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Catastrophic subaqueous deposition of the Coconino Sandstone and its equivalents during Noah’s Flood, western USA.


Principal Investigator:

John H. Whitmore (Cedarville University)


Participants:

Raymond Strom (Calgary Rock and Materials Services, Inc.)

Paul Garner (Biblical Creation Ministries)

Stephen Cheung (Calgary Rock and Materials Services Inc.)

Guy Forsythe (Crying Rocks Ministry)


Funding:

Institute for Creation Research

Calgary Rock and Materials Services, Inc.


The bottom line:

The Coconino Sandstone of Grand Canyon was rapidly deposited as submarine sand waves (consistent with Noah’s Flood) and not as dry, desert dunes (as traditionally supposed in the long-age model of earth history).


The Coconino Sandstone is the cream-coloured rock layer forming the prominent cliff in the middle of this photo of Grand Canyon, Arizona.

Recording strike and dip measurements on outcrops of the Coconino Sandstone along the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona.

Paul Garner and Dr John Whitmore presenting a research poster on marine sand waves at the 2011 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Technical summary:

Within the Grand Canyon, the Coconino Sandstone is perhaps the most difficult formation to reconcile within a Flood model of earth history. The conventional view is that the Coconino Sandstone represents ancient wind-blown desert sand dunes, which would have been impossible to form during a global Flood. The goal of this multi-year project was to investigate the nature and character of the Coconino Sandstone and to determine whether there was credible evidence (or not) for its subaqueous deposition. Combined within this project was the study of some associated sandstones in the western United States and Great Britain, which also have been interpreted as aeolian deposits by many authors.

This ambitious project involved nearly three-dozen field excursions (each lasting days to weeks) to both rock outcrops and sand dunes, and collection of samples. Additional time was spent in production and study of thin sections and laboratory and literature research. Besides the listed participants, many others helped both in the field and the laboratory. Many papers and abstracts were presented and published in a variety of places (see References). Further work is still being prepared for publication and peer review.

Our field studies and petrographic work revealed that the Coconino is not the well-sorted, well-rounded sandstone that many believe it is. Most commonly, the literature cites these textural descriptions along with steep cross-bed dips, large cross-beds, frosting and vertebrate footprints as the main evidences for aeolian deposition. More recently, it has been claimed that many ancient aeolian deposits contain climbing translatent ripple laminae which apparently do not have subaqueous equivalents. In the past, many believed the large sand-filled cracks at the base of the formation were mud cracks that opened in the Hermit Formation just before the Coconino desert encroached over the area. Our studies showed that the cracks are sand injectites (not mud cracks) formed by liquefied sand that was forced into the Hermit after deposition of the Coconino. Our studies also found over thirty positive evidences that the Coconino was water deposited including the presence of large soft micas and K-feldspars in the sand; dolomite beds, clasts, cement and ooids; parabolic recumbent folds; the nature of the strata in single cross-bed sets; the manner in which cross-beds approach the bounding surfaces; lateral and vertical marine interfingering; rounding and sorting patterns; current lineation structures, the character of the cross-beds and much more.

Our current hypothesis for the deposition of the Coconino is that it was formed by marine sand waves. Although a complete understanding of the sedimentary processes that happened during the Flood will be difficult to understand (because they occurred at such different scales and rates than those we observe today), we think sand waves may be the best starting place. Modern marine sand waves are formed by strong currents in relatively shallow water on the continental shelves. They are prominent features in today’s oceans. From the limited amount of data that has been collected from them, they appear to have grain sizes, sorting, cross-bed styles, cross-bed dips and sedimentary structures similar to what is found in the Coconino. Although marine sand waves are the best model at this time, we still have some issues to work out modelling exactly how these processes might have deposited the Coconino in a short period of time. However, the multiple evidences that we found and documented during this project show that subaqueous processes were clearly responsible for the deposition of this formation.


References

Anderson, C.J., A. Struble, J.H. Whitmore and M. Cheney. 2013. Micas in cross-bedded sandstones and their abrasional trends. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 45(7):128.

Anderson, C.J., M.S. Cheney, A. Struble and J.H. Whitmore. 2013. Muscovite survival in simulated (turbulent) eolian and subaqueous conditions. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 3:1.

Baechtle, K. and J.H. Whitmore. 2009. Characterization of sand in the Nebraska Sandhills. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 41(7):119.

Cheung, S., R. Strom and J.H. Whitmore. 2009. Persistence of dolomite in the Coconino Sandstone, northern Arizona, p.3 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Conference on Creation Geology.

Cheung, S., R. Strom and J.H. Whitmore. 2010a. Widespread dolomite in the Coconino Sandstone, Arizona, USA. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 42(5):108-109.

Cheung, S., R. Strom and J.H. Whitmore. 2010b. Persistence of dolomite in the Coconino Sandstone, northern and central Arizona, p.2 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Creation Geology.

Cheung, S.P., R. Strom, J.H. Whitmore and P.A. Garner. 2009. Occurrence of dolomite beds, clasts, ooids and unidentified microfossils in the Coconino Sandstone, northern Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 41(7):119.

