaska. The yedomas, a Yukut term, are hills 10–20 m, sometimes up to 60 m, high, containing a large percentage of ground ice.119,120 The hills formed after a period of post-ice-age surficial permafrost melting. Muck is the name given by gold miners to the organic-rich material deposited above gold-bearing gravels in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.121 Vereshchagin122 states that the yedomas contain a great abundance of mammal bones:
‘The great abundance of bones of large herbivores in the Yedoma is convincing evidence of the rich pasturage offered by this region during the Pleistocene ….’
What type of sediment makes up the yedomas and muck? There has been much controversy and a number of hypotheses on the origin of this sediment. There is now general agreement that the yedomas and muck are loess—a wind-blown silt!121,123–127 Much data support the wind-blown origin of this sediment. The loess is also rich in ground ice and ice wedges. The ground ice formed by a segregation process in which layers and lenses of ice, sometimes clear and sometimes inter-mixed with sediment, developed within the silt.128–130 The loess is not thousands of feet deep in Siberia and Alaska, as some have thought, but is a relatively thin veneer that is widespread in Beringia.123,125,131,132 Some of the loess, especially in Alaska, has been reworked by downslope mass flow. Redeposition of the loess has broken and twisted the vegetation and disarticulated mammal bones, and this has inspired Velikovsky and others to suggest exotic catastrophes.
In the post-Flood ice age model, strong wind would have characterised the big chill and dessication during deglaciation.133 In a dry environment, this wind would have picked up and transported large quantities of silt and sand. Abundant wind-blown material is observed as relic features of the ice age in the Northern Hemisphere. Copious wind-blown dust even occurs in the ice age portion of the Greenland and Antarctica ice cores. It is known that mammoths and other mammals are entombed in loess in other areas.122,134–136 Thus, it seems likely that the mammoths in Beringia were mostly killed and buried by dust storms.
Dust storms of variable intensity likely blew from time to time for a few hundred years near the end of the ice age. The animals could have died from the direct effect of the dust or some other cause. Regardless, the dust would have buried their remains fairly quickly. The characteristics of the small number of carcasses that must have been buried very rapidly can likely be explained by gigantic dust storms. From the Dust Bowl era in the midwest of the United States, it is known that a dust storm can produce dust drifts several meters high, burying tractors and partially covering buildings. It is possible that dust storms at the end of the ice age would be so intense that they could cover and suffocate a woolly mammoth trying to survive the storm. It may even be possible to suffocate a mammoth by the strong wind and blowing dust. The animal would have been buried quickly, since the animal would act like a snow fence. It is not inconceivable that a few of these animals would have been left in a standing position, braced by the dust around them. The permafrost would then move upward after the loess was deposited and rapidly freeze the remains, thus accounting for the rapid burial, which seems impossible any other way. The broken bones of the Beresovka mammoth could easily be explained by the shifting of ground ice and frozen sediment137— in other words a diagenetic, post-mortem effect of shifting permafrost.138,139 Although some researchers lean toward such a diagenetic explanation, there was considerable blood near the wound of the foreleg of the Beresovka mammoth. Bleeding had occurred between the muscles and the fatty and connective tissues.140
Mammoth fauna extinction elsewhere
The mammoths and many of the other animals went extinct either over the whole world or on continents they once inhabited. This occurred at the end of the ice age and probably into early post-glacial time. The mystery has a reasonable solution within the post-Flood ice age model.141
The animals thrived during the ice age because the temperatures were more equable with cool summers and milder winters. (Note that much of the continental land mass was never covered by ice sheets, even during the ice age.) The disharmonious associations of plants and animals all over the Northern Hemisphere during the ice age are evidence of this equable climate. But, this equable climate ended during deglaciation, and the climate became more continental with colder winters and warmer summers. The existence of ice sheets, the development of sea ice and eventually a cooler ocean than today, would have resulted in less evaporation and a drier climate. The cold winters and dry climate would stress the animals all across the Northern Hemisphere. The larger mammals would have been especially susceptible to drought. Thus climate change likely was the main cause of the end-of-the-iceâ€‘age extinctions. The reason the large animals did not die out at the end of previous glaciations is because there were no previous glaciations.142 Man likely aided the extinction process by harvesting weakened animals.
Carcasses and bones of woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon have been difficult to explain. The mammoth remains are abundant over the mid and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, except in formerly glaciated areas. There are probably millions of them buried in the permafrost of Siberia alone. A wide variety of other mammals, large and small, accompanied the mammoth. Many of these animals are grazers, implying that the paleoenvironment of Beringia was a grassland with a wide diversity of plants. This diversity of plants and animals points to a longer growing season with milder winters and very little permafrost.
