Since this is a rather long article, I am starting off with a short summary of the main findings:
Fossil trees are found on virtually every continent. Sometimes they are found lying prostrate on, or upright — and extending — above the surface of the ground; however, in most cases such trees are buried entirely within the strata itself, in either prostrate, oblique, or upright positions. When many upright trees are found in one location, they may be termed a “fossil forest.” In the United States alone such “forests” have been found in Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Washington state. Similar deposits are found in England, Germany and France. However, the most extensive such “forests” in North America are in Western Nova Scotia, near the town of Joggins. Here, along the coast of the Bay of Fundy, approximately 14,000 feet of sedimentary strata is exposed in the face of the cliffs with large sections containing upright fossil plants and trees. Similar deposits are also in Northern Nova Scotia along the coast near the town of Sydney, and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the Province. The beds at Joggins and Sydney consist mainly of alternating layers of sandstones, shales, coals and coaly shales, along with mudstones, clays, and occasional limestones. In many cases argillaceous material (i.e. clay) is mixed in with the shales and sandstones.
This paper examines, or rather re-examines, various sections of the Joggins and Sydney strata that were, at the time of publication, said to be in situ forests which were inundated again and again by what are often referred to as localized river floods.
The evidence presented herein suggests that the upright fossil plants and trees in the Nova Scotia strata were not buried in their original places of growth, but rather were uprooted by catastrophic influences, transported and re-deposited by water, perhaps by a Worldwide Flood. Evidence is also presented, both for and against the allochthonous and autochthonous theories of coal formation. This evidence suggests that the long-held autochthonous (in situ) theory for the accumulation of this coal may be incorrect.
For the past 150 years the Nova Scotia strata has been interpreted by most geologists as in situ continental deposits laid down on river flood plains. According to Dr. John Calder, this interpretation is “too restrictive” and others (such as myself) believe that this view is incorrect. One of the first things which led me to question this interpretation were the drawings themselves. It seemed strange to suggest that many of the fossil trees have “extensive root systems” yet the pictures and drawings of them do not.
The term polystrate fossil1 is now often used to describe fossil trees that are upright in relation to the surrounding strata. Such trees quite often traverse multiple layers of horizontally deposited strata: including sandstones, shales, and sometimes even coal seams. 2 Upright fossil plants range in size from small rootlets, to trees over 80 feet long. 3 Nova Scotia, has perhaps more upright fossil trees and plants than any place on earth. At Joggins alone, erect trees and plants occur at over 50 “levels” scattered throughout 7,500 feet of strata; erect roots and rootlets occur at many more levels. Drifted plants and trees also occur in many sections of this strata. These drift deposits are scattered over more than 10,000 vertical feet of strata. 4, 5, 6 Most of the upright fossil trees at Joggins are from 2-15 feet in length. The longest was 40 feet. 7 Many, if not most, of the upright fossil trees at Joggins have little or no visible traces of roots. 8 In addition, many of the larger Stigmaria roots are missing their rootlets and many, if not most, rootlets are buried individually: unattached to any tree, or larger root. 8, 9 Fragile fossils such as leaves are also common in the Joggins and Sidney strata.10 Animal tracks, insects, and rain marks are also found, although they are not nearly as common. The strata at Sydney is also said to be very similar to that of Joggins. 11
Obscure Journals and Old Books
Although there is enough data on fossil trees, tree stumps and roots to perhaps fill a 200-400 page book, much of it is only accessible with access to large University libraries, document provider services, and from books over 100 years old: half of which is in German.12 One of the few articles in English that was devoted to this topic was by Prof. Rupke. In it he remarks that:
“… I am of the opinion that the polystrate fossils constitute a crucial phenomenon both to the actuality and the mechanism of cataclysmic deposition. Curiously a paper on polystrate fossils appears to be a ‘black swan’ in geological literature. Antecedent to this synopsis a systematic discussion of the relevant phenomena was never published. However, geologists must have been informed about these fossils. In view of this it seems unintelligible that uniformitarianism has kept its dominant position.” 13 **
This was also hinted at by Schrock when he stated that:
“No attempt has been made to compile an extensive bibliography on the subject of buried stumps, trees, and similar structures, but the following references contain the essential literature: …” 14
And while Schrock’s references were used in the preparation of this paper, they are only a small portion of the available data on this subject.
Are Present Deposition Rates the Key to the Past?
The a priori assumption of many geologists is that the massive flat-lying, sheet-like, sedimentary deposits which are stacked, one upon the other, and found throughout the world took hundreds of millions of years to deposit. Such a hypothesis is known as uniformitarianism; however, it is inadequate to account for much, if not most, of the fossil-bearing strata. Some people, who pride themselves as truth-seekers, seem to think that they must, at all costs, force-fit their conclusions so that they always fall into an evolution-based / semi-uniformitarian / Old Earth philosophy. Others pretend as if they won the debate long ago with regard to how we arrived on Earth, and that it should “hereafter never… be questioned”. 15 Unfortunately for the cause of science, this has resulted in an almost paranoia of writing anything that remotely resembles a catastrophic viewpoint. For to do so might subject one to ridicule, risk alienating colleagues, and perhaps endanger one’s very career in the field of evolutionary thought – also often referred to as “science.” In other words, an evolutionary view, no matter how unscientific it may be, is the only opinion that will be tolerated when discussing our origins. Therefore an Old Earth is absolutely essential, and those who challenge it are often labeled enemies of “science,” or “religious” fanatics in an attempt to quickly dismiss the data, and the debate, no matter how valid the contrary evidences may be. For if the Time-curtain is lifted all can (and likely will) see that the evolutionary house must be torn down — leaving the entire scientific community with nothing at all to say regarding our origins, and therefore greatly reducing their priest-like positions of societal influence.
Therefore, in an attempt to quell the debate, the only type of floods that are allowed in the “scientific” literature today are small localized ones. Thus, the sedimentary strata from the Coal Measures of Nova Scotia are often said to have taken many millions of years to deposit. For example, consider the following proclamation by Ferguson with regard to the Joggins strata:
“These layers of sediment were originally laid down more or less horizontally but are now tilted to the south at an angle of about 20 degrees…” with “the top of the layers to the south, so as you walk northwards up the beach towards Lower Cove you are actually passing by progressively older rocks, retracing the earth’s history perhaps hundreds or thousands of years with every step.” 16 **
Sir William J. Dawson, or John W. Dawson, was the author of Acadian Geology. Dawson’s book provides us with what is perhaps the most detailed description of the Joggins strata in print. It was first published in 1855. Later editions followed. Dawson was a protégé of Sir Charles Lyell, and although he was a Christian who believed in a Creator and rejected the philosophy of evolution apart from Divine intervention, he nevertheless accepted the theory of uniformitarianism, and taught that many of the upright trees at Joggins and Sydney were entombed in their original positions of growth.
Examples of Upright Trees from the Joggins area:
The drawing below shows an erect tree overlying the Joggins Main Coal seam. 17 This is the only tree from the Joggins area that Dawson depicted which also has attached roots. Details with regard to its burial and their implications are discussed below.
15 foot tree imbedded in layers of Sandstone and shale
1. Shale and sandstone. Plants
with Spirorbis attached;
2. Sandstone and shale, 8 feet.
3. Gray sandstone, 7 feet.
4. Gray shale, 4 feet.
5. Gray sandstone, 4 feet.
6. Gray shale, 6 inches. Prostrate
and erect trees, with rootlets;
leaves; Naiadites; Spirorbis
on the Plants.
7. Main coal-seam, 5 ft. in two
8. Underclay, with rootlets. (An
erect coniferous-? tree, rooted
on the shale, passes up through
15 feet of the sandstones and
shale.) p. 198
Comments on the 15 foot Tree:
The most obvious evidence for rapid burial is the tree itself: that it was buried before it had time to decay, and that its top is as well-preserved as its base. The roots are about two feet long and appear to be truncated. The fact that its top was broken off is a clear indication it was taller, perhaps by another 5-10 feet. The fact that its roots appear to be truncated suggests that it may have been uprooted from its original place of growth, and re-deposited in this strata. Note also that this tree was thought by Dawson to be coniferous, and that such trees (at Joggins) are almost always found in “drift” strata, and are discussed in greater detail in Part Two of this paper.