Emery, M.K. and S.A. Maithel. 2011. Compaction of sand in the Coconino Sandstone. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 1:8. See page 3 of PDF file.

Emery, M.K., S.A. Maithel and J.H. Whitmore. 2011. Can compaction account for lower-than-expected cross-bed dips in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian), Arizona? Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 43(5):430.

Garner, P. 2008. Sandwaves as a model for the origin of thick cross-bedded sandstones: a preliminary survey, pp.8-9 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Second Conference on Creation Geology.

Garner, P. 2009. Grain size and textural characteristics of sediments from modern sandwaves: a literature review, pp.4-5 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Conference on Creation Geology.

Garner, P. 2010. Permian cross-bedded sandstones and their significance for global flood models, pp.2-3 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Creation Geology.

Garner, P.A. and J.H. Whitmore. 2011. What do we know about marine sand waves? A review of their occurrence, morphology and structure. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 43(5):596.

McMaster, K., J.H. Whitmore and R. Strom. 2010. A comparison of beach and dune sands along the southern Oregon coast, USA. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 42(5):311.

Maithel, S.A., L.R. Brand and J.H. Whitmore. 2015. Morphological analysis of “grainflow” cross-strata in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian), Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 47(7):589.

Maithel, S.A., L.R. Brand and J.H. Whitmore. 2014. “Ripple marks”, “slump features,” and “rainprints” in the Coconino Sandstone near Ash Fork, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 46(6):768.

Maithel, S.A., L.R. Brand and J.H. Whitmore. 2013. Morphology of avalanche beds in the Coconino Sandstone at Chino Wash, Seligman, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 45(7):126.

Maithel, S.A., P.A. Garner and J.H. Whitmore. 2012. Petrology of the Hopeman Sandstone (Permo-Triassic), Moray Firth Basin, Scotland. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 44(7):555.

Maithel, S.A., P.A. Garner and J.H. Whitmore. 2015. Preliminary assessment of the petrology of the Hopeman Sandstone (Permo-Triassic), Moray Firth Basin, Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology 51:177-184.

Maithel, S.A., J.H. Whitmore and R. Strom. 2010. Textural analysis of the Coconino Sandstone, Chino Point, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 42(5):426.

Olson, K. 2013. A comparison of the petrology of flat-bedded and cross-bedded Coconino Sandstone (Permian), Arizona. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 3:1-2.

Whitmore, J.H. 2010. Preliminary report and significance of grain size sorting in modern eolian sands, pp.8-9 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Creation Geology.

Whitmore, J.H. 2013. The Coconino Sandstone: old myths and new discoveries. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 3:2-3. See page 2 of PDF file.

Whitmore, J.H. 2015. Coconino Sandstone – the most powerful argument against the Flood? Answers 10(3):30-35.

Whitmore, J.H. and G. Forsythe. 2012. The significance of soft-sediment deformation in the Permian deposits in the vicinity of Sedona, Arizona. Journal of the Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 2:2-3. See page 2 of PDF file.

Whitmore, J.H., G. Forsythe and P.A. Garner. 2012. Significance of parabolic recumbent folds in Permian rocks, Sedona, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 44(7):556.

Whitmore, J.H., G. Forsythe and P.A. Garner. 2015. Intraformational parabolic recumbent folds in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) and two other formations in Sedona, Arizona (USA). Answers Research Journal 8:21-40.

Whitmore, J.H., G. Forsythe, R. Strom and P.A. Garner. 2011a. Unusual bedding styles for the Coconino Sandstone (Permian), Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 43(5):433.

Whitmore, J.H., G. Forsythe, R. Strom and P. Garner. 2011b. New finds in the Coconino Sandstone, Arizona. Journal of Creation Theology and Science Series C: Earth Sciences 1:8. See page 7 of PDF file.

Whitmore, J.H. and S.A. Maithel. 2010. Preliminary report on sorting and rounding in the Coconino Sandstone, pp.9-10 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Creation Geology.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2008. Aqueous facies transitions within the Coconino Sandstone, Arizona, pp.10-11 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Second Conference on Creation Geology.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2009a. Petrographic analysis of the Coconino Sandstone, northern and central Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 41(7):122.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2009b. Persistence and significance of micas in the Coconino Sandstone, northern Arizona, p.7 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Third Conference on Creation Geology.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2010a. Sand injectites at the base of the Coconino Sandstone, Grand Canyon, Arizona (USA). Sedimentary Geology 230:46-59.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2010b. Textural trends in the Coconino Sandstone, central and northern Arizona, USA. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 42(5):428.

Whitmore, J.H. and R. Strom. 2010c. Clay content: a simple criterion for the identification of fossil desiccation cracks?, p.8 in: Clarey, T. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Creation Geology.

Whitmore, J.H., R. Strom, S. Cheung and P.A. Garner. 2014. The petrology of the Coconino Sandstone (Permian), Arizona, USA. Answers Research Journal 7:499-532.

Whitmore, J.H., R. Strom and D. Faulkner. 2009. A preliminary hypothesis for the origin of the Carolina Sandhills. Creation Research Society Quarterly 46(3):233-234.