This paleoenvironment is contrary to what is observed in Beringia today, with its very cold winters and boggy substrate in summer. Scientists constrained by uniformitarian thinking seem to face conundrum after conundrum in regard to the life and death of the woolly mammoth in Beringia, as well as by the ice age itself. A uniformitarian ice age climate would have been even colder still. It is difficult to conceive that the woolly mammoth and all the other animals could have lived in Siberia under these conditions. It is obvious the uniformitarian assumption does not apply. Thus, many hypotheses, both creationist and non-creationist, have been proposed. Creationists have been divided on whether the woolly mammoth perished in the Flood or afterwards. A number of creationist hypotheses involve a quick freeze, because it was thought that the state of preservation of the carcasses with only half-decayed vegetation in their stomachs demanded it.
Reasonable explanations for all these mysteries are available within the context of a unique post-Flood ice age. Astral catastrophies, pole shifts and other such exotic hypotheses are not needed. A quick freeze is also not necessary, and besides, there is much data against the hypothesis. There is strong evidence that the woolly mammoth died after the Flood during the ice age. There was enough time for the population of the mammoths to have grown to millions by the end of the ice age. Furthermore, this unique ice age was characterised by colder summers and warmer winters, resulting in a more favourable habitat for the animals in the non-glaciated lowlands of Beringia. The animals became extinct at the end of the ice age because the climate changed to a more continental climate, with colder winters and warmer summers, and drier conditions. There is copious data against the hypothesis of a quick freeze. The state of preservation of the stomach contents are better explained by the post-gastric digestive system of elephants in which the stomach is mainly a holding pouch for vegetation.
The question of how the mammoths died in Beringia can be answered by analysing the sediments surrounding the mammoths and other animals. They are mostly entombed in yedomas in Siberia and muck in Alaska. These are mostly loess and reworked loess. It is postulated that the animals were buried by dust storms, whether they met their demise directly by wind-blown silt or not. The carcasses and other perplexing data associated with the carcasses, such as death by suffocation, entombment while in a standing position, and broken bones, can be explained by death during gigantic dust storms and post-mortem shifting of the permafrost.
I thank Mark Russell, Kirk Toth, Dave Jolly, and Glen Wolfrom for providing hard-to-obtain literature and for providing data on the woolly mammoths. I also thank Tas Walker and others at CMI–Australia, for their valuable suggestions and Harold Coffin for reviewing the manuscript and suggesting a number of changes.
Biblical creationists are often asked about plant dispersal and propagation after a worldwide, devastating Flood. How many plants and seeds were brought aboard the Ark by Noah? Did some plants and seeds survive the Flood by means of riding atop vegetative mats, or by simply floating along? If so, how were these survivors able to propagate or re-seed after the Flood? Could some plants have survived as airborne seeds or spores? Or were they carried to the different continents around the world by human or animal vectors? The purpose of this paper is to address these and other questions regarding post-Flood plant survival and dispersal, and consider mechanisms by which this may have occurred.
Plants do a divinely miraculous thing with energy from the sun. They turn sunlight into food. This is essential for animals and mankind because they can’t eat sunshine. While early in life animals (and humans who share many similarities) possess all the main structural body parts they will ever have, plants constantly produce new structures throughout their life. Living plants maintain embryonic tissues that both regenerate themselves and continuously generate the basic structures (leaves, roots, stems, flowers and fruits, or cones). However, the way these new growth and reproduction structures are produced may be affected by the environmental conditions the plant is trying to occupy.
Plants can control or regulate their internal functions. Like animals, plants produce chemicals called hormones, which are produced in one part of the plant to signal cells in another part to respond. Examples of this are when flowering plants bloom at the most favorable times, when fruit ripens, and when trees lose their leaves in the winter. This ability of plants to add, shrink, or dislodge parts (leaves, stems, flowers, fruits) as necessary to survive gives them a unique design. Unlike animals, plants cannot pick up their entire bodies to find food; however, plants are equipped with other mechanisms enabling them to respond to the environment.
The study of an organism’s response to ecological growing conditions is known as environmental physiology. Stress from water loss, air chemistry, crowding by other plants, and flooding can change the way a plant functions. These variations may be affected by genetic, chemical, and/or physical factors.1 Given the intense topic of climate change we are seeing in today’s modern world, this is an especially popular area of study.