Although it is possible that the roots of this tree were not broken off, but only appear that way because the cliff-face below the tree may have fallen out. However, if this were the case we would expect Dawson to have said so. We would also (still) expect to see small rootlets below the tree, yet such are not depicted. This suggests either that there were no rootlets present or that Dawson omitted them. However, since he did record such rootlets in the underclay of level 8, and in other drawings it seems unlikely that he would have omitted them unless there were none to record.
The Calamites: Calamites are extinct segmented plants similar to Equisetum or Horsetail. Virtually all of the Calamite fossils at Joggins are preserved as sandstone casts. In some cases the outer bark appears as a thin layer of carbonaceous material. The fact that Calamites are preserved as casts is an indication that they had hollow interiors. In the 1855 edition of Acadian Geology, four of the Calamites are depicted with their lower parts missing. This suggests that the Calamites also may not be in their original positions of growth but rather were part of the marine drift deposit of section 1. It also suggests that later drawings of this section were altered to give the in situ interpretation for the Joggins strata — and thus the swamp theory of Coal formation — a greater degree of acceptance.
Note: It is entirely possible the later altered drawings (from 1868 on) were simply an innocent mistake; however, it is also possible that Dawson both knew about it and/or approved of the changes. This may also be the reason for his seemingly arbitrary division between the “Shale and sandstone” of section 1, which according to Dawson contained drift-plant fragments, from the “Sandstone and shale” of section 2.
Lack of Distinct Soils: There is an absence of a distinct soil in sections 2 and 4, where the Calamites and the tree roots are entombed. This is indicated by an almost complete uniformity of the surrounding sediments, and by the fact that they are layered.
Horizontal Strata: The fact that this strata displays a high degree of lateral continuity suggests that there was little time between deposition of the layers. Even if only a few years separated each layer then we would expect to see evidence of this in the form of erosion between the layers. The fact that we don’t see this suggests there was very little time between the deposition of these layers. 18
Extremely Thick “Layers”: The fact that sections 3 and 5 are not stratified, but rather composed of a single, homogeneous “layer” suggests rapid deposition. The “layer” in section 3 is seven feet thick. The fact that the tree crosses the entire layer negates the possibility that it was deposited slowly over hundreds or thousands of years. This strongly suggests that these (two) layers were probably laid down in a very short period of time — perhaps only minutes, hours or days apart.
The Coal: Although it is not apparent from the picture above, the coal in the main seam is also layered or stratified — an indication that the coal itself was deposited as sedimentary layers of decayed plant or animal remains. This layering is clearly evident in the detailed view of this drawing. 19, 20
If this coal formed as a result of multiple forests, then we should see evidence of this in the form of bioturbation: which would (in theory) erase or prevent layering. This is what Dawson said with regard to the ‘underclays’ 21 so why should it not apply to the coals as well. Furthermore, if this coal resulted from a slow-growing forest, then we would not expect fragile fossils such as leaves and fern fronds to be well-preserved within the laminations, yet they are. In fact, according to Dawson, some of the coals at Joggins are composed almost entirely of leaves.
The Mysterious 40 Foot Fossil Tree:
“Let us now endeavor to form an idea of the trees of this singular genus. Imagine a tall branchless or sparsely branching trunk, perhaps two feet in diameter, and thirty feet in height. (One has been traced to the length of forty feet in the roof of the Joggins main coal-seam ).” 22 **
This is all the information Dawson provides. He doesn’t say whether it was upright, or inclined, or prostate; but, he does provide one valuable piece of information: its location.
Lyell’s account (of the Joggins strata) :
“Wither I went to see a forest of fossil coal-trees, the most wonderful phenomenon, perhaps that I have seen, so upright do the trees stand, or so perpendicular to the strata … trees 25 feet high, and some have been seen of 40 feet, piercing the beds of sandstone and terminating downwards in the same beds, usually coal..” 23 **
If these two trees were one in the same, then not only was this tree upright, but it may have pierced more than just sandstone. This is because, according to Dawson: it was “in the roof of the Joggins main coal-seam.” Note that the 15 foot tree pictured previously is itself in the roof of the Joggins Main seam.
We are only given two more clues. One is on page 165 of Acadian Geology (1868 Ed.) where Dawson says that there are “Erect trees at one level.” The other is Dawson’s drawing above where “erect” trees are at two levels. Therefore, the 40 foot tree may have been at the same level as the 15 foot tree, or it may have been with the other stumps in section 6 of Dawson’s drawing (section 7 below ). Therefore, if these trees were one in the same, then the drawings below provide some idea what it may have looked like.
40 foot tree passing through sandstone, shale and coal
In either case, it would have passed through the coal seam between sections 2 and 3 above. This seam is (or was) from one to four inches thick. 24 This strongly suggests that this seam, and the strata around it, was deposited in rapid sedimentary fashion. Perhaps this is why Dawson and Lyell provided so little information and why neither of them provided an illustration?
In one publication, Dawson mentioned large prostrate trunks in the roof of the Joggins Main coal seam: one of which was 30 feet long; 25 however, Dawson never said whether the 40-foot tree was prostrate or erect. In spite of his silence in this regard, it seems that some have interpreted (?) this to mean that the 40 foot tree was prostrate.26 Although this is possible, it seems more reasonable that the 40 foot trees that were mentioned by Dawson and Lyell were one in the same (tree), and that Dawson didn’t say it was prostrate because he didn’t want to lie, yet he didn’t want to say it was upright because an upright tree of this size that traversed multiple beds of strata (including a coal seam) would not have helped the in situ hypothesis for coal formation: something that both Dawson and Lyell were trying to prove.
After the first writing of this paper, it was discovered that Dr. Abraham Gesner also reported seeing a 40-foot fossil tree in this strata as well, and he mentions it on p. 159 of a book he wrote on the Geology and Mineralogy of Nova Scotia in 1836. So it is possible that Dawson and Lyell were simply referring to what Dr. Gesner reported — and/or by personal communication with him.
If however, these trees were not one in the same, then (from a geological perspective) it means that we know virtually nothing about the largest upright tree ever found at Joggins, since we would not even know were it was located. If they in fact saw it themselves, then the fact that they provided so few details may be an indication of their bias against the concept of catastrophic (or rapid) formation of coal. This is also suggested, if not substantiated, by the fact that — in similar fashion — almost nothing is known about the upright 25 foot tree found in the Joggins strata as well. Was this because its lowermost section was perhaps embedded in limestone? 27 We may never know for certain as Dawson provided virtually no details — except to say that is was erect.
A similar 38 foot upright fossil tree was discovered in the coal measures of England. And in a 1966 paper on this subject, Rupke reported finding fossil trees as long as 25 meters.
Marine Organisms: The fact that the marine tubeworm, Spirorbis, is found in this section strongly suggests that it was deposited under marine or brackish water influence. With regard to the 1- 4 inch layer of coal in (section 2) of the previous drawing, and the strata overlying it we are told that:
“The roof contains Naiadites carbonarius, Cythere, Spirorbis, fish-scales, and coprolites. The Coal is hard and laminated, and has on its surface leaves of Cordaites and vascular bundles of ferns. It is remarkable for containing scattered remains of a number of species of fishes belonging to the genera Ctenoptychius, Diplodus, Palaeoniscus, and Rhizodus. The underclay has rootlets of Stigmaria, and the bed below this has large roots of the same.” 28 **
With regard to the roof strata above the lower (Main) coal seams we are told that it:
“… has afforded Sigillaria catenoides and other species, Alethopteris lonchitica, Cordaites borassifolia, Lepidodendron elegans, Trigoncarpa, Naiadites, Spirorbis, Cythere, fragments of insects. (?) The mineral Charcoal contains bast tissue, Scalariform, epidermal, and cellular tissues … The roof is especially rich in Cordaites, sometimes with Spirorbis adherent.” 29 **
We are also told that the strata immediately above the tree contains: “only drift vegetable fragments having Spirorbis attached… ,” 30 therefore we can be certain that it was a drift deposit.
Missing Roots: Note the presence of roots in section 8 below the lower coal, however there are none between the two seams. And that if the presence of roots in the lower underclay is proof of forest growth, then what does their absence indicate? Could it be that the upper coal never was a forest, but rather merely an organic drift deposit? If so, then perhaps the lower coal is too?
Out of Order Roots: In ref. 28 above we find “rootlets of Stigmaria” above a bed with “large roots of the same.” If these deposits were in situ then we would expect to find the larger roots above the smaller roots.
