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Wilcox Coals and the Floating Forest/VeggieMat Young-earth Theories

Copyright 2004 G.R. Morton  This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.

Young-earth creationists have claimed that coals come from floating vegetation mats. These large mats stranded and left their plant material to form coal. See

The AiG site says:
"One can envisage (in addition to the sinking of waterlogged mat debris) portions of relatively intact mats being successively broken off and beached, only to be covered by sediment. Since these forest mat, would usually be entombed 'right side up', it explains why the stigmaria are generally underneath the coal, but not so the roots of the other plants; they were not dangling in water (as were the roots of the hollow Iycophytes), but growing in the higher-level 'nutrient mat' (which then became the coal layer). "

Now, one must realize how this stuff simply won't work. First there is the thickness problem. Plants have about 18% carbon; coal has about 90%. So if one converts the plants to coal with 100% efficiency, one has a relationship where one needs 5 feet of solid plant matter to make one foot of coal. So what does this mean? Consider the Jurassic coals of Siberia:

"In the Kana-Achinskian basin in the east (the Kana basin) the Jurassic is represented by a coal-bearing formation of 40 to 200 m in thickness. It lies on the Devonian and Lower Palaeozoic. In the west (the Achinskian basin), and more precisely in the Chulyin-Yenisei trough, the Jurassic reaches 600 m and at Chulym 1,200-1,300 m, and the proportion of coal also increases the total number of coal seams being 44 and the thickness of some of them 40-75 m." ~ D. V. Nalivkin, Geology of the U. S. S. R., translated by N. Rast, (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1973), p. 271

How much plant material must be beached by a floating mat to create a 75 meter coal seam? It is 375 meters, which is 1173 feet of plant matter must be deposited. This seems absolutely silly. First off, to strand that much plant matter from a floating mat would mean that the plants would need approximately 500 ft roots to reach the water (assuming that half of the plant material was above the water line). Secondly, the 1173 feet represents solid plant matter. One simply can't have that. There must be spaces between the trunks and roots so that air can get to the plant cells or they will die from asphyxiation. Assuming that there must be a 25% pore space, then the height of the floating mat must now be raised to 1500 feet.

So now we have the young-earthers implicitly believing that there are 1500 ft tall vegetation mats floating on the oceans. What a crock!

The M2 Seam in Australia is 150 meters thick! See Guy R. Holdgate and Jonathan D. A. Clarke, �A Review of Tertiary Brown Coal Deposits in Australia�Their Depositional Factors and Eustatic Correlations,� AAPG Bulletin, 84(2000):8:1129-1151, p. 1135

This means that the vegetation mat required to form it must have been 3000 feet thick. Does anyone see anything ludicrous in this concept?

One of the things that makes me know that veggie mat theory is wrong is the variability of some coal beds. The Wilcox formation in Texas is an area I worked 15 years ago when I was a consultant and had my own company. It consists of little more than sand and coal. If it isn't coal, then the lithology is sand. The region was called the Rockdale Delta because it was a delta for a sand rich river in the Eocene. I worked other parts of the Wilcox formation in Texas and we didn't find coal in most of it--only in the area of the Rockdale Delta (named for Rockdale, Texas)

I collected the coal thickness data from a three county area based on oil well logs. Each coal seam is very small in areal extent. This Wilcox coal is predominantly concentrated only in a 100 mile by 50 mile area in Fayette, Lee, and Washington Counties Texas. It then goes away until one gets into Louisiana and Mississippi. I really had to search hard through a set of old floppies to find this data among many many old 3.5's. I was delighted to see that I could still read them.

One recognizes a coal by it having high resistivity, low radioactivity, and a very small sand-like excursion of the spontaneous potential The logs below are all from a 200-250 acre Abstract in Fayette county. This is a tiny area of the delta. Note how variable the coal is. It isn't in a flat pancake-like setting like creationists think. How do we get veggie mats to give us this amount of variability? There are 5 wells. I have sorted the seams by depth. If the depth was only off by <4 feet in two wells, I considered them the same seam. The first number in the column for each well is the depth; the second is the coal thickness. Note that the number of coal seams encountered by the wells varies from 17 to 21 seams.

What strikes me is that each well has a unique pattern of coal seams. Given that these wells are within 2000 feet of each other, it is odd that they would each have a unique pattern of coal seams. How does the veggie mat theory do this? And tell me how this pattern arises in a global flood? :

eddie  1   cooper 1     schultz 1   lange 1     leigh 1  
fayette     fayette       fayette   fayette      fayette 
a312         a312           a312     a312        a312 
                                                 4885  3 
                                                 5120  4 
            5134  2                                                 
                                                 5172  6 
                                     5178  4             
            5190  4                                        
                                                 5204  4 
5221  3     5218  3                                             
                          5232  5                              
                          5254  2                5254  8 
5282  6     5280  4                  5280  4                
            5285  4       5302  8                             
5318  4                              5334  4               
5380  6                                                             
            5340  5                              5412  10 
            5398  10                 5364  3              
5430  2                              5420  9             
5436  5                   5452  12                         
                                     5470  6             
5496  10                                                            
            5502  12                 5535  9     5510  12 
5528  4                                                   
            5540  4                                       
            5556  8                                       
5572  10                  5558  9                          
                                                  5572  2
                          5630  5
5608  2     5610  6                               5607  5 
                                     5614  11             
                                                  5622  8 
                          5644  6                           
5648  6                                                   
5662  8                              5660  2      5660  4 
                                                  5688  4 
                                     5702  8              
5710  6                              5714  10            
                          5720  4                          
5728  4                   5732  4                           
            5755  6                               5772  9 
                                     5768  4              
                          5794  8                          
5850  14                                                 
                                     5904  8              
                                                  5964  8 
            6032  4                               6030  5 
6046  7                                                   
            6060  3                                        
                                                  6068  6 
                          6098  3                           
6102  4                                                   
                                                  6108  4 
                                      6116  10             
                                      6120  10             
                          6125  5                          
            6146  12      6150  4                          
            6165  4                   6168  6             
6190  10                                                 
                                      6204  6             
                                      6230  5             
                          6254  4                          
6258  12    6260  4                                       
                                      6296  10            
                          6368  3                          
            6380  3                                        
                                      6402  4           
6505  4                                                   
                          6692  6                          
6722  5                                                   
                                      6728  5           
                          6764  5                           
                          6296  16                         
                          6550  6                          
                          6668  2                          
                          6784  6                          

With this much variability, a vegetation mat seems unlikely. The concept that these coals were deposited in a delta in abandoned oxbow lakes makes much more sense. This is especially true when you think about the 16 foot coal seams which requires an 80 foot high pile of vegetation for it to be formed. Why wouldn't a wave from the flood knock it over?

The entire veggie mat theory of coal formation simply makes no sense.

Once again, do the young-earth creationists have any explanation? Why don't the Young-earth creationist leaders show their followers this kind of data?

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