Seed Types and Dispersal Mechanisms
Plants have the ability to use and establish new lands for resources by various seed dispersal and rapid colonization traits. When a mature seed is in unfavorable conditions, it can undergo dormancy (a resting state) until surroundings are right. The particular structure of a plant species’ body, fruit, and seed dictate the means of dispersal. Some of these adaptations include the following: nutritious fruits to attract wildlife, buoyant thick-shelled nuts that float thousands of miles, dust-like seeds produced in the millions, winged or plumed seeds, and explosive fruits that can toss their seeds several feet. Seeds can be packaged in cones (pine trees), pods (honey locust), capsules (willow), nuts (chestnut, oak), with wings (ash, elm, maple) or with varying fleshiness of fruit coverings (raspberry, cherry, apple).2 The Hawaiian flora and fauna are representative of long distance dispersal for plants. The plant colonizers that survived the long journey across the Pacific had seeds that were tolerant to salt water or small enough to be carried in the wind or by birds.3
Seeds can cross oceans via birds (digestive tract or attachment), by wind (air currents), or by waves (rafting in ocean currents). Seeds of the Australian pine (Casuarina) survive immersion in salt water indefinitely but are not buoyant. These plant seeds are believed to cross oceans by rafting, particularly on floating volcanic pumice upon which they have been seen germinating.4
This protective outer layer helps protect the internal plant embryo from injury or from drying out. Seed coats are important in the longevity of the seed. Seed longevity is an ecological characteristic of a plant as well as a physical and a chemical one. The growth form of plant species, their type of seed dispersal, is adapted to the habitat in which they are commonly found. A thin seed coat provides no barrier to water, but allows light to quickly penetrate, triggering the end of seed dormancy.5 Some plants are primary pioneers. They ordinarily grow on tough sites where soil is scarce or poor. How do plants revegetate a burned area as promptly and abundantly as they do? Simply because they have programmed, durable, heat-resistant, and long-lived seeds. Intense heat from a fire can break seed dormancy in some plants (Acacia). The chemical barrier on their seed coats is disrupted, thereby triggering extensive seed germination.6
When Herod the Great’s palace was excavated in Israel (1963), researchers discovered date palm seeds preserved in an ancient jar. The University of Zurich confirmed the seeds dated from between 155 BC to AD 64. After an additional 40 years, the seeds were pretreated in fertilizers and a hormone-rich solution, and then planted (2005). What grew is one of the oldest known tree seeds successfully germinated, and the only living Judean date palm, a tree thought extinct for over 1,800 years. The plant is called “Methuselah,” named for the oldest person recorded in the Bible.7,8 Ancient hazelnut-sized Manchurian seeds were found in a peat layer in a dry lake bed in China. The seeds have very thick protective seedcoats. Several germination tests were done, and most all of the seeds grew. On several seeds, age tests suggested they were between 830 and 1,250 years old.9
Tropical drift seedpods and fruit nuts are extraordinary because they can survive months or even years at sea. They are very buoyant with thick protective shells that are impenetrable to salt water. In some drift fruits, such as the coconut, the seed embryo and fleshy white “meat” (endosperm) is enclosed within a hard layer (endocarp) surrounded by a thick husk. Other drift seeds have thick woody coats and internal air cavities that make them buoyant. During their long voyages, these seeds often cross entire oceans (table 1).10 Because many animals died in the Flood, their carcasses could have floated on the surface of the waters, holding and protecting seeds in their bodies. Early experiments by Darwin found that many kinds of seeds in the crops of floating birds can retain their ability to germinate up to 30 days.11
Did you know fish can act as a mechanism for seed dispersal? Cattle, sheep, horses, deer, bear, rabbits, birds, and fish are also known to pass viable seeds. The technical term for this is endozoochory. During the Flood of Noah’s day, freshwater and marine fish could have survived in water suited to them, in spite of being temporarily displaced from their normal habitats. The gamitana fish (Colossoma macropomum), of Peru, eats mostly fruit and can transport seeds down the Amazon River up to three miles. Researchers examined 230 fish and found nearly 700,000 intact seeds from 22 plant species, representing 21 percent of the species that fruit during the flood season. The relationship between these fish and plants is based on the seasonal rains, which can flood areas for up to nine months with water 19 feet deep for nearly five months. During the rainy season, these fish spend 90 percent of their time in the flooded habitats, waiting for fruit to fall into the water12
Table 1. Drift seeds and fruits collected on three-hour walk on the island of St. John.