Additional Comments: The fact that the marine tubeworm Spirorbis (discussed in Part II) is found in this strata strongly suggests a marine influence. The presence of leaves and insects and drifted material in the roof suggests that the roof strata cannot be as in situ deposit but rather the result of catastrophic influences. The fact that the roots of the tree (and some of the Calamites) appear to be truncated suggests that they were deposited while floating upright. The fact that the coals are laminated also suggests a sedimentary origin. The lack of soils and the presence of extremely thick layers also suggests a rapid depositional environment. Together this suggest that the whole section of strata is of catastrophic origin.
Another section once said to be in situ is depicted below and is of a 9 foot tree between shale (above) and coal (below), along with Stigmaria rootlets, Calamites, and the stem of an unknown plant.
9 foot tree passing through sandstone, along with Calamites buried while floating upright
Dawson, 1854, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 10, p. 21; Also Acadian Geology, 1855 and 1868 Eds.
1. Underclay, with rootlets of Stigmaria, resting on gray shale, with two thin coaly seams.
2. Gray sandstone, with erect trees, Calamites, and other stems: 9 feet.
3. Coal, with erect tree on its surface: 6 inches.
4. Underclay, with Stigmaria rootlets.
(a) Calamites. (c) Stigmaria roots.
(b) Stem of plant undetermined. (d) Erect trunk, 9 feet high.
Dawson believed that:
“The Stigmaria-underclay” (in section 4) “shows the existence of a Sigillaria forest, the soil of which collected sufficient vegetable matter to form 6 inches of coal, which probably represents a peaty bog several feet in thickness.” 31 **
In Dawson’s opinion this strata was deposited as follows:
“On this peaty soil grew the trees represented by the stump of … charcoal mentioned above, and which were probably coniferous. This tree, being about 1 foot in diameter, must have required about fifty years for its growth … It was then killed, perhaps by the inundation of the bog. During (its) decay … Sigillariae, d, grew… to the diameter of two feet, when they were overwhelmed by sediment, which buried their roots to a depth of about 18 inches. At this level Calamites, a, and another Sigillaria began to grow, the former attaining a diameter of 4 inches, the latter a diameter of about a foot. … These … were in… turn imbedded in somewhat coarser sediment, but so gradually that … trees with Stigmarian roots, c, grew at two higher levels before the accumulation of mud and sand attained a depth of 9 feet, at which depth the original large Sigillariae, that had grown immediately over the coal, were broken off, and their hollow trunks filled with sand …” 31 **
Note: Dawson did not include some of the trees described above in his drawing of this strata, such as the 1 foot diameter tree and the 4-inch diameter Sigillaria.
Dawson claimed that the trees and plants in this strata were buried in their original positions of growth or in situ. Several aspects suggest otherwise, such as the following:
Lack of Distinct Soils: The most obvious is the lack of a distinct soil in section 2. Instead there is a remarkable uniformity in the layering.
Lack of Large Roots: The small singular rootlets of section 4 are of the same size and shape as the Stigmaria rootlets (c) in the upper part of section 2. If the lower underclay did at one time support a ‘Sigillaria forest,’ it seems a bit odd that the only preserved evidence for this are tiny rootlets. One would think that at least some of the larger roots (from the 2 foot diameter trees) would have extended beyond the bottom of the coal, yet they appear to be absent.
Note: From Logan’s and Dawson’s bed by bed review of the Joggins strata, there appear to be a lot fewer beds containing large roots than those with “rootlets”, and even fewer beds that have large roots with attached rootlets. 32
Missing Roots: It is also worth noting what Dawson does not tell us. For example, he does not tell us whether these “distinctly marked” Stigmaria roots from the 1 foot diameter tree (not depicted) had rootlets attached. This is almost certainly because they didn’t, which is why he used the term “distinct” to describe how they were “marked” (i.e. Stigmaria roots get their name from the “distinct” scar marks left behind by their “missing” rootlets). Dawson also doesn’t say anything about the three upright Calamite stems “a” that are missing their lower portions.
Why were the stems preserved but not the roots? More importantly, how were these stems preserved in upright position with no roots to hold them up? This suggests that these stems were buried while floating upright. The only other possibility is that their roots fell out of the cliff-face. However, if this were the case, Lyell and Dawson should have said so. The fact that they didn’t is an indication that they were actually missing. Such instances are clearly depicted in the writings of Brown and are discussed later; however, unlike Dawson and Lyell, Brown readily admits that this was the case.
Missing Trees: In the above (second) paragraph describing this strata Dawson mentions “trees with Stigmaria roots, “c” that grew “at two higher levels” before being buried in mud and sand. With regard to these trees, all that was left was their small root-base. This seems odd, considering the fact that their bases are just as big, if not bigger than the “a” stem to the right.
Lack of Erosion: Except for the 6 inch layer of coal, the strata is repetitive and displays a high degree of lateral continuity. The fact that there is no erosion between the layers is suggestive of cyclic continuous deposition.
Uniformity of Direction: All except one of the stems are sloping toward the left; this suggests that a current was present during deposition.
Laminated Underclay Although it is unclear in the drawing above, the detailed view clearly shows that the underclay in section 4 is laminated or layered. This suggests it was probably not a soil, but rather simply a layered sedimentary deposit with embedded rootlets. For if this were a soil then bioturbation should have destroyed the layering. Dawson, himself, concurred with such reasoning when he stated that:
“Beds of clay containing roots of plants in situ, and destitute or nearly destitute of lamination, are designated in the Section ‘Underclays.’ As these are fossil soils they will be… considered in connection with the vegetable matter which accumulated upon them.” 33 **
Fragile Fossils: Dawson further tells us that: “the erect trees contain reptilian remains… and remains of insects.” 34 We are also told that one of these trees was a sandstone cast which: “contained a large quantity of … fragments of … carbonized wood, leaves of Naeggerathia or Poacites.” 35
Different Sediments: Another obstacle to the in situ interpretation of this section is the fact that these trees were filled-in with sandstone (see in-text quote of ref. 31 on previous page). How were they filled up with sandstone when the bed immediately above them (bed #1) consists of gray shale and (above this an) underclay?
Additional Comments: The fact that the underclay (with rootlets) in section 4 is laminated suggests that it may not have been a soil, but rather simply a deposit with floating upright rootlets — or with rootlets that were “dangling” down from the plant mass above from which the coal was derived. The fact that fragile leaves were preserved along with upright stems, with no roots to hold them in place, suggests they were buried while floating upright. The fact that the trees were filled with different sediments than those which were immediately above (or around) their snapped off trunks is also suggestive of transport. Again the evidence suggests that the upright plants, trees, and rootlets in the above section are (probably) not in situ, but the result of drifted material that was washed in.
Almost all of the roots and stems to the right of the tree above have been sheared off horizontally. The 9-foot tree has also suffered the same fate. This is quite common with fossil roots and trees. If this were the result of decay, then the contact along the top (of such trees) should be uneven (or jagged) rather than flat. Rupke 36 and Hörbiger 37 suggested that this might be the result of the upper (now missing) portions being frozen and subsequently “snapped” off by an incoming tidal wave. Another possibility is that they were simply snapped off by moving debris during a flood. Such a scenario is possible when considering that these trees (and their roots) were in the fragile state of being hollow (or semi-hollow), yet partially filled with sediments. This is illustrated in the diagrams that follow.
In the first set of diagrams the assumption is made that these Lycopod trees were part of large “Floating Forests” (as proposed by Scheven), 38 and that after being torn from their forest-mats they sank and began filling up with sediments. However, prior to becoming heavy-laden with sediments, they would be carried along by strong currents before coming to their final resting place. The second set simply shows how such hollow trees may have been snapped off, and subsequently filled with sediments that are different from those which surround them.
1) The tree to the far left is
dislodged from its place of
growth as part of a “Floating
Forest” by Flood-waters,
and /or Hurricane winds.
2) Ends of roots break off–
allowing water to enter into
the trunk. The tree sinks and
is subsequently punctured
by floating and rolling debris.
Mud-laden water enters
into the trunk and begins
filling its roots with fine
sediment as it rests on the
continuously rising bottom.
3, 4) Before becoming fixed
in its final resting place,
the tree is lifted from the
bottom and dragged
along by strong currents.
