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Canadian Coal Not Formed Catastrophically

Copyright 2003 G.R. Morton  This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.

Young-earth creationists have tried to explain coal bed formation by means of floating mats of vegetation. seehttp://www.answersingenesis.org/Hom...20to%20text%201Another web site puts it this way:
"Dr. Steven Austin wrote his doctoral dissertation at Penn State University on a new model for coal formation based on his study of a coal field in Kentucky. While geologists have used a peat swamp model to explain coal formation for over 100 years, Austin argued that explanation doesn�t fit because coal is coarsely textured like bark, not finely textured like swamp peat. Swamp peat contains root material; coal does not. Swamp peat rests on a layer of soil; coal often rests on a rock layer. No swamp peat has been found partly formed into coal. "
       "Austin advanced a floating mat model--that a watery catastrophe stripped away millions of acres of forest and tangled them into mats. The mats floated on an ocean over Kentucky, bumping against one another and dropping their bark to the bottom. Subsequent volcanic activity provided heat and pressure, the final ingredients used in laboratories to produce coal. The result was rich seams of coal in Kentucky and a Ph.D. for Austin. " http://www.creationism.org/sthelens/MSH1b_7wonders.htm 

These floating forests were supposed to be dumping vegetable matter underneath them on the ocean floor and or they were buried entirely by the flood to create great coal seams. Along with this, it is often claimed that we don't see coal seams forming today. This, of course, is quite different from the views of the way coal is formed.

An alternative view of how coal forms has the mats grounding out on shallow parts of the flooded earth.  As a mat was grounded, it was then covered by sediment and another mat then grounded.  By this process one is supposed to build up the multiple seams are supposed to be built up. 
Creationists claim that there are no roots beneath coal beds. Andrew Snelling stated:
�Well if we look at  beneath a coal layer do we find the roots with which the plants grew in the swamp? No we find clay. Clay that was once volcanic rock. Clay that has no roots in it.� Andrew Snelling. Raging Waters, Keziah Productions, Answers in Genesis Distributors.

There are several things wrong with these views. First, roots are found beneath coal beds in the rocks underneath. What I am going to show is something sent to me by a 20-yr experienced Canadian coal geologist, Kevin Sharman. I am deeply indebted to him for allowing me to use these photos. The first picture shows the outcrop in broad view. There is a sandstone on bottom and the coal seam on top. The root zone is marked by the arrow. These coals are part of the Cretaceous Gates formation, which contains eight to eleven similar coal beds. And the Gates formation is one of seven formations which contain coal. From from oldest to youngest, the formations are: the Bickford/Gorman Creek Fm., Gething Fm., Gates Fm., Boulder Creek Fm., Dunvegan Fm., Kaskapau Fm., and Wapiti Fm. 

 These pictures are from the Quintette Mine near Tumbler Ridge in Western Canada. The mine is now closed.
In this picture below, some of the roots actually extend down to the level of the camera. They are faint but if you look closely and the slightly darker grey lineaments above the camera you will see them.


An enlargement of the root zone will show the roots. They are the grey dendritic discolorations in the sandstone.



Some roots of considerable size are found in these basal sandstones. The following root is about a foot below the coal and is about 3/4 of a fingerlength wide at that depth.


If we look above this root, there is a root system which clearly radiates from a point where the trunk of an ancient shrub lived.  Below is that picture. You will see the very top of the root above at the bottom of the picture below.  The skyline marks where the base of the coal used to be. I increased the brightness and contrast of the original photo to show this feature.

One geologist, who prefers to think in terms of a global flood, claims that coal is due to vegetable matter falling from floating mats of vegetation. He further states that the roots fell and basically stood on their ends while the last of the sand filled in around them. But a look at the radiating root system above, shows how false this view is.  If that radiating root system above fell in water, the laws of physics would have turned it upside down. The center of gravity will be close to the radiating point and that will mean that it would preferentially either fall on its side or turn completely upside down. Even while falling through the water, frictional forces would want to turn it over, keeping the narrow end in the direction of fall.
It is also difficult to explain why the roots seen in the next photo sit at an angle.

Below is another picture of roots radiating from places where plants used to grow.  One critic, a coal geologist who prefers to think in terms of a global flood, wonders why shrubs would be found rather than trees.  This is due to ecological succession.  Shrubs would be the first colonizers and trees would come later when enough time had passed. 

These roots look like they come from two or three different plants.
Below is a picture of the underclay of another of the many vertically stacked coal seams.  In this case, it isn't a sand below the coal, but a shale.  One can see the roots here also. The presents insuperable problems for the young-earth paradigm.  Two vertically stacked coals show signs of having grown in place. This takes more than a year.  It is quite impossible for two vertical sets of plants to grow in a single one year flood.  And as noted above, there are several stacked coal seams in this area.


Such pics never seem to make it into YEC books and magazine articles.

