pegmatite

Quickly Cooling Crystals

Notice the bent and cracked rocks by the presidents' faces at Rushmore. Notice the little white streak on the right side of Washington's forehead

Notice the bent and cracked rocks by the presidents’ faces at Rushmore. Notice the little white streak on the right side of Washington’s forehead

The bright morning sun glistened off the different colored rock crystals, all squeezed together into a block of granite rock.  “Oh look!  There’s schist, and I think that’s pegmatite!”  I declared, delightedly leaning as close as I could to the jumble of shining rock on the other side of the railing.  Mount Rushmore was great, but this nerdy rock-lover was more interested in the surrounding rocks than the actual carving of the presidents’ faces.   The rocks were beautiful to look at, but how they got here today is an incredible story.

Some of the original rock here may have been made on creation week, when God first separated the waters, making land.  That original rock was heated and squeezed by pressures that likely came from Earth’s moving plates near the beginning of the flood, transforming it into the shimmering rock, called schist. This was one of the rock types I saw below the presidents at Mount Rushmore.  The other main type of rock I saw there was granite.  Granite formed when underground magma (basically the same as lava, just underground) squeezed up into the schist rock that was already there and cooled into the hard rock that the presidents’ faces are carved out of at Rushmore.

If you look closely at George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, you will notice white streaks across their foreheads.  Those streaks are made up of a special type of granite, called pegmatite.  What makes pegmatite different from regular granite?  Just the size of its crystal grains.  If you’ve ever seen a granite counter top, polished smooth, you can tell that it’s made up of a bunch of tiny colorful mineral crystals.  Pegmatite is the same, just made up of bigger mineral crystals.  Some granite counter tops will also have a streak of bigger crystals (pegmatite) going through the regular smaller crystals.

Small-grained granite

Small-grained granite

Traditionally, geologists who wanted to believe that Earth is millions of years old would have said that the bigger the crystals, the more time it took to form.  But, research has shown that large pegmatite crystals can form much quicker than expected because of water in the magma. Forming these pegmatite crystals is basically a cooling process, and water speeds up this process, helping it cool faster. In general, putting water on something hot (e.g., a pan or hard-boiled egg) will help it cool down faster because as the water evaporates, turning to steam, it will take away some of the heat-energy from the object.  The same basic idea applies to pegmatite. Water mixed into the magma helps it cool faster than normal by taking some of the heat-energy and forming the big crystals of pegmatite granite that we can see as white streaks on two of the presidents’ foreheads at Mount Rushmore.

Pegmatite is not the only thing that cooled faster than normal because of water.  There were giant blobs of magma, called “batholiths”, that cooled and hardened into granite like the rock the presidents are carved from at Rushmore. The presence of water would also help these giant underground heat chambers cool, but cracking from the fast cooling would also speed up their cooling.  Pretty much all granites around the world are cracked, showing evidence of rapid cooling. In the end, it’s not about how much time you have, but about the chemistry and physics of what is happening. What’s so important about getting cool rock? It all points back to the global flood.  Both at the time of original creation the flood and , water would have gotten trapped in magma, helping cool the magma into the granite rocks that we have today.  You don’t need millions of years to make granite – you only need the right conditions.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, December 2016

Reference

  • Snelling, Andrew and Woodmorappe, John. Rapid Rocks: Granites … They Didn’t Need Millions of Years of Cooling. December 1, 1998. Originally published in Creation 21, no 1 (December 1998): 42-44. Answers in Genesis.  Last accessed 12-2-16 https://answersingenesis.org/geology/geologic-time-scale/rapid-rocks/
  • Marshark, Stephen.  Earth: Portrait of a Planet. , Third Edition. 2008. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Page 168-9.
mount-rushmore-1

Facing the Facts

The late summer evening glow of the setting sun made the trees and rocks of the South Dakota Black Hills reverberate with a final splash of brilliant color before darkness cloaked their splendor for the night.  My flip-flops seemed to echo loudly off the smooth pavement, trying to keep up with my excited pace.  Briefly, I stopped at the eye-catching view: a broad, smooth pathway lined with state flags from around the U.S. framing the giant heads of four presidents on the distant peak.  They still looked small from this far away.  Standing at the end of the pathway, I leaned on the stone railing as I watched the sky get darker and the faces on the hill side suddenly lit up, one by one.  Watching the evening lighting of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, I heard stories about the carving of this incredible monument.