5) Eventually the current
slows down, and/or the
tree becomes so heavy-
laden with sediments
that it remains fixed in its
final resting place.
6) Before it is completely
buried, the water level
drops and it is struck by a
floating tree or log- mat —
snapping off its upper
portion and leaving behind
a stump that contains
from those surrounding it.
1) Upright tree rests un-
comfortably on bottom
2) Base of (hollow) tree
is buried by sediments.
3) Log (or log-mat) strikes
tree and breaks off upper
portion. Base remains in
4) Hollow trunk is filled
with sediments (from
above) that are different
from those surrounding it.
It has been reported that the upright trees at Joggins are the result of river deposits. 39, 40
For example, MacRae 40 states that:
“…there are upright giant lycopod trees up to a few metres tall preserved mainly in river-deposited sandstones. These trees have extensive root systems with rootlets that penetrate into the underlying sediment … Dawson … rejected anything but an in situ formation for these fossils, and his interpretation is closely similar to current interpretations of sediments deposited on river floodplains…”
Consider also the following comment by Ferguson:
“Closer examination of the tilted layers of sandstone reveals they are not as regular as they first seemed, but every so often have very obvious depressions in their under sides. These are ancient river channels which cut into the… accumulating flood plane deposits…” 41 **
First off, it is quite possible that Dawson was wrong. Also, while there are channel sandstone deposits at Joggins, the assertion that these are “ancient river channels,” is highly questionable. It seems more likely that they may simply be “runoff channels” where the water “ran off” the freshly deposited strata and back into the ocean as the tides were receding. This is discussed in more detail in the next section.
The actual evidence for the river/flood plain scenario is summed up by Ferguson as follows:
“Many animals lived and swam in Carboniferous seas, but the rocks at Joggins were formed … as the result of river action, or in freshwater lakes that developed from flooding rivers.” 42 **
This is because “The fossils that are found in these rocks are from land-dwelling or freshwater creatures.” 42 **
Bell’s assessment was similar: i.e. “… no truly marine or even estuarine fauna occurs in the Coal Measures of the Joggins area.” 43 **
Problems with the Lacustrine / River Deposit Scenario
Channel Sandstone Deposits: According to Helder:
“the channel sandstones are relatively uncommon at the lower levels near Joggins where so many fossilized trees are found.” 44 **
Duff and Walton also studied a 500 m section of Logan’s Division 4 Coals at Joggins and made the following remarks with regard to the channel deposits:
“There is little doubt that the sheet sands are genetically connected with the channel sands. Only rarely … is a lens or ‘reef’ of channel sand developed without affecting the thickness and / or the number of adjacent sheets. Commonly the multi-leaf sheet sands are thicker when … close to a channel sand.” 45 **
And: “The connection between channel and sheet sands is further reinforced by the observation that: A) there tends to be more leaves in the sandstones in the vicinity of the channel and B) in at least one sandstone … the individual leaves are thicker near the channel.” 45 **
They also state that: “The size of the channels in cross-section … is usually small and there are a number of examples of sheet sands passing through erosional contacts into channels.” For example: “… in one layer the parallel laminae appear to pass laterally into large-scale cross lamination.” 45 **
And that: “We have not seen in any of the channels the simple upward change in the size of trough cross-bedded units accompanied by diminution of grain size described from other fluvial successions…”45 **
Extensive, Parallel strata: The overwhelming majority of deposits at Joggins were laid down in sheets. This is evident in the high degree of lateral continuity of the layers in virtually every drawing of this strata.
Regarding the Joggins strata Archer, et al. remark that the “Sheet sandstones … have a high degree of lateral continuity,” and that the limestones are “strikingly linear.” 46 Calder gives figures of between 4-9 km wide 47 for the Cumberland area strata. And Skilliter 48 reports that the Forty Brine coal seam and associated strata have been traced “40 km inland in mine workings and drill core deposits.” Several hundred kilometers to the north lies the Sydney Basin, which is part of the Maritime Basin. This area is home to the Backpit seam which, according to White, Gibling, and Kalkreuth, can be traced laterally “from northwest to southeast, for more than 45 km…” 49
Marine Influences: Several lines of evidence (not widely known to the public) are also indicative of marine influences in the Joggins area strata. This is in the form of pyritous beds, coals with high sulfur content, marine tubeworms, and other fossils. Each of these will be discussed in greater detail in the following sections (and in Part II) of this paper.
Additional Comments: Such revelations raise serious doubts about the notion that these were ancient river channels. The fact that some of the sheet laminae pass laterally through “erosional” contacts is cause to doubt whether such channels are erosion contacts at all. The fact that they are genetically connected with the sheet sands implies, or suggests, that they were formed at the same time. The fact that many sheets were deposited over such wide areas also suggests that this strata was not the result of river deposits, but evidence of major incursions by the sea.
Below is another section of strata from the Joggins area that was thought to be in situ.
Dawson : 1854, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lon., vol. 10, p. 29 and Acadian Geology, 1855 p. 175; 1868, p 200.
2. Shaly coal, 1 foot.
3. Underclay with rootlets, 1foot 2 inches.
4. Gray sandstone passing downwards into shale, 3 feet. Erect tree with Stigmaria roots (e) on coal.
5. Coal, 1 inch.
6. Underclay with roots, 10 inches.
7. Gray sandstone, 1 foot 5 inches. Stigmaria rootlets continued from bed above; erect Calamites.
8. Gray shale, with pyrites. Flattened plants.
Additional Information from Dawson’s bed by bed description 50 is as follows:
*Sandstone, gray. Rootlets of Stigmaria. …………………………..2 ft. 3 in.
Shale, gray. An erect tree rooted in bed below. ………………. 20 ft. 0 in.
*Bituminous limestone. Rootlets of Stigmaria, Modiola,
Cypris. ……………………………………………………………………….0 ft. 2 in.
Shale, carbonaceous, with ironstone balls. Poacites, &c. ……..0 ft. 9 in.
*Underclay. Rootlets of Stigmaria. ……………………………………0 ft. 10 in. (1)
Coal, Shaly ………………………………………………………………….1 ft. 0 in. (2)
*Underclay. Indistinct Rootlets………………………………………….1 ft. 2 in. (3)
*Sandstone, gray argillaceous, passing downward into shale
and bituminous shale. An erect tree; Stigmaria roots …………….3 ft 0 in. (4)
Coal ……………………………………………………………………………0 ft 1 in. (5)
*Underclay. Rootlets ………………………………………………………0 ft. 10 in. (6)
Sandstone, gray. Erect Calamites and Stigmaria rootlets
descending from bed above. …………………………………………….1 ft. 5 in. (7)
Shale, gray, pyritous. Numerous flattened plants…………………..4 ft. 6 in. (8)
Coal, very pyritous. ………………………………………………………..0 ft. 8 in.
* Asterisks denote beds that possessed Roots or Rootlets.
( ) Numbers in brackets denote beds from figure above.
We are also told that:
“Group XXVII is a… series of underclays and their accompaniments, including eleven terrestrial soil surfaces, five thin coals, erect plants at four levels, and two bituminous limestones. It much resembles some of the groups at the commencement of the section, and like some of these is very pyritous, marking the action of sea-water to a greater degree than in those central parts of the measures…” 51 (p. 28) **
Regarding the tree in the figure above we are told that:
“The roots of this tree are casts in sandstone, probably from the surface of the sand surrounding its upper part, but the stump itself is filled with shaly clay from the underclay above.” 51 (pp. 28-29) **
Dawson believed that the stump, the stems, and all of the roots in the section above were in situ; however, again this is questionable for the following reasons:
Pyritous Beds: From the quotes above we note that this section contains beds that are “very pyritous” and that this is an indication that “sea-water” has had access to them. This suggests that we are not dealing with a local freshwater river flood but one that involves the ocean.
Sediments in Tree different than those around it: From the above quote we note that the roots of this tree are casts of sandstone, while the “Additional Information” (below the drawing) tell us that the sediments around its base are shale. Also, the quote above tells us that the stump is “filled with shaly clay,” yet the comments associated with section 4 tell us that the sediments around it are: “Gray sandstone passing downwards into shale.” In other words, the roots of this tree were filled with sandstone, but the tree itself with shaly clay. Dawson wants us to believe that the sand around the top of the tree poured over its top and filled up what was left of its roots. This is possible; however, this also means that the shale around its base did not enter into the tree. Dawson says that the shaly clay inside the tree came from the ‘underclay’ above it. This is also possible; however, it would mean that the underclay in section 3 is actually a shaly underclay. Again, at first glance, this appears possible.