Kevin Sharman, the geologist who sent me these pictures points out, quite correctly that the grounded mat view doesn't make sense. Every one of the coal seams in this area of Canada contain different plants and fossil remains than those which occur in the Appalachian basin. He notes that in his opinion (and I agree) such sorting of floating mats is not possible in a global flood. One should see mixtures of mat types if such a view is correct. Why would the flood waters segregate mats by plant and animal type, when both are being tossed about by the waves of the global flood?  It makes no sense.
This geologist also notes that there are dinosaur tracks among these strata which clearly shows that the land was at or above sea level.  Throughout the geologic column one can find footprints and that means that the waters of the flood could be no deeper than the leg length of the animals.  Sometimes, in some places (not in the above deposit), the tracks are of spiders.
He also notes that there are paleosol (ancient soil profiles) in these formations.  They take time to form as well. seehttp://home.entouch.net/dmd/paleosol.htm for information on paleosols.

The second thing wrong with the floating coal mat theory is that in a world covered with water, the floating mats would float everywhere, over the continents and off the continents in the ocean basins. Yet, coals are only found on the continental platforms. Not a single coal seam has ever been found in the sediments in the deep waters of the ocean. Why? What in the global flood would prevent floating vegetation mats from floating out to sea? If the floating mat theory were correct I would expect that there would be 70% of the coal seams in the ocean floors and only 30% found on the continents because that is the proportion of sea to continent. But what we find is 100% of all coal seams on the continents. All the YECs have to do to disprove this is find a single coal seam in water depths greater than 1000 feet deep. Texas A&M university has sponsored deep sea drilling projects in every ocean basin around the world. Not a single DSDP hole has come up with coal in water depths greater than 1000 feet. This puzzle needs and explanation.

The third thing wrong with the floating coal mat theory is that it can not explain why rivers left meandering channels full of sand. These paleoriver channels can be followed across several counties in Illinois.  Below is a channel in the Harrisburg No. 5 coal.  The two maps show where the meandering sandstone channel is in two different counties.  The YECs need to ask themselves how did a floating vegetation mat drop a meandering pile of sandstone?

Here is what the authors say about this:
"Figure 4 (modified from a map by Trescott) shows that the No. 5 coal
underlies all of the area except for the locality of a meandering channel
averaging about three-quarters of a mile in width in the main alluvial
valley. ~Harold R. Wanless, James R. Baroffio, and Peter C.
Trescott,"Conditions of Deposition of Pennsylvanian Coal Beds," Geol. Soc.
America Spec. Paper 114 pp 105-142 (1969), p. 115-116, in Charles A. Ross
and June R. P. Ross, Geology of Coal, (New York: Hutchinson Ross Publishing
Co., 1984, p. 95-96


Another coal shows that the sandstone was in place when the coal was deposited on top of it.  the coal seam thins above the sandstone channel:

"In contrast, other examples are known where a widespread coal thins
markedly over a major sandstone channel. Such an example is the Colchester
(No. 2) coal of western Illinois, which is generally 26-30 inches thick
over large areas and thins to 16 inches over the channel of the Browning
Sandstone in Schuyler County. This channel evidently was filled with
sediment at the time of coal accumulation, and greater compaction of the
shale caused the channel area to stand higher topographically.
"In Saline County, southern Illinois, Trescott mapped the thickness of the
Harrisburg (No. 5) coal in an area where the coal had been tested
extensively with the diamond drill. Here, also, is an area of no coal, a
meandering sandstone cut-out channel about one-quarter mile wide.
Elsewhere within the 10-square-mile area of the map, there are all
gradations in thickness between 0 and 9 feet."~Harold R. Wanless, James R.
Baroffio, and Peter C. Trescott,"Conditions of Deposition of Pennsylvanian
Coal Beds," Geol. Soc. America Spec. Paper 114 pp 105-142 (1969), p. 117,
in Charles A. Ross and June R. P. Ross, Geology of Coal, (New York:
Hutchinson Ross Publishing Co., 1984, p. 9


The uniformitarian view of how coal forms explains both the roots above, the channels in the coal and the reason why no coal is found in deep water. Coal forms in swamps along coastal plains.

And we do find significant seams of coal being formed today.

"Peat deposits cover 48,000 km^2 on the lowlands of Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia." ~ Supardi, A. D. Subekty and Sandra G. Neuzil, "General Geology and Peat Resources of the Siak Kanan and Bengkalis Island Peat Deposits, Sumatra, Indonesia," in J. C. Cobb, and C. B. Cecil, eds. Modern and Ancient Coal-Forming Environments, (Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America, 1993), pp.45-61, p. 45

"The peat accumulated in the past 5,000 years after stabilization of sea level following the rapid sea-level rise during glacial retreat. In the interior area of the peat deposits, the initial peat accumulation rate was rapid (4-5 mm/yr) for approximately 1,000 years; the rate decreased to less than 2 mm/yr for the past 3,500-4,000 years." ~ Supardi, A. D. Subekty and Sandra G. Neuzil, "General Geology and Peat Resources of the Siak Kanan and Bengkalis Island Peat Deposits, Sumatra, Indonesia," in J. C. Cobb, and C. B. Cecil, eds. Modern and Ancient Coal-Forming Environments, (Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America, 1993), pp.45-61, p. 45

Do the math, we are talking about 11-12 meters of peat accumulated in this 48,000 sq. km area.


The above AiG article talks about Pennsylvanian plant which had hollow interiors. The Cretaceous roots above are from plants which are not hollow but solid. Thus Weiland's article simply doesn't apply to these cretaceous coals.

I would love to see the global flood explanation for roots growing in a marine sandstone beneath coal during the global flood.
How does one do that? How do they explain 7 coal seams there each home grown? Can any YEC explain this?

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