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Evidence from the Orkney Islands Against a Global Flood

Copyright 2002 G.R. Morton . This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.

On April 5,6 and 7, 2002, I spent time in the Orkney Islands seeing the archaeological sites. The Orkneys lie north of Scotland and are a beautiful treeless, windswept, set of isles.  They lie at 59o N latitude and have hosted powerful nations at least twice in history. The first was around 3100 BC and the second around the time of Christ. It is a wonderful place to visit if you want to see wildlife, archeological sites older than the pyramids and geology.
While there, I did take a look at the geology of the Old Red Sandstone and one particular place, the Yesnaby Sea Stacks at Neban Point, Orkney Main Island illustrated exquisitely why the idea of a global flood simply won't work. Neban Point is on the west coast of the Orkney Mainland and the Stacks refer to the flagstones which are hundreds of feet thick.  The entire Devonian succession here gets as thick as 5-6 kilometers. The Old Red Sandstone thickens from northern Scotland, across the Orkneys and towards the Shetland Islands. Woodcock writes.
"The main fill of the Orcadian basin is of Mid-Devonian age and reaches 4 km thick in Caithness and at least twice this in Shetland. The fill is conformable on Lower Old Red Sandstone rocks in the basin centre but in angular unconformity at the basin margin, where the older rocks had been rotated about curved normal faults." N. H. Woodcock, "Devonian Sedimentation and Volcanism of the Old Red Sandstone Continent," in Nigel Woodcock and Rob Strachan, editors, Geological History of Britain and Ireland, (London: Blackwell Science, 2000), p 212
The deposits are lacustrine (lake) and contain fish, stromatolites and numerous burrows.  The thing that caught my eye at the Yesnaby Sea Stacks was the horizontal burrows.  These burrows are parallel with the bedding of the sediments.  I didn't see any vertical burrows although I know there have to be some. The thing which fascinates me is the claim made by young-earth creationists that burrows in the sediment are due to animals trying to escape the flood and thus they are digging upward trying to escape burial. Scheven writes:
"The very preservation of a surface with trace fossils, however, betrays it practically instantaneous formation and this the more so as the producers of the tracks etc are regularly absent, i.e. swept away with the same current that transported the sediment. Whole series of trace fossil horizons within one rock unit only strengthen this view. The most obvious proof for the transient nature of these alleged sea floors are the 'escape shafts', i.e. sediment-filled tunnels within the sediment that terminate at the surface. In this form typical of Lower Palaeozoic sandstones, they are usually ascribed to the activity of some trilobite." Joachim Scheven, "The Flood/Post-Flood Boundary in the Fossil Record," Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, (Pittsburgh: Creation-Science Fellowship, 1990), p. 247-266, p. 251
The Yesnaby burrows make that claim false.  Below is a picture of a piece of the Old Red Sandstone I brought back with me. The burrows are the raised ridges and they are parallel with the strata.

Burrows like these are found on layer after layer. And there are thousands of layers!  If the sediment was raining down on this area at a rate of 25 feet per hour, the entire population of burrowers should have died in the first layer.  The usual YEC response is that the burrowers dug out and then recolonized the new surface and dug. Besides requiring frenetic activity on the part of these invertebrates, it simply isn't backed up by the facts.  These burrows are horizontal and the animals don't seem to be digging out. They are digging through the sediment. And there are thousands of layers of sediment with these burrows on them. Here is a closeup of the layers. Only the very thinnest layers don't have burrows.

One can see the massive number of layers by looking at the cliff which is about 1/4 mile away. Those are also layers in the foreground. Most of these layers have horizontal burrows.

And on some of the layers are stromatolites in which some of the thin layers drape over mounds and thus could not have been deposited rapidly. Each thin layer is slightly thicker  on top of the mound due to algal growth. The yellow thing at the left is a roll of mints.

In short, the horizontal burrows show that the worms were not trying to escape burial as many YECs want to say.  And the vast number of layers is also a problem for the young-earth creationist.  There is no reasonable explanation for how so many individual layers are deposited in such a short, turbulent flood.
Below is a Osteolepis macrolepidotus from very near the Yesnaby Sea Stacks from my personal collection. It is from one of the stratigraphic equivalent of the darker shale beds seen in the photo 2nd above. The problem for the global flood is that these fish are found buried and then covered by beds with horizontal burrows.  Fish are found on more than one level and that makes it very difficult to account for in the global flood.  The rock which contains the fish shows no signs of burrows.  So we have layers with burrows, then no burrows then burrows, then no burrows etc.  I wish some young-earther would try to explain how that happens in the global flood.

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