The only problem with such reasoning is that it doesn’t account for the extremely sharp contact above the tree. Such a contact is not the result of (slow) decay, but rather an indication that the tree was snapped off prior to the deposition of section 3. The fact that the upper contact is so sharp is also an indication that the tree was already hollow. This leaves only two possibilities: Either the tree was filled with 3 feet of shaly clay before it was snapped off, or it was filled up afterwards. If it was filled up afterwards then the strata immediately above the tree should be bent downwards as a result of pouring into and filling up the hollow tree. But this is not what we observe in Dawson’s drawing. Therefore it appears that the sediments inside the tree did not come from the underclay in section 3, and suggests that this tree was transported while in a partially filled-up state.
Individual Rootlets: If the above plant remains are in growth position, then why are the individual rootlets separated from the larger (Stigmaria) roots, plants, or trees to which they were once attached?
Missing Roots: Even more baffling are the Calamite stems in section 7. The fact that their roots are missing, yet they are erect suggests that they were also buried while floating upright. The only other possibilities are: 1) that the roots were not preserved, or 2) that they fell out of the cliff. The first scenario seems highly unlikely considering that many other rootlets were preserved in this section.. The second scenario requires that either Dawson failed to notice this, or that he failed to say so: both of which seem unlikely considering his attention to detail and his eagerness to prove that such deposits were the result of ancient forests inundated by multiple floods.
The roots of the stump also appear to be missing–even though the coal is only one inch thick. Some will say that the roots of this tree are hidden in coal. While this scenario is “possible,” the fact that none of them penetrated into the ancient “soil” underclay also suggests that this tree stump is not in situ, but rather has been transported.
Some will say that the rootlets (from the tree) are penetrating into the “underclay”; however, if this were the case then they should be radiating out at various angles from their main stems. Instead they are all pointing down as if (they were) broken off and subsequently reburied while floating upright, while (at the same time) the main root-stems are nowhere to be found.
Notice also the dots at the bottom left side of the stump; these are scar marks left by rootlets that were at one time attached. The fact that these (rootlets) were not preserved suggests two possibilities: 1) that this soil was not conducive to the preservation of tree roots; or 2) that this tree was uprooted. The fact that similar scar marks and roots are also missing from the right side of the tree, and that many individual rootlets were found intact within this strata suggests that scenario #2 is more probable.
Such roots with pit marks are referred to as Stigmaria and are quite common at Joggins. Regarding these Dawson states:
“The underclays in question are accordingly penetrated by innumerable long rootlets now in a coaly state, but retaining enough of their form to enable us to recognize them as belonging to a peculiar root, the Stigmaria, of very frequent occurrence in the coal measures, and … now known to have belonged to a singular tree, the Sigillaria, found in the same deposits … The Stigmaria has derived its name from the regularly arranged pits or spots left by its rootlets, which proceeded from it on all sides.” 52 **
Shale “Underclay” Above Coal: Dawson refers to section 1 in the Drawing above as a “Shale”; however, in his bed by bed review (in the same publication) he calls it an “Underclay.” This bed (1) is 10 inches thick and is located above the (1 foot) Coal of Section 2. In fact, beds designated as “underclays” are usually not composed of clay, but rather shale or sandstone; however, in some cases they are clay or limestone. See Lesquereux’s in-text quote (ref. 125 of Part II).
Fragile Fossils: Above the 10 inch Shale / Underclay is a 9 inch carbonaceous Shale which contains ironstone balls and Poacites — long striated leaves that look similar to cornstalk leaves, now referred to as Cordaites. The fact that leaves were preserved in this shale suggests that it was deposited rapidly. The fact that Dawson refers to the ‘Underclay’ below it also as shale suggests that these two shales were one in the same with rootlets in the lower portion and leaves in the upper.
An Erect Tree “Rooted” in Limestone: Dawson’s bed by bed review also reveals that there is a 2-inch Bituminous limestone immediately above the shales just discussed. Above this is a 20 foot thick gray shale with “An erect tree rooted in bed below.” This is also mentioned in his earlier publication where, with regard to these beds, Dawson tells us that:
“It will be observed that one of the bituminous limestones in this group has been converted into a Stigmaria-underclay and supports an erect tree.” 53
The above details are significant for several reasons. First because limestone usually forms in the ocean and is not normally thought of as an adequate soil for root growth. Second because of what Dawson does not say: i.e. He does not say that this tree had attached roots, but rather that it was rooted in limestone. However, from the quote above, it appears that this tree was merely supported by this bed. This is significant because we are told that this bed had rootlets of Stigmaria in it. Therefore, it appears that we have a bed of limestone capable of preserving rootlets, yet in it is a tree without roots.
Additional Comments: The underclay in the Figure above was capable of preserving roots, but the fact that it was so selective in doing so suggests that something is amiss with the in situ interpretation for this section of strata as well. Once again we have a section of strata from the Joggins area that has upright trees, plants, and roots; and once again it seems unlikely that they are in situ, but rather probable that they represent uprooted and transported material deposited by floodwaters.
The Sydney Area:
The problem of upright trees (and plants) with their roots missing was also encountered by Brown.54 Consider the drawings below. Figure 6 is located about 29 feet above the Indian Cove Seam, or approximately 370 feet below the Main Coal Seam near Sydney.
Calamites buried while floating Upright, Two tree stumps w/o roots
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 129.
With regard to this bed Brown states that:
“About eight feet higher in the section, several erect Calamites, from 4 to 8 feet in length and 3 to 5 inches in diameter occur in the micaceous sandstone No. 88. They do not present any traces of roots” 54 **
With regard to Fig. 8 below Brown states that:
“A long interval now follows without any erect trees, the next in order being Calamites without roots in the sandstone No. 299, which is 735 feet above the Main Coal No. 188.” 55 **
More Calamites buried upright; no traces of roots. Partially upright tree with portion bent over buried in various different strata
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 129.
Both of the above drawings clearly display upright plants and trees with their roots missing. With regard to the Calamites Mr. Brown plainly tells says that this is the case; however, it appears that this is the case with the trees as well. In both figures there is virtually no place where their roots might be concealed (such as in a coal seam). This suggests that they too are missing–probably as a result of being uprooted.
Notice also the strange-looking tree above section 302 in Fig. 8 above. How did it come to be bent over like that? Some may say that it simply grew this way; however such an explanation doesn’t explain why the tree left behind no traces of roots (or even rootlets) in section 302. A more likely scenario is that it was transported here by floodwaters, and that it already possessed several feet of sediments when it became imbedded in section 303. As described earlier, this tree was probably struck by floating debris, such as a log-mat, when the surrounding sediments were at (the top of) section 303. However, since the tree itself most likely (?) contained sediments that extended above this, it didn’t snap off completely, but rather was broken it two places. The lowermost break caused the upper (sediment-filled) portion to fall over; however, because the uppermost portion was not yet filled with sediment, and was (in this scenario) only partially broken, it floated back to an upright position– where it was again enveloped by sediment to the middle of section 306. At this point it was again struck by floating debris, and its uppermost portion was snapped off.
Lets look at another stump; however, this one had both Stigmaria roots and rootlets attached. The stump below is from the roof of the Sydney Main Coal Seam. Its roots have the distinctive scar marks left by the rootlets that have broken off; however, some of the rootlets remained intact.
“Fig. 1. Section showing the position of the tree above the coal seam, with the … lengths of two of the principal roots so far as they could be distinctly traced.”
After Brown, 1847, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 4, p. 47.
Brown believed that this tree was in situ even though he found “no visible traces of rootlets in the coal,” 56 nor did he find any on the underside of the roots–even though the areolae were “much larger and more distinct upon the under than the upper sides of the roots.” 56 Brown also tells us that one of the roots touched the coal at about five feet from the trunk. This means that the area immediately under the trunk was above the coal — even though Brown does not indicate in either of these drawings exactly where the coal begins, Note that the areolae (i.e. the pit marks left by broken off rootlets) are present all the way up to the trunk.
Different view of this stump
After Brown, 1847, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 4, p. 47.