Beach bean (Canavalia maritima)
Asian swamp lily (likely Crinum asiaticum)
Coin plant (likely Dalbergia monetaria)
Dog almond (Andira inermis)
Hog plum (Spondias mombin)
Grenade pod (Sacoglottis amazonica)
Mammee apple (Mammea americana)
Beach morning-glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae)
Manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella)
Yellow nickernut (Caesalpinia ciliata or C.major)
Mango (Mangifera indica)
Oak acorn (Quercus sp.)
Nothing nut (Cassine xylocarpa)
Sea bean (Mucuna urens)
Sandbox tree (Hura crepitans)
Pod (possibly Sterculia sp.)
Sea coconut (Manicaria saccifera)
Sea heart (Entada gigas)
Seaside hibiscus (Thespesia populnea)
Gray nickernut (Caesalpinia bonduc)
Sugar apple (Annona squamosa)
Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum)
Coconut endocarp (Cocos nucifera)
Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa)
Calabash (Crescentia cujete)
West Indian locust (Hymenaea courbaril)
Box fruit (Barringtonia asiatica)
There are two methods of plant reproduction: sexual (seed) and asexual (vegetative). Seed production by flowers or cones requires the transfer of pollen: a sharing of genetic material between two plants. In nature this results in offspring that differ from each other and from their parents. Vegetative propagation is designated “clonal” by scientists: young progeny are genetic copies of the parent plant.
Seed germination requires oxygen and water. Following pollination, the development of viable seeds may or may not occur; a great deal depends upon environmental conditions. A severe freeze, snow, or rain event at the time of blooming can eliminate the seed cycle for that year. Even if viable seeds are produced and expelled, they may be forced to wait to germinate until some later year when conditions are more favorable. The most reasonable view, widely held by plant experts, is that seed dormancy is not only associated with the absence of germination, but it is also a seed characteristic that determines the conditions required for germination.13
Many plants have alternative methods of reproduction, the most common being through vegetative rhizomes. Rhizomes are creeping, underground, root-like stems that run out from a plant with the ability to send up a new shoot, i.e., new clone-like plant. A single rhizome plant can occupy an area of several feet with its roots growing in an interconnecting system. This plant feature is an adaptation to fill an area rapidly.
Colonization in Extreme Conditions
As plants are a major component of food production in our world, seed crop research is a major emphasis in the 21st century. Since humans cannot create more land, researchers are investigating how to rapidly increase plant growth and seed production. Arabidopsis thaliana grows in many areas throughout the world and was the first plant to have a completed genome sequence. The sequence showed a very simple plant whose entire genome consists of a relatively small set of genes that dictate when the weed will bud, bloom, sleep, or seed. This plant is a member of the cabbage family known as Cruciferae due to its uniform flower structure that resembles a cross. A. thaliana is self-pollinating, with a rapid life cycle (5–7 weeks). This abundant seed producer is a worldwide celebrity genome plant because of its physical capabilities and relatively simple genetic traits. Only a handful of genes are known to be directly involved in determining its seed size.14 So when A. thaliana plant researchers claim “evolution might play a role in how fast a species can move across a region or continent,”15 it is already evident that plants can/do adapt and grow rapidly into barren, new, isolated, or hostile growing areas, as the Creator gave them provision to do in a cursed world. When laboratory experiments don’t allow new traits to enter the A. thaliana plant population, they claim they have “stopped evolution.”16 In reality the plant is continuing to grow at a more constant rate because it is not being influenced by any environmental change. In nature there is always change: wind, rain, light, temperature fluctuations, floods, droughts, herbivory (browsing by animals), man-made influences, and so on. Further plant adaptability examples will establish how plants are affected by environmental change—note that this is not molecules-to-man evolution, as suggested by evolutionary research in plant migration. When extreme changes occur, plants can be kick-started to rapid growth or to a steady state of reserve (dormancy).