From a distance, the carvings look small, even though they're 60 feet tall

From a distance, the carvings look small, even though each face is 60 feet tall

But, how can we really know that Mount Rushmore was created by people, and that it’s not just a cool, naturally made rock formation?  After all, there are some stunning “natural” rock formations, made without human involvement.  Just look at Arches National Park, or some of the odd rock formations I’ve written about, like balanced rocks or boulders that stack together to look like a fruit bowl or crab (find those articles here).  Those odd rock formations were not stacked or carved by people.  Why do we insist that Mount Rushmore must have been made by some very special efforts of people?  Isn’t that a bit closed-minded?  I wasn’t there before those faces appeared, so how can I know for sure what caused them? Let’s go over four simple reasons we can know these faces in the rocks were purposefully carved by intelligent people:

1) Written & retold stories

Visiting Mount Rushmore, books, pamphlets, signs, and park rangers will tell you the stories of exactly how and when these faces were carved into the rock.   They include very detailed information, like names and other facts about all the men who worked on it, dates when work was started and finished, copies of original plans, and explanations of how they did it. Also, those stories can be confirmed by writings of other people from that time.

2) Intricacy

Although made of the same granite as the rough rocks around it, the faces of these presidents are smooth and detailed.  They show unique facial features and personality, including eyes, hair, and even some clothing.

3) Re-designed several times

Because of the way granite breaks and cracks, the intelligent artists/engineers had to re-design their plan several times over the course of the project.  They were able to notice problems with their patterns and change their designs to suit the needs.

4) Incredible likeness

Faces of the four American presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, gazed confidently out of the hill side.  But, of course, these were not the real presidents – they were only sculptures of rock. Yet, looking at each of those stony faces, we remember the people they portray.  They were purposefully made to look like the faces of real people. Those faces were carved so that people could remember who they were and what they did.

All the natural world – all of creation- was specially designed by an intelligent Person.  Our Creator, the God of the Bible, gave us a detailed, written account of how and when He did it.  We see His fingerprints in the intricate details of design of atoms, animals, the universe, and us. God, in His wonderful fore-knowledge gave living things (animals, humans, plants) the ability to just slightly alter their “construction plans” if needed.  Living things have the special ability to adapt, within limits, to meet the challenges of their environments. Finally, God made humans to reflect His face, constantly reminding others of Who He is and what He has done.  My friend, YOU are His masterpiece – not to be selfishly shown off for how special you are, but to show off the talents of your Designer, constantly reminding people of the One who created you and made a plan to redeem you, too.

© Sara J. Bruegel, November 2016

milehigh1

Stepping Mile-High

Looking down from the steps of the Colorado State Capitol building

Looking down from the steps of the Colorado State Capitol building

“ . . . Eight, nine, ten” our group chanted as we climbed the grand stone steps, voices ringing loud and clear in the early evening air.   “ . . . Eleven, twelve, thirteen!” We stood all together and posed for a picture, there on the thirteenth step of the Colorado state capitol building in Denver, standing exactly one mile above average sea level.  Denver, Colorado is known as the “Mile High City”, but most of the city sits slightly lower than the exact 5,280 feet that make one mile.  The area right around the state capitol building is a small hill, making it a little higher than the rest of the city.  Looking at the front entrance of the elaborate building, the fifteenth step is clearly engraved with the words “One Mile Above Sea Level”, but there are also two brass markers on other steps that say they mark exactly one mile. One above the engraved letters, on the eighteenth step, and another below them both on the thirteenth step. Of course, I wondered, which one is right?

Three steps said they were exactly one mile above sea level, but only one could be right.  Looking closely at the markers, I noticed that the inscription on the lowest bronze marker included the year, “2003”.  But, the other bronze marker was difficult to read and the engraved step did not include dates or other details.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that when the Colorado state capitol building was first built in the 1890’s, the fifteenth step (the engraved one) was found to be the mile-high sweet spot.  Later, in 1969, it was re-surveyed by students of Colorado State University and the eighteenth step was marked as being one mile high.  Using modern technological advances to re-measure in 2003, the thirteenth step was marked as being exactly one mile – 5,280 feet – above sea level.

Looking at the three different mile high markers on the steps of the Colorado state Capitol building

Looking at the three different mile high markers on the steps of the Colorado state Capitol building

Satellites (like GPS) and numerous other tools from modern technology have enabled people to make more accurate measurements over the years. I had to wonder . . . how big of a difference does each step of the Colorado State Capitol building make? Looking at those steps that seemed far apart, but realizing exactly how high each step is compared to the one mile height helps put them into perspective. If you compared the height of one step to a mile, it would be the same as comparing:

  1. A single coffee bean compared to the length of a football field,
  2. The width of a single red blood cell to the height of a six-foot man, or
  3. The period at the end of this sentence to a twelve-foot high ceiling.

Can you imagine trying to measure something so accurately?  It’s no wonder the official mile-high step measurement has changed over the years.  When it comes to the tiny, precise differences of measurements, we can clearly see that human ability and intelligence is limited.  All people (including scientists) are finite.  We cannot get everything perfect, much as we would like to.