In spite of not finding any rootlets on the under side of this tree Brown nevertheless proclaimed that:
“…there can be no doubt that (its roots) penetrated deeply into the underlying mass of vegetable matter from which the tree derived its chief nutriment…” 56
In other words, he believed that is was buried in its original growth position.
Note Brown’s use of the word “deeply” with regard to his opinion of how the roots (from the above tree) are said to have penetrated into this 6 foot thick seam of coal. This is significant because when other large trees are resting on top of thin seams of coal, their associated (and usually missing) “roots” almost never seem to penetrate very deep — if indeed they are discernable at all.
We also note that the attached rootlets are all pointing up. The ones on the under side were all missing. This was either because: 1) they all fell out when the coal below the tree was removed; 2) because they were all destroyed when the stump fell to the ground (after the props were taken out); or 3) because this tree was uprooted prior to deposition in this strata. According to Brown, there was “no doubt” that it was in situ; however, again there is reason to question such a conclusion.
For example, note that the majority of the roots were above the coal. In this regard Mr. Brown traced two of the roots and found that they appeared to enter the seam at a distance of about 30 inches from the trunk. This is significant for several reasons. First because it means that not all of the rock strata beneath the tree had been removed. Had this been the case then Mr. Brown would not have been able to determine this distance. It also means that Mr. Brown (when tracing these roots to their termination points) should have seen rootlets on the underside of these roots. The fact that he didn’t suggests that this tree was not in situ.
Mr. Brown also points out that “the roots are filled with dark bluish shale arranged in nearly horizontal layers…” 56 Commenting on this he said they “must have been perfectly hollow before the deposition of mud within began.” 56 In addition, he found “fern-leaves… interposed between the layers,” and noted that these “could only have obtained access thereto by settling down through the trunk above.” 56 Brown also made a cross-sectional drawing of one of these roots that is depicted below.
Cross section of roots that are filled with laminated shale
After Brown, Richard, 1847, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 4, p. 49; Fig 7.
Additional Comment: Once again we have an upright tree above a coal seam that may, or may not be in growth position. The fact that almost all of the roots were above the coal and that all of the rootlets on the underside of the main roots were missing suggests that they were likely broken off — the result of a tree that was uprooted prior to being deposited in this section.
Extensive Roots Systems Or Root Systems Extensively Missing?
MacRae 57 has asserted that the fossil lycopod trees at Joggins have “extensive root systems” — thus giving the impression that most of them do. Gibling says that “MANY” upright trees at Joggins have attached roots, while Ferguson says the roots only appear to be missing.
For example, Gibling has said that:
“In many cases, only parts of upright trees are seen (other parts have fallen out or the basal part is not exposed, or is covered with fallen debris), so one can’t tell. However, I can say that MANY that I have seen have well developed root systems associated with them.” 58 **
Gibling also said that:
“It would not be an easy matter to find roots from an individual tree actually penetrating down into the coal: much of the coal could include root material now compacted down. Where trees are sitting atop a coal, one generally assumes that they were originally growing on the peatland surface. However, it is easy to see roots penetrating down from many trees where the upright trees are resting on a surface of sandstone or shale.” 58 **
Ferguson addressed the missing root problem by saying that it applies to the “longer tree stumps,” and that:
“If you examine the bases of such stumps closely, you should see the position of the crushed roots and the rootlets that radiate out from them … Sometimes you can even trace extensive root systems for many metres from their bases… In some cases the sediment- filled root systems spread out from the base of the trunks over a radius of 5 metres or more.” 59 **
Such assurances may satisfy some; however, there are significant reasons to question whether anything close to a majority of upright fossil trees in the Joggins strata possess either (attached) roots that are not truncated, or roots with rootlets attached. For example, after describing numerous beds in Logan’s Division 4 Coals at Joggins–including at least 21 different levels with erect trees and tree stumps, 60 Dawson makes the following statement:
“This is the first instance we have here yet met with of the distinct connexion of an erect ribbed stem with its Stigmaria roots.” 61 **
In other words, only about 1 out of 50 upright trees in the Joggins strata has both roots and attached rootlets. This number was derived by counting the upright trees that Dawson recorded in each of these 21 different “levels.”
The missing root problem was addressed by Dawson, himself, in 1853 with the following statement:
“It has been asked, in reference to the Joggins section,* how it happens that so many erect trunks show no roots, especially since the great number of fossil soils would lead us to anticipate that the former were less likely to be preserved than the latter.” 62 **
* President’s Address, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc., vol. ii.
Dawson’s explanation was that the underclays are:
“usually more perishable than the sandstones and arenaceous shales which contain the erect trunks” and that “The roots … have often been compressed or converted into coal… There are cases, however, in which the Stigmaria roots are preserved in a horizontal position, and with scarcely any flattening.” 62
This answer has serious problems. For example, it does nothing to explain why many of the underclays have individual rootlets, yet relatively few larger roots. It also doesn’t explain why many of the larger Stigmaria roots are found with pit-marks all over them — indicating that they once had rootlets. Such problems are almost always ignored or minimized with statements to the effect that the roots were “compressed” or “converted into coal,” or simply were not preserved. Such assertions are not without problems.
For example, if the base of a tree is juxtaposed to a coal seam, and this seam is several inches thick, then Dawson’s answer has some validity. For in such cases it is quite possible that its attached roots (if there were any) would be “hidden” in the seam. This is especially true in instances where the coal is not laminated, but rather homogeneous. Even then, it only applies to cases where a tree is sitting directly on top of a coal seam.
In such cases where the base of the tree is in sandstone, shale, or clay, the above scenario does not apply. For here we should see evidence of both roots and rootlets attached to trees that are upright. It is the author’s contention that such cases are the exception and not the rule, and that when no traces of roots are visible it is because there were none present to preserve. Such a view (though based on sound principles) is difficult for many to accept due to philosophical reasons (i.e. evolutionary bias), for it would mean that perhaps none of the upright fossil trees in the Nova Scotia strata (if not the whole world) were buried in situ: thus giving credibility to the Genesis account of Noah and his Ark and a worldwide Flood.
Consider also what Lyell and Bell had to say about the missing root problem in the Joggins strata. With regard to the shales above the coals Lyell said that:
“It was also observed that, while in the overlying shales, or ‘roof’ of the coal, ferns and trunks of trees abound without any Stigmariae and are flattened and compressed, those singular plants of the underclay most commonly retain their natural forms, unflattened and branching freely, and sending out their slender rootlets, formerly thought to be leaves, through the mud in all directions.” 63
Here Lyell tries to make the case that the mud-laden underclays were soils; however, in so doing, he admits that the overlying strata (above the coals) abound in drift-plants and trees that are missing their roots. It is also observed that he only uses the term “rootlets” when describing the underclays. This is noteworthy because it also agrees with Dawson’s overall assessment that such trees are only rarely found with both Stigmaria rootlets (or “appendages”) attached. This is evident by the fact that neither Dawson or Lyell could find even one such specimen from the Joggins area strata that they deemed worthy to draw, but — for such a specimen — resorted to the Sydney strata and the writings of Brown. 64 This tree is discussed in Part II of this paper. See also the on Underclays.
Walter A. Bell also noticed that the majority of upright fossil trees at Joggins do not possess attached roots. Consider his remarks below.
“…Thirty-five Sigillarian upright trees were observed in the Coal Measures of the Joggins section. Of those examined, three contained the remains of land reptiles or of land snails, while three others were observed with Stigmarian roots still attached. The general absence of roots may be explained by the fact that most of the trees have their bases directly over a thin underlying coaly or carbonaceous seam, indicating a probable decay of the roots and reduction into coaly matter. All of the erect Sigillaria had their basal terminations in shales which have little or no drift material other than fragments of leaves and Stigmarian rootlets.” 65 **
This brings up an interesting question: If the above shales were able to preserve fragments of leaves and rootlets, then why were they unable to preserve the larger Stigmarian roots to which rootlets should be attached?
Bell asserts that most of the bases of upright trees directly overlie a “thin coaly or carbonaceous seam.” Again, the proposition that all evidence of roots would vanish simply because a thin seam (or film) of carbonaceous matter is below the tree seems unlikely in light of the fact that most large trees possess large roots that grow both out from the tree and (down) into the “soil.” This is evident from the subsequent drawing (Fig. 9) and from Browns depiction of (Fig 2) — a tree with both roots and rootlets (See p. 2 of Part II). Note also that Bell uses of the word “seam” to describe the (coaly or carbonaceous) material below the base of these trees. However, in the next sentence, he says that the bases of the Sigillaria were (all) terminated in shales.