Drought or lack of available water
Plants can harvest low concentrations of nutrients if the soil moisture content is limited. Scientists conducted a study of water transfer between interconnected vegetative growing roots of mother and daughter plants (Carex grass). When the interconnected pair was exposed to an uneven water supply, acquired water was transferred (30–60%) from the wet plant to the dry plant.17
It is not likely the salinity was the same during the inundation stages of the Flood as it is now. But even if it were, plants would have been able to recolonize.18 Habitat selection of plant species with rhizomatous growth was documented in a study of western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya). The selective placement of vegetative roots into nutrient-rich or optimal sites may enable these plants to actively choose habitats for future growth. Opportunities for habitat selection in natural populations depend on the rate of rhizome growth into new territory. In one field experiment, rhizome growth in nonsaline soil was small (3%) and at a very short distance from their parent plants. However, dispersal in saline soil was dramatically higher, with almost one-third of all daughter plants appearing farther from their parents. What was happening? These plants did not prefer saline soil, so they grew faster and farther to get away/out of it. The growth commitment to the extensive rhizome root system increased the rate at which plants in saline soil could encounter new territory.19 In many salt marshes, plant species can survive indefinitely with only minute migrations. Many salt marsh plants are known to be capable of long-range dispersal by ocean currents, such as saltwort (Salicornia spp.), which has seeds capable of floating for months.20
The vast diversity of seed dormancy mechanisms and treatments to overcome dormancy complicate a universal consensus on the definition of the word dormancy. A unique grass species (Orcuttia pilosa) starts life as a submerged aquatic seedling, develops floating leaves, becomes a tall, emergent grass when the water level drops, and then flowers within days. The grass seed germinates only when infested with certain fungi, which are abundant only when the pond is flooded. In years when their home pond has not flooded, the plant seeds have remained in the pond soil for up to four years, then germinated with rain. Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) also stores dormant seed in the mud, where it retains its viability for 15 years or longer.21
Flooding fills the gas exchange pores on seeds and limits oxygen transport. Depending upon the species and duration of flooding, seed growth ability varies. Some seed studies have seen plants emerge after four years (Schoenus nigricans, Carex appropinquata and C. davalliana).22 For example, bald cypress, water tupelo, and black tupelo seeds remain viable for extended periods of flooding. These seeds wait for floodwater to recede, then germinate. To quickly establish new areas created by flooding, cottonwood, willow, and sycamore seeds can germinate submerged in water.23
Most alpine tundra plants likewise reproduce through rhizomes; moreover their roots are 2–6 times longer and wider underground than the plant height above ground (Figure 1). Alpine plants can carry on rapid rates of metabolism when the ground begins to thaw. These plants rely heavily on food reserves stored in old evergreen leaves (another adaptation) and in large root systems underground.24 This enables the plants to rebound vigorously when spring arrives.
Figure 1. Alpine Draba plant with roots three times the bulk below ground. Image adapted from Atlas der Alpenflora.
Extreme Conditions and Effects on Plant Community Succession
When stripped of its original vegetation by fire, flood, or glaciers, areas of bare ground do not remain devoid of plants and animals for very long. The area is rapidly colonized by many types of plants. This newly colonized environment allows wildlife species and new plant species to become established, which in turn allow even other plants, mostly trees, to grow. The transitional series of plant communities that develop are called stages, while the final stable and mature habitat is called a climax community. Ecological succession is the term for the community’s development by action of vegetation leading to the establishment of new inhabitants. Succession is the universal earth process of directional change in vegetation during time. It can be recognized by the progressive change in the species composition of the community being observed.
The mechanism of vegetation succession (Figure 2) is foundational for wetland restoration and conservation, and has become a central issue of wetland science research. Although several factors (such as soil nutrients, moisture levels, and plant competition) influence the succession of wetland vegetation, water (hydrological) conditions are the most significant and complicated elements. Wetland hydrology includes water-level fluctuation, flood inundation probability, hydro-period related variables (start time, duration, and end time of flooding), and sedimentary material. The wetland landscape pattern can present habitat patches for adapting to hydrological processes at different levels. Changes in wetland landscape patterns can provide a comparative analysis of how wetland plants adapt and respond to flooding stress.
Figure 2. Plant succession (growth stages) from a ‘wet’ land to a mixed forest. Image adapted from U.S. Geological Survey by G. Allen.
Recent studies in China (1993–2010) and the United States (Mount St. Helens 1980–2015) show that recovery of plant and animal systems is faster than many people predicted, that this recovery progresses in stages, but also that adaptation to the environment is intrinsic: it is part of the primary nature of plants. In the Mount St. Helen study, much of the plant recovery was a trial-and-error process, with seeds blown in on the wind and animals traveling to patches of surviving plants. One kind of plant that thrived after the eruption—and assisted the landscape to be more suitable for other plants—were the lupins. These flowered legumes were some of the only plants that could grow on the pumice around the volcano. The volcanic rock is low in some essential nutrients, and is not conducive to most kinds of plants; lupins, however, can make these nutrients themselves, enabling them to grow and gradually add nutrients to the soil for other plants to grow. The initial devastation determined what could grow and what couldn’t, but the area gradually returned to a pre-disaster, mature-plant community with most of the previous plant species present in a short 30 years.25
In China, floods played a critical role in accelerating the process of wetland sedimentation, which in turn had significant influence on wetland vegetation succession. Fine sediments transported by floodwaters can provide accumulation of soil nutrients.