But, God knows and perfectly controls details that are way smaller and more significant than we can ever begin to grasp.  He controls and perfectly orders details that keep atoms together, edits the DNA in our bodies, and shields us from more dangers than we could imagine. The Lord perfectly orchestrates the rising and setting of the sun, changing of the seasons, beating of your heart, and the forces that keep everything from disintegrating or worse.  Our mighty Creator, the God of the Bible, knows the number of hairs on your head and the number of hours you will spend on earth.  He knows every thought that has ever popped into your head.  He can arrange perfect timings for bumping in to a friend unexpectedly or convicting your heart to pray for someone right when they need it.  That same Person, the King of the universe, wants to draw you to a closer walk with Him every day, growing and loving Him more every day.  Be sure to seek Him with your whole heart and choose to humbly acknowledge that His ways are always right.

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered”

~Matthew 10:30

© Sara J. Bruegel, November 2016

References:

Mountains from Colorado Springs.  Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel 2015

Corruption and Creativity

Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel 2015

Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel 2015

Clomp, clomp, clomp.  My high-heeled boots hit the tile floor as I walked.  As if floating on air, my friend lightly ran across the open room towards me, full of excitement.  “Want to see the invitations?” She asked as she pulled out a beautiful floral card. “Wow! You made this?!” I exclaimed as I examined the intricate pattern of water color painted flowers and perfect calligraphy writing.  She nodded. I was amazed by her creativity and ability to design the card so perfectly with all the right proportions, shapes, and colors.  Seeing her creativity reminded me a little bit of God’s incredible creative power and ability in making the real flowers she was imitating on paper.  God made us in His image and imitating Him brings Him glory. Human creativity can be a beautiful way of imitating God.

A few months before admiring my friend’s art work, I can fondly remember enjoying fragrant blossoms similar to the ones painted by my friend.  Among those fragrant blossoms, there was a big, beautiful monarch butterfly.  But, as I got closer to the butterfly, my delight that it was holding still enough to take pictures of it turned into a tender sadness seeing that it was not only dead among the white flowers, but a spider was making a feast out of the poor butterfly (read more about the butterfly and spider in “Monarch of the Garden“).  Destruction is a sad flip-side to the creativity and beauty we see around us.  Flowers die, creatures eat each other, things break, and colors fade.  Though some were saved for keepsakes, most of the copies of the beautiful invitation my friend made would end up in the trash or crumpled.

018

Spider eating a monarch butterfly

Although in science, the basic concept of things falling apart into disorder is entropy, there is something much deeper to this disorder.  What do you think of when you see the word “disorder”?  My desk is one thing that comes to my mind, and it usually gets that way due to my neglect, just letting papers pile up and things migrate there.  Disorder on my desk is a passive act – I’m not actively or deliberately cluttering, but merely not taking the time to put things away where they belong. The “disorder” or entropy throughout the natural world is sometimes passive, like the desk example or rooms that constantly need to be dusted, but it’s also an active corruption.

Corruption is the opposite of creation.  True creativity brings life and renewal, while corruption brings destruction and death. God originally created all things good and perfect, but when sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, it opened up His beautiful masterpieces to corruption.  Passively, things began to go downhill toward disorder.  Animals and people began to feel the effects of aging and death.  But there was also an active, growing corruption.  Animals that were originally all created as vegetarians ate each other and people became selfish, violent, and evil.  Corruption destroys, breaks down, and misuses things, bringing death.

Lone Cone Mountain near Naturita, Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, April 2015

Lone Cone Mountain near Naturita, Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, April 2015

Corruption is not the end of the story, though.  One thing in particular I’ve noticed and loved about my creative-minded friends, like the one who made the invitation, is that they know how to work with what they have (even broken, corrupted things) to make something beautiful or useful. God does the same thing – though His original creation has been corrupted and misused, He can re-create it into something beautiful.  We can see this by looking at mountains or fossils formed because of the judgmental global flood. We can also see this by looking at the way God equipped animals with what they need for survival and beauty in this harsh, broken world.  God does marvelous acts of re-creation in our ideas and people groups.  In our culture today, many people have corrupt ideas and uses for God’s creation of the family and marriage, but He can even help us re-create and renew our minds from lies and brokenness. The most mind-boggling acts of re-creation that God does is in the hearts of individual people.  Remember, no matter how far you’ve gone or how much brokenness and corruption you may have in your heart, nothing is too small or too big for God to re-create.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come ~ II Corinthians 5:17

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

"Fish-Within-A-Fish" at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kansas

Feasting Fish

My excitement and nervousness rose as the powdery gray dust puffed up from where both my friend and I carefully chipped away at the flaky gray rock, revealing tiny areas of black, little by little. Those little areas of black were not rock, but part of the fossil we were excavating.  And they weren’t just any part of that fossil – these little black sections of bone belonged to the skull and gill areas of a large fish fossil. It had been almost a year since we had found this four-foot long fish fossil (read about the original find in Fishy Finds), and here in the final stages of excavation and preparation, uncovering the skull would be essential to properly identify what kind of fish we had.  From the skull, tail, and other features, it was determined that this fish fit best under the genus, Gillicus.