So, is it coal, or shale?
Since other writers have commented on this, lets consider what they had to say as well. For example,
Duff and Walton quote Lyell as follows:
“‘… most of the trees terminated downwards in seams of coal.”‘ And that: Some few were … based in clay and shale; none of them, except Calamites were in sandstone.” 66 **
Duff and Walton, themselves, observed that: “…each specimen … was rooted in mudstone,” 66 while Calder said that: Virtually all Lepidodendrid trees… are rooted in coal beds, however thin.” 67
However, Coffin said that the upright: “Petrified stumps starting from a coal surface almost never send roots into the coal, but spread them out onto, or just above the coal,” 68 and that “Only a small number of vertical trees arise from coal. The majority originate in shale or sandstone, which exhibit no change in texture or organic content.” 68 **
Therefore there appears to be a discrepancy. Lyell says that “most” of the upright trees are terminated in coal. Calder says that the “Lepidodendrid” trees are always rooted in coal, while Bell said that “most” Sigillaria trees had their bases “directly over a thin coaly or carbonaceous seam,” yet in the next sentence that: “all of the erect Sigillaria had their basal terminations in shales.” Duff and Walton weighed in on this as well and said that all of the upright trees they examined were “rooted in mudstone;” however, Coffin said that “only a small number of vertical trees arise from coal,” and those that do “almost never send their roots into the coal.”
So which of these assessments, if any, is more accurate? One solution is to examine one of Mr. Brown’s drawings of the Sydney strata: that has been said to be very similar to that at Joggins. From this drawing it appears that most of the upright trees near Sydney have their bases in shale.
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 131.
Of the 19 trees in the drawing above, only three are resting upon a seam of coal, the other 16 have their bases either in shale or (in one case) resting upon clay.
* Note also the two trees on the far right; although they possess both roots and rootlets, they appear to terminate above the coal.
From the available data, it appears to this writer that many (if not most) of the upright trees in both the Joggins and Sydney strata do not terminate in coal but rather in shale or mudstone. Even if a majority of upright trees in the Nova Scotia strata do terminate in coal — something that (at east from the published literature) appears doubtful, to assert that a thin seam of coal (almost always) caused the underlying roots to vanish without a trace seems questionable at best. However, there are other reasons to question such a scenario. This will become more evident when we discuss trees that traverse coal seams. At lease one such tree from the Sydney strata had (truncated) roots that did cross a seam of “coal mixed with shale”; however, its roots did not appear to be offset.
Such a finding suggests that this seam never was a layer of peat, for if it was then the root-portion below the coal should be offset from that above it. The author has also found instances of upright tree stumps that were completely enclosed within and /or protruding through coal seams several feet thick.
The fact that well preserved leaves and other fragile fossils are found in many of the coals and their shale roofs is suggestive of rapid burial. The fact that the “soil” beneath them was able to preserve multitudes of (individual) rootlets suggests that the larger basal roots are missing because the trees were uprooted prior to deposition in the strata.
In this regard, Dawson, himself, said something of great significance about the Joggins “soil’s” ability to preserve roots:
“We may also observe that, admitting the Stigmaria to be roots of trees, there are five distinct forest soils without any remains of trees, except their roots; and we shall find that throughout the (Carboniferous) section that the forest soils are much more frequently preserved than the forests themselves. 69 **
Such an account is a glaring contradiction to his earlier statement (ref. 62) that the “former” (trees) are less likely to be preserved than the “latter” (roots) — especially when considering that so many of these upright trees do not show any traces of roots.
Additional Comments: While some of the fossil trees at Joggins undoubtedly possess extended roots, it appears that the great majority do not. Additionally, in the opinion of this writer it seems likely that when a tree in this strata is found to possess roots: upon further investigation it will, more often than not, be found to have its root-terminations truncated, and/or to be missing many of its rootlets. Therefore, the conclusion that these trees are in their original positions of growth seems doubtful.
Note also that Dr. E. Weiss came to a similar conclusion with regard to upright Sigillaria trees found in the coal strata of Germany. Specifically he noted that:
“Stammhöhe oft bedeutend; Exemplare mit Wurzeln sind selten, letztere meist abgebrochen. Blätter lineal mit breitem Mittelnerv.”
Quoted from: Aus der Flora der Steinkohlenformation, 1882, p. 4.
Which means: “Trunk heights are often considerable; examples with roots are rare, and often broken off. Leaves are linear with broad middle veins.” Emphasis Added
Therefore we can conclude that such is not only the case in coal formation strata of Nova Scotia but also other coal formations as well: perhaps throughout the whole earth.
Before moving on, lets examine two more such trees with attached roots which were also said to be in situ. They are from the roof of the Main Coal seam at Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Large stump in laminated shale–immediately above Main Sydney coal seam
After Brown, 1849, Quarterly Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 5, p. 357.
Large tree stump with truncated roots
After Brown, 1849, Quarterly Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 5, p. 359.
With Regard to Fig 6 Brown informs us that there are no leaves in the lowermost portion of the shale roof. 70
From this we note that there were large quantities of prostrate stems and leaves in layers of shale (at an unknown distance) above the coal. We are also told that these plant fragments were held in suspension in water as they were buried. Brown claims this is evidence that such fragments were not drifted from a distance, but rather fell from trees that grew upon this spot. How such a conclusion was arrived at is uncertain. He could have taken the opposite view: I. E. Had these trees grew upon this spot then we should see leaves and stems in the lowermost part as well, but since we don’t, then they must have been rifted in from a distance. The fact that such fragments were entombed at short intervals while held in suspension also suggests that they were not all prostrate, and indicates that their entombment was quite rapid.
With Regard to the shale roof we are told that:
“Although the main coal is generally overlaid by shale, yet occasionally the shale thins out, and the thick sandstone, which is the next stratum… forms the roof of the coal.” 70**
We are also told that:
“…as no upright trees are found in the sandstone roof, it may be reasonably inferred that plants would not vegetate upon the bog itself, a layer of soft mud being necessary… for germinating the seeds; but when a plant had once taken root in this mud, its rootlets penetrated downwards into the peat, and furnished an abundant supply of nutriment … from the … decaying vegetable matter beneath.” 70 **
Mud-germination Hypothesis: Here we are told that occasionally the coal is directly overlain by sandstone rather than coal and that no upright plants were found in such sections because they needed a layer of mud in order to germinate. Brown was here trying to come up with a plausible explanation as to why no plants or trees are found in the sandstone roofs, and yet hold onto his belief that the upright trees in this strata were in situ. While such a hypothesis is (perhaps) possible, there is another possibility as well.
On its face, the idea that coal-strata trees would be unable to germinate in the peat itself seems strange when one considers that multitudes of forests are supposed to have (themselves) created the coals.
Alternate Hypothesis: Since sandstone is more likely to be deposited in rapid fashion than laminated mud, we would expect to see even more upright trees preserved in the sandstone roofs; but instead, according to brown (and Calder) there are none.
Perhaps the faster moving water which deposited the sandstones was the very reason why no trees are found above such coals. Perhaps the upright trees in this strata required slow-moving water to hold them in place because they were not “rooted” at all but rather merely floating upright on top of an organic sedimentary deposit which would later become coal. In other words, the faster moving water was able to sweep away any trees in its path, and that such upright floating trees required more tranquil waters, along with some mud around their bases, in order to hold them in place. Again, the implications of this would mean that none of the upright trees and tree stumps in this strata are in situ, but rather the result of drifted material.
Iron Pyrites in Coal: With regard to the presence of iron pyrites in the coals we are told that:
“… the… upper part of the seam appears invariably to be influenced by the nature of the roof, the coal being highly charged with iron pyrites under a sandstone, but quite free from it under a shale roof *.” 70
We are also told that there is an: “absence of iron pyrites from the upper part of the coal seam.” 70 In this regard Brown also provides the following additional note:
“* Mr. Buddle states in the Trans. of the Nat. Hist. Society of Newcastle, vol. i. p. 217, that the coal seams in Northumberland are always more or less intermixed with iron pyrites under a sandstone roof.” 70 **
According to Gibling, the presence of iron pyrites and sulphur in coal is evidence of marine influence. Additional evidence for marine influences at Joggins is presented in Part Two. With regard to the other drawing (Figure 9 above) we are told that the:
“The roots … repeatedly ramify as their distance from the stem increases, and … terminate in broad flattened points.” 70 **
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the trees, in figures 6 and 9 (above), are the missing roots. With regard to fig. 6, it appears that the whole root on the right side of the tree has been broken off. Figure 9, on the other hand, has fairly long roots. Brown refers to their terminations as “broad flattened points,” however, upon closer inspection it appears that the “points” are significantly more flattened than pointed — suggesting that they have been truncated. Thus it appears these stumps also were likely not be in their original growth locations.