Furthermore, the deposition of these sediments in wetlands generally raises the elevation (slope) and decreases new flooding effects. Less than one percent (0.6%) of wetlands in this study were negatively influenced by flood duration. Extents of reed and meadow wetlands expanded and were gradually moving forward in a matter of less than two decades. The speed of sediment deposition generally determined the vegetation succession process.26
Making Themselves at Home
Environmental change is any change in an environment to which a plant must respond by species adaptation or individual physiological flexibility. Change can be gradual, such as from mountains or deserts forming, or a change can be quick, such as from floods, volcanoes, or earthquakes.
Discussion in Regards to the Noachian Flood
We see from Scripture that the first indication of plant life returning after the global Flood is the olive leaf that was brought back by the dove (Genesis 8:10–11). So instead of seeds or plants needing to survive for an entire year in or under water-soaked soil, they would have only had to endure water for a maximum of just over nine months, and those that had hitched a ride on large mats of vegetation or on carcasses could be germinating while protected from the harsh conditions.27
We don’t know how much mixing of fresh and salt waters would have occurred during the Flood or exactly what the salinity of the water was post-Flood.28 What we do know is, due to abundant dormant buds in the wood, olive is easy to propagate and was widely cultivated in ancient times.29 Olive trees are very tough and resistant to drought, disease, and fire. Moderately salt tolerant, these trees can live for hundreds of years. The olive tree root system is very vigorous and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above ground structure is destroyed. Branching side shoots or underground runners (suckers) sprout readily from olive stumps or broken branches. Since olive trees are this hardy, the concept of a floating olive tree sprig surviving and sprouting in a short period of time is completely reasonable, even after the catastrophic Flood.
Figure 3. Modern day depiction of a dead floating log with growing plants. Image by Superbass, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, depicts active effort by Noah and his family to preserve some types of plants (particularly food sources) while aboard the Ark.30 Noah would likely have preserved as many plants as he could. Noah may have preserved seeds and cultivated plants so that there would be fresh food to eat during the one-year voyage. Noah may have potted seedlings to preserve useful trees and shrubs. The Ark’s upper deck beneath the long window may have been specially designed to accommodate these plants, turning part of the Ark into a vast greenhouse.
Most plants could have survived outside the Ark upon floating rafts of vegetation as seeds and as debris that could have gone a long way toward propagation of at least some plant life in the post-Flood world.31 And this brief exercise demonstrates that it is conceivable that the rest of the post-Flood plants were recolonized both from seeds, which remained dormant during the Flood, and from vegetative propagation of one form or another.
Plants are extremely well adapted to specific growing elements, and since reproduction is a survival necessity, plants were equipped “from the beginning” with a variety of reproductive mechanisms. The precise, timely, and hardy responses to environmental changes by various plant-growing traits exemplify God’s awesome benevolence and intelligence in designing plants and enabling their survival even in a cursed world. As we have seen, following many climate or irregular earth process catastrophes, God’s creation was given an amazing ability to reestablish itself, and natural system recovery always begins with the appearance of plants.
Anthony J. F. Griffiths et al., “Genes, the Environment and the Organism,” chap. 1 in An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, 7th edition (W.H. Freeman, New York, 2000): https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/books/NBK21842.
R.O. Parker, Introduction to Plant Science (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2004), 277.
Yanxia Hu et al.,“Monitoring Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Flood Regimes and Their Relation to Wetland Landscape Patterns in Dongting Lake from MODIS Time-Series Imagery,” Remote Sensing 7, no. 6 (2015): 7494–7520, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279224526.
David Wright, “How Did Plants Survive the Flood?”
Andrew A. Snelling, “How Could Fish Survive the Genesis Flood?,” chapter 20 in The New Answers Book 3, ed. Ken Ham (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2010), 195–204.
D. Zohary and P. Spiegel-Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,” Science 187 (1975): 319–327 in Mohamed Chliyeh et. al., “Bibliographic Inventory of the Olive Tree (Olea europaea L.) Fungal Diseases in the World,” International Journal of Pure & Applied Bioscience 2, no. 3 (2014): 46–79.