The Gillicus fish fossil from Kansas finished with the longest stages of excavation

The Gillicus fish fossil from Kansas finished with the longest stages of excavation Sara Bruegel (L) and David Mikkelson (R)

There is another very interesting Gillicus fish fossil from the same region of Kansas.  Not only was this fish preserved in rock, but it was also preserved inside a larger fish! This Gillicus was about six-and-a-half feet long, but in the belly of a different type of fish that was about thirteen feet long.  Together the two make up the famous “Fish-Within-A-Fish” fossil.  A display replica of the two can be seen at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kansas.  According to “Oceans of Kansas” paleontology research website, this “Fish-Within-A-Fish” is probably the most photographed fossil in the world.

Of course, when we see the “Fish-Within-A-Fish” fossil, we tend to think right away that the bigger fish must be eating the Gillicus.  Although it’s important to not jump to hasty conclusions about fossils, judging by the other fossils found in the area and other fossils preserved while eating, it seems reasonable to say that the Gillicus probably was being eaten.  The larger fish may have “bit off more than it could chew” and died due to the squirming of the smaller Gillicus inside of it.  Whether the larger fish died for this reason, or just due to the perils of the global flood, we can tell that they must have been buried very quickly together to be beautifully preserved, like we see them today, without getting picked to pieces by other creatures in the sea.  A normal ocean environment like we see today could never preserve fish like these – their burial is much better explained by mud flows from a catastrophic, global food.

Dragonfly Fossil.  Photo Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, February 2016

Dragonfly Fossil from the Solnhoffen. Photo Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, February 2016

Similar fossils have been found in Kansas and other places as well, like the Solnhoffen formation.  This rock formation in Germany features tons of different spectacularly preserved fossils, including extremely delicate jellyfish and dragonflies. One of these German fossils is a set of three creatures making a food chain – a pterosaur that just swallowed a small fish, but got dragged into the water and drown by a larger fish.   All three were preserved together, and the small fish inside the pterosaurs’ throat looks like it hasn’t been digested yet.  This set of violent fossils, like the Kansas “Fish-Within-A-Fish”, must have been buried extremely quickly to be preserved.

Although these creatures are eating one another and dying, they have been beautifully preserved.  Death and destruction were not part of God’s original “very good” creation, but a result of sin (evil) coming into the world through Adam and Eve.  Yes, there was pain, death, and destruction during the flood and we still have them today.  But, take a look at the message we can see through these fossils.  We see death and destruction in these fossils, but we also can see spectacular preservation in them.  Although sometimes God’s justice will require death and destruction, His mercy can do wonders preserving and making something beautiful out of it, and it was because of His great love that He created them (and us) in the first place.

© Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

References:

Spider web strung between bridge railings .  Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, September 2014

Master of Web Design

A gentle fog lingered in the autumn morning air.  As I walked across the damp grass, I was excited to see the rain gauge after the stormy day before.   I stopped suddenly to gaze at the glistening barrier between me and the rain gauge.  Dew drops clung to the thin, lacy spirals of the large spider web strung across my path, right in front of my face.  I watched a little bug struggling near the center of the nearly invisible sticky trap.  Suddenly the host spider ran out to catch her prey, do her work quickly, and run back to a safe corner. The spider either saw me or decided it was getting much too light for her taste, because soon after her meal was taken care of, she began to quickly and carefully disassemble her web.  Spiders definitely aren’t my favorite type of creature to keep in the house, but there is something very alluring and beautiful about their webs.

Spider web with mist on it. Notice the spider in the middle - it is wrapping up a bug it caught

Spider web with mist on it. Notice the spider in the middle – it is wrapping up a bug it caught

A spider uses very special glands and incredibly tiny, intricate structures to create its silk and spin that silk into just the right kind of thread for the job.  There are several different types of silk thread a spider can make and use for the right purpose.  There are special types of silk for making an egg sac or wrapping up their freshly caught meal.  When a spider weaves its web, it first creates a y-shape to anchor the web, and builds other support strands that look a lot like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.  The silk for these supporting spokes is not sticky.  After those supporting strands are made, the spider will make a quick “auxiliary spiral” made of non-sticky thread to keep it together and act as a pattern for the sticky spiral.  This sticky spiral silk is made with a special glue that will help catch the bugs that the spider will eat.  The spider waits on a sensitive area of the web and pounces out, tiptoeing carefully on the non-sticky threads, and wraps its meal in a different type of silk.

A spider’s silk, though incredibly thin and flexible, is stronger than any man-made fiber.  Not only are the silks perfectly designed to be sticky, strong, flexible, and easily taken down, but the web is also incredibly engineered.  When under pressure, the whole web will gently bend.  But if the pressure becomes too much, the part of the web under the most pressure will actually stiffen and crystallize, actually causing just that section to break. The rest of the web stays intact and can easily be repaired.  In fact, a web with a few strands broken is actually specially designed to be even stronger than the original web! Not only were spider webs specially made to be able to break and be easily fixed, but the structure of an ordinary orb web looks very similar to a flower when they are both put under an ultraviolet light.  This tricks some bugs into thinking they’re headed to a nice flower when they are actually about to be trapped in a spider web.

Thinking about all of these amazing features of just a spider’s web (not even the spider itself) that scientists still cannot make on their own should turn our eyes towards the Master Web Designer, God, Who created the way spiders form webs.  Some people try to say that the spider and other creatures are just a product of random-chance accidents over millions of years, but the ability to make a web with all the right types of silk spun the right way and with the right chemicals, then woven in an ideal structure would require way too many different things to be “just right” all at once.  Fossil spider webs that look just like the orb webs we see today have been found preserved in Amber in the same layers as dinosaur bones (buried in the Jurassic rock group).  This was a big surprise to people who held to the view that spiders evolved slowly over long periods of time.  The spider web shows intricate patterns of being perfectly designed from the beginning, just a few thousand years ago.  Next time you see a spider web, before you brush it away, take a minute to marvel at its design and praise our Creator.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

References:

  • Sarfati, Jonathan. Spider silk: both strong and smart. Creation Magazine 34(3):56. July 2012. Creation Ministries International. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://creation.com/spider-silk-strong-smart
  • Sarfati, Jonathan. God’s webspinners give chemists free lessons. Creation Magazine 23(2):20–21. March 2001. Creation Ministries International. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://creation.com/god-s-webspinners-give-chemists-free-lessons-creation-magazine-spider-silk
  • Sherwin,Frank. 2006. Spiral Wonder of the Spider Web. Acts & Facts. 35 (5). Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/spiral-wonder-spider-web
  • Thomas, Brian. 2012. The Masterful Design of Spider Webs. Acts & Facts. 41 (4): 16. Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/masterful-design-spider-webs
  • Thomas, Brian. 2012. Scientists Decode Key to Spider Web Strength. Evidence for Creation:::God’s Design Is an Engineering Wonder. Published March 19, 2012. Institute for Creation Reseach. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/scientists-decode-key-spider-web-strength
  • Thomas, Brian. 2009. Amber-Trapped Spider Web Too Old for Evolution. Evidence for Creation. Posted November 20, 2009. Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16.
    http://www.icr.org/article/amber-trapped-spider-web-too-old-for
  • Wilson, Gordon. The Ultimate Web Designer. Design in Nature. March 13, 2016. Answers Magazine. Answers in Genesis. Last accessed 10-14-16
    https://answersingenesis.org/creepy-crawlies/ultimate-web-designer/
digging-clay-3

Colorful Colorado Clay

Sara Bruegel sorting through clay - some chunks are colorful

Sara Bruegel sorting through clay – some chunks are colorful

Wham-splat! The pick axe hit the muddy wall, then stuck there.  I pried it off and scooped off the wet, heavy chunk of clay into a debris bucket. Behind that chunk I noticed a rich variety of colors. Amid the mundane grays and browns, there were shades of a lovely sage green and nearly lilac purple.  They were quite stunning, but their colors really only showed when they were wet, either from being newly exposed to the air or after rain.  Once those chunks of color dried, they became much more muted, blending with the other colors around them and losing their vividness.

Digging through this mud was in some ways easier and in other ways more difficult than digging through the hardened mudstone of the Morrison formation, excavating dinosaur bones. It was a blessing that the rain decided to stay away from the dig site or only give us a light afternoon sprinkling during the weeks of the dinosaur dig.  I had heard many stories of what it was like trying to go up and down the steep hillside of the dig site after heavier rains.  The bentonite clay would not only feel thick and heavy on durable hiking boots, but also make that hill like an extremely slippery mud slide.  But, this clay also has a story to tell.

Dry, cracked clay

Dry, cracked clay

The dinosaurs buried here in the Brushy Basin part of the Morrison formation, same as Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, are surrounded by bentonite clay.  This clay comes from volcanic ash, formed shortly after the ash settled. Different parts of the Morrison formation have more or less of this volcanic ash, but the Brushy Basin has the most of it.  Finding this ash in the mudstone burying dinosaurs gives us some important clues to how these dinosaurs died and were buried – there must have been some kind of volcanic activity.  Like I mentioned in last week’s article on the burial of these dinosaur bones (read the article Bone Mix), seeing this evidence of volcanic activity points towards the “fountains of the great deep” that broke up during the flood, like the Bible mentions in Genesis 7.

At this Colorado dinosaur graveyard there were many bones all jumbled up.  We see evidence of a violent death and sudden burial – some dinosaurs are still put together while other bones are thrown into the mix.  There are clues that point us to a disaster – ashes from a volcano.  Yet, seeing the way those striped rock layers looked from a distance at sunset, and the vivid array of colors up close in the clay I was thinking about how beautiful they were.  Yes, we see the destruction and judgement from the flood, sent by our perfectly good Creator because of sin, but we also see the miracle of God’s tender mercy to turn even death and ashes around and make them into something spectacularly beautiful.  Truly, this green, purple, gray, and brown clay is literally beauty for ashes

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” ~Isaiah 61:3

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

Below is a short video showing what the clay is like very wet from a previous year – thank you to David Mikkelson for this video footage

References:

  • Keller, W.D. Clay Minerals in the Morrison Formation on the Colorado Platau. 1962. US Geological Survey Bulletin 1150.  Last Accessed 10-7-16. http://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/1150/report.pdf and extended abstract: http://www.clays.org/journal/archive/volume%207/7-1-293.pdf
  • Austin, Steven A. and Hoesch, William A. 2004. Dinosaur National Monument: Jurassic Park Or Jurassic Jumble?. Acts & Facts. 33 (4). Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-7-16. http://www.icr.org/article/dinosaur-national-monument-park-or-jurassic-jumble/
  • Grim, Ralph E. and Wahl, Floyd M. Bentonite. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of the Geologic Sciences.  Page 53. 1978.

 

Working on preserving another fossil just exposed beside a bigger previously found one - probably a sauropod leg bone

Bone Mix

Working on the Colorado dig site Photo credit: David Mikkelson, 2016

Working on the Colorado dig site
Photo credit: David Mikkelson, 2016

I could feel the bright sunlight beams gently warming my back as they slowly made their way around the nice shade.  Sitting up tall on the ground, I traded my chisel and hammer for a water bottle to give my eyes a quick break from the careful work around a delicate fossil. Looking across at my fellow-diggers, I asked how progress was going. They were finding more fossils . . . one that could be pretty big and complete, going deeper into the rock below, another that looked very interesting. Brows furrowed. Oh dear: another fossil.  That could be discouraging to find on a dinosaur dig, right? We all laughed.  In general, people would think that finding another cool fossil on a dinosaur dig is very good and exciting – and it really is exciting!  After all, discovering and digging fossils is the point of a paleontological dig.  But, working in Colorado, the fossils are so close together and usually all jumbled up, making it hard to properly excavate one fossil without running into or endangering other fossils.

One of the touchable fossils, displayed at the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument

One of the touchable fossils, displayed at the quarry

Digging up fossils in the Morrison Formation in Colorado is a little like playing a game of “Pick-up Sticks”, but using huge, fossilized leg or shoulder bones from a dinosaur instead of thin, plastic sticks.  Just as the sticks can get tangled together and mixed up, making it challenging to remove one of the sticks without disturbing the others, getting the desired fossils out carefully can be a challenging puzzle.  In the same rock formation, but west of where I was digging, some historic dinosaur finds were made near Vernal, Utah.  Of course, the paleontologists digging there encountered the same problems I did – the rich mines of bone upon bone made it practically impossible to take out some of the fossils.  They decided to go a different route with these fossils.  Instead of taking them entirely out of the rock formation, they built a 150-foot-long building around the steeply tilted layer, partially exposed fossils and all, making them into a museum of their own – known today as the Quarry Exhibit Hall of Dinosaur National Monument.

At Dinosaur National Monument and where I was digging in the Morrison formation, you can find many dis-articulated fossils, with bones separated and all mixed up with bones from different dinosaurs.  But, at the same time, there are some articulated dinosaurs, that have either sections of bone or most of the animal in the right order.  I could clearly see this looking at the wall of bones at Dinosaur National Monument – there was one Camarasaurus with its neck clearly bent backwards and most bones in their rightful places.  While there have been several old-earth models trying to explain how these fossils came to be preserved as we see them today, there are a number of problems with each of them.  The model currently taught at the quarry exhibit essentially says that these dinosaurs died beside a river, and were periodically buried by normal flooding along the banks.

Camarasaurus replica at Dinosaur National Monument

Camarasaurus replica at Dinosaur National Monument

But, taking a closer look at these fossils and the rock in which we find them reveals some big problems with  this model and other models.  Spread across several states, the sandstone from this section of the Morrison formation includes more than 4,000 cubic miles of volcanic ash and rock.  These are not the types of pebbles and sand you would expect to find along a river.  Furthermore, there aren’t any nearby volcanoes that this ash and rock would have come from in the currently taught model.  If the dinosaurs were buried where they lived (like according to the river model), we would expect to find plants buried with them, but only a few petrified tree trunks are there.  Preserving some articulated dinosaurs mixed with disarticulated fossils would also be difficult to explain in the local-flooding river model.

 

Part of the Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument. Mostly disarticualted and some partly articulated fossils shown here. Petrified wood is circled at the top

Part of the Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument. Mostly disarticualted and some partly articulated fossils shown here. Petrified wood is circled at the top

Instead of slow burial along a river, what if we use the Biblical global flood a model to explain how these dinosaurs were buried?  Volcanoes would have been going off underwater (the “fountains of the great deep” in Genesis 7), providing the ash and volcanic rock buried with the fossils.  Dinosaurs would have been swept away, swirled with logs and other things, separating some of their bones and carrying them away from their normal environment.  Other dinosaurs would have tried to outrun the flood before finally being buried with the scattered bones of their friends.  Rather than merely animals living and dying by a nice river, these dinosaurs are a monument to the catastrophic, global flood mentioned in the Bible.  It’s a monument to the justice of God met together with His preserving mercy, using even His judgement to make some spectacularly beautiful things – including the rock formations and fossils we see today.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, September 2016

References:

  • Personal visit to Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Exhibit Hall. Vernal, Utah.  August 2016
  • Answers in Genesis. July 31, 2008. Wonders of Geology: Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Last accessed 9-30-16
    https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/dinosaur-national-monument-in-utah/
  • William A. Hoesch and Steven A. Austin. 2004. Dinosaur National Monument: Jurassic Park Or Jurassic Jumble?. Acts & Facts 33 (4). Last accessed 9-30-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/dinosaur-national-monument-park-or-jurassic-jumble
Working on the Colorado dig site
Photo credit: David Mikkelson, 2016

Behemoth Burial Ground

The author on the dig in Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

The author on the dig in Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

Ping, ping, ping! Thud. Thud. The high pitched clanging of hammer and chisel against hard rock mixed with the dull noises of digging picks hitting damp clay.   Dark blue-gray clouds tauntingly circled the sky above, showering rain in the distance, but conveniently avoiding the ridge where our group was excavating enormous dinosaur bones. Last month, I spent several weeks in Colorado working on a paleontological dig site and learning more about dinosaur bones.  The dig was in western Colorado, close to the Utah boarder – a region well known for a variety of different dinosaurs, fossils, and incredible rock formations.

The rock layers we dug in are part of the Morrison formation. These Morrison rocks are classified as part of the Jurassic rock group, which means these dinosaurs would have died during the Biblical global flood about 4500 years ago and been buried during the middle part of the flood   (more about rock groups and the geologic column here).  As the team excavated these dinosaur bones out of the rock, we were uncovering parts of a dinosaur bone that had not seen the light of day since that dreadful global flood. Whether it was another long rib or giant vertebrae, each discovery of a new section of bone sticking out was filled with mixed excitement and mystery.

Made to scale sauropod model next to a man

Made to scale sauropod model next to a man

Some of the most memorable fossils were from sauropods – those enormously heavy four-footed, long-neck dinosaurs. Although the bones were not fully identified in the field (final identification and intricate preparation is done in the controlled environment of a lab), one of the fossils we excavated looked like a sauropod leg bone.  Seeing this giant bone and knowing that it was just part of one of these creatures’ legs was truly something to marvel at.  While visiting some other fossil museums in the region, I saw leg bones to even larger sauropods, including a humerus (front leg bone on the top, connecting to the shoulder) of a western Colorado dinosaur, originally named “Ultrasauros macintoshi”.  The naming of this dinosaur was debated, and now the bone is thought to belong to a Supersaurus.  These Supersaurs could weigh up to 100 tons.

Leg bone of a s

Leg bone replica of a Supersaurus in Colorado

The awe-inspiring size of these dinosaurs reminds me of what the Bible has to say about Behemoth in the book of Job, chapter forty.  The creature described in this passage has bones like bars of iron and a tail like a Cedar tree.  While some Bible commentaries say that this “Behemoth” must be an elephant or a hippo, neither of those animals have tails that look anything like a Cedar tree.  Overall, this Biblical description is a much better fit for a sauropod dinosaur.  Just as this passage in Job reminds us of the power, glory and sovereignty of God by describing an enormous sauropod, may you be reminded to worship our Creator when you see or think about these awe-inspiring dinosaurs.

Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you; he eats grass like an ox.
See now, his strength is in his hips, and his power is in his stomach muscles.
He moves his tail like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
His bones are like beams of bronze, his ribs like bars of iron.
He is the first of the ways of God; only He who made him can bring near His sword.
Surely the mountains yield food for him, and all the beasts of the field play there.
He lies under the lotus trees, in a covert of reeds and marsh.
The lotus trees cover him with their shade; the willows by the brook surround him.
Indeed the river may rage, yet he is not disturbed;
he is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth . . .”
~ Job 40:15-23~

The author under a diplodocus (Type of sauropod) display in Utah. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

The author under a diplodocus (Type of sauropod) display in Utah. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

Article Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, September 2016

References:

  • Harold Levin.  2010. The Earth Through Time, 9th edition.  Pages 430-34.  John Wiley & Sons Inc.  United States.
Ankylosaur - photo credit, David Mikkelson, 2012.  Used with permission

SeaSick-Saurus

A type of hadrosaur (Corythosaurs) model at the Sternberg Museum. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, June 2016

A type of hadrosaur (Corythosaurs) model at the Sternberg Museum. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, June 2016

Wait -what?” The question echoed in my mind when I first glanced at the display back in one of the corners of the museum.  “Oh really? Now, That’s awfully interesting!”  I thought, my excitement rising and interest becoming more piqued as I continued to study the display.  There was something very different about this display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. Most of the other fossil displays were about sea creatures or pterosaurs that would have soared above the waters.   However, this display was about hadrosaurs and ankylosaurs – dinosaurs.  They were land animals, found in the Niobrara formation with fish, clams, mosasaurs, and pterosaurs . . .  the very same layers in which I was digging for fossils that week!

Why in the world would there be fossils of land animals buried together with all of those sea creatures? Using the viewpoint of evolution and an old earth (millions of years), the Niobrara rock formation in Kansas is thought to be an ancient sea in the middle of North America.  Supposedly, fossils of the creatures living in this sea formed when the creatures died and were covered by mud at the bottom of the sea, slowly preserving them over the course of many years. To explain why we have land animal fossils buried with sea creatures, the evolutionary model says that when the waters rose and flooded, some of the surrounding land it picked up and drowned some land-dwelling dinosaurs.  As the story goes, those dead dinosaurs would have floated farther into the sea, with their bodies full of gasses and made a nice snack for sharks and other sea creatures with a hearty appetite and been buried with the remains of sea creatures and the things they ate.

Corythosaurus (type of hadrosaur) skull - like one type of dinosaur found in Kansas

Corythosaurus (type of hadrosaur) skull – like one type of dinosaur found in Kansas

Fish Fossil from Kansas

Fish Fossil from Kansas

Taking into account all of the rock and fossil formations of the area, there are a number of problems with this evolution and long-ages model, and the Biblical global flood gives a much better explanation for what we see in Kansas and worldwide.  Yes, this area of North America would have been underwater during the global flood of Noah’s day.  Sea creatures would have lived and died in the drastically swollen waters created by the flood.  They probably would have enjoyed snacking on the decaying land animals, floating in the water above, like the small armored dinosaur, Niobrarasaurus (a type of ankylosaur).  Some of the land-dwelling dinosaur fossils from Kansas have been found with shark tooth marks.

Niobrarosaurus (type of ankylosaur) foot bones display at the Sternberg Museum. Photo opyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

Niobrarosaurus (type of ankylosaur) foot bones display at the Sternberg Museum. Photo opyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

Beginning with one of the first American dinosaur bone diggers, Othniel Marsh (more about him here), and continuing through 2007, eight different land dinosaur discoveries have been made in Kansas.    One of the first ankylosaur plate armor sections discovered was thought to be part of a turtle shell, but after being looked at in more detail, this case of mistaken identity was cleared up.  With the ideas of long ages and no global flood firmly set in the minds of people examining these plate armor fossils, it took them a while to figure out what the fossil really was. The ideas and starting points in their minds made it hard to come to the right conclusions about the fossils they saw. In a similar way, if we allow our minds and hearts to be influenced or swayed by the messages bombarding us every day in this world, we can set ourselves up for “mistaken identities” as well.  Be sure that you stay firmly grounded in the Truth of God and His Word so that you can properly identify the people, ideas, and circumstances you encounter.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, August 2016

References:

  • Mike Everhart. Niobrarasaurus coleii. Remains of a plant eating dinosaur from the Smoky Hill Chalk. Copyright © 2003-2014 by Mike Everhart. Last updated 03/08/2014. Last accessed 8-5-16 http://oceansofkansas.com/Dinosaur.html
  • Mike Everhart. New specimen of shark scavenged dinosaur (hadrosaur) remains from the Smoky Hill Chalk (Upper Coniacian) of western Kansas. Copyright © 2005-2014 by Mike Everhart. Oceans of Kansas Paleontology. Page created 06/19/2005. Updated 03/08/2014. Last accessed 8/5/16. http://oceansofkansas.com/New-dino.html