Lepidodendra Rarely Found with Attached Roots:
Dawson made the following comment with regard to the rarity of finding rootlets attached to Lepidodendra:
“The Lepidodendra … roots would appear to have been constructed on the same regular type with those of the Sigillaria. Mr. Brown … has described some trees believed to be Lepidodendra … having such roots, in the coal-field of Cape Breton. Mr. Carruthers … has recently made a similar statement in regard to Lepidodendra in the British coal-fields. I have not, however, met with any instance of this in Nova Scotia.” 71 **
A Stigmaria (Root) From Joggins With Attached Rootlets:
Below is the only published drawing I could find of a Stigmaria root from Joggins with attached rootlets. It was found in “micaceous sandstone” and described by Sir Charles Lyell. 72 Regarding it he says:
“Stigmariae are abundant in the argillaceous sandstones of these coal measures, often with their leaves attached, and spreading regularly in all directions from the stem. It commonly happens here, as in Europe that when this plant occurs in sandstone, none of its leaf-like processes (or rootlets-?) are attached, but I saw one remarkable exception in strata of micaceous sandstone … The stem was about four inches thick … and traversed obliquely several layers of fine white micaceous sandstone two feet in vertical thickness.” p.156 **
After Lyell, Sir Charles, 1845;
Travels in North America,
Canada and Nova Scotia, with
p. 151; Fig. 20.
Lyell here admits that Stigmaria (fragments ?) are abundantly found in the argillaceous (i.e. clay-impregnated) sandstones of these coal measures — “often” with their “leaves” (or rootlets) attached. However, since such sandstones are not the most common type of sediments found beneath the coal seams, their occurrence — even with “attached” rootlets, does not indicate that they grew there. We can say this because of what else Lyell tells us about these roots: i.e. that they are also “commonly” found with “none of” their “leaf-like processes attached.” Such statements are contradictory, and present another obstacle to the growth in situ hypothesis. If these roots were in situ, or in their original positions of growth, then shouldn’t virtually all of them have attached rootlets? If however, they are not in situ, then they must have been uprooted: something which would account for their common absence.
However, there is another point that should be addressed as well: the fact that this was the only illustration that this author could find of a Stigmaria with attached rootlets in the Joggins area strata, and that such a root was not attached to a tree, but rather a fragment. Such a rare exception (of an upright Sigillaria or Lepidodendron tree with both roots and rootlets attached) was something that Dawson, also mentioned in his writings, and is verified by the fact that he could not (or rather did not) find even one example of such a tree in the Joggins strata that he deemed worthy to depict in his writings, but rather, for such an example, turned to the writings of Brown and the Sidney area, that he said was very similar to that of Joggins. This tree is discussed in Part Two of this paper.
Is it ‘In Situ’ ?
It is immediately apparent that the above Stigmaria (with rootlets) is not attached to a tree, but rather appears to have been broken off from one. Notice also that it is imbedded in the sandstone at an angle of about 45 degrees to the strata. This is important because, if this root is in situ, and if the Sigillaria trees at Joggins are also in situ, then their roots not only spread out horizontally from their bases, but at least some of them should be observed to go down into the “soil” in which they were “rooted.” This presents a problem for the in situ theory, because it requires those who believe it to assume that the upright Sigillaria trees at Joggins were able to penetrate down into sandstone at 45 degree angles, but not at similar angles into mud, peat and clay. This is because the roots of these trees are rarely observed to penetrate into these “seat-earth” / “soils.” However, we do find abundant (vertically positioned) rootlets in these same “soils”. This suggests that the above root in sandstone is itself probably not in situ, or that few (if any) of the upright trees in this strata were buried in their original positions of growth: perhaps both.
Coffin provides additional difficulties with an in situ interpretation for the Joggins and Sydney strata. For example, when studying these locations he discovered that:
“Just under 70 percent of the hollow vertical tree trunks contain different bedding than the surrounding matrix. We could postulate that some activity completely removed the original matrix and replaced it by another or moved the stumps to a new location after the infilling, but neither possibility is compatible with the in situ theory.” 73
Two examples of this phenomenon are figures 19 and 229 below.
|Fig. 19. A five foot “Section of the cliffs of the South Joggins, near Minudie, Nova Scotia. No part of the original plant is preserved except the bark, now a tube of pure bituminous coal, filled with sand, clay, and other deposits, … forming a solid internal cylinder without traces of organic structure.” 74||“Fig. 229. Erect tree-trunk (a a)|
imbedded in sandstones (c c) and
shales (d d), its interior filled
with different sandy and clayey
strata (e e), and the whole
covered by a sandstone bed (b)” 75
With regard to Fig. 19, Lyell also tells us that:
“The strata in the interior of the tree consisted of a series entirely different from those on the outside. The lowest of the three outer beds … consisted of purplish and blue shale, c,… two feet thick, above which was sandstone, d, one foot thick, and above this clay, e, two feet eight inches. In the interior, on the other hand, were nine distinct layers of different composition: at the bottom, shale four inches; then, in the ascending series, sandstone one foot, shale four inches sandstone four inches, shale eleven inches, clay with nodules of ironstone, f, two inches, pure clay two feet, sandstone three inches, and lastly, clay four inches.” 76
Lyell goes on to say that: “In some of the layers in the inside of the trunk, a, b, fig. 19, and in other trees in this line of cliffs, I saw leaves of ferns and fragments of plants which had fallen in … with the sediment.” 76 **
And that: “It is not uncommon to observe in Nova Scotia, as in England, that the layers of matter in the inside are fewer than those without. Thus a ‘pipe’ or cylinder of pure white sandstone, representing the interior of a fossil tree, will sometimes intersect numerous alternations of shale and sandstone.” 76 **
The fact that many upright trees in this strata have different bedding than that which surrounds them suggests that they were transported before burial. It also appears (from the drawings above) that these two trees do not have attached roots– again suggesting that they are not in situ. Note also that Lyell’s stump has its base directly over a bed of shale, as opposed to coal.
Another example is the tree below — that was also said to be in situ. This tree was located about 12-16 feet below the Sydney Main Coal-Seam and had both roots and rootlets attached.
An Upright Tree with Attached Rootlets:
|This table applies to Fig. 1 below.|
o. Strong white sandstone…..4 ft. 0 in.
n. Slaty blue shale………………..2 ft. 0 in.
m. The main coal seam…………..6 ft. 0 in.
l. Soft fire-clay………………………2 ft. 0 in.
k. Indurated clay…………………..6 ft. 0 in.
i. Slaty shale………………………….1 ft. 3 in.
h. Slaty gritty shale………………..5 ft. 0 in.
g. Soft blue clay……………………0 ft. ½ in.
f. Dark slaty gritty shale………..4 ft. 0 in.
e. Soft clay and coal mixed…….0 ft. 3 in.
d. Fire clay…………………………….3 ft. 2 in.
c. Carbonaceous matter………..0 ft. ½ in.
b. Indurated clay…………………..2 ft. 4 in.
a. Strong sandstone……………..8 ft. 0 in.
After Brown, Geol. Soc. Lon. Quart. Jour., 1846, vol. ii, p. 395, Fig. 2
After Brown, Geol. Soc. Lon. Quart. Jour., 1846, vol. ii, p. 394, Fig. 1.
At first glance, the tree in fig. 2 does appear to be (buried) in growth position, since it has both roots and rootlets attached. Closer inspection reveals that it is probably not in its original growth position. For example, the “dark slaty gritty shale” (f in Fig. 1) surrounding the roots appears to extend half-way up the two trees on the left. This suggests that it may not be an ancient soil but rather simply the type of strata (i.e. layered mud) that entombed these trees. Note also that the “slaty gritty shale” (h) above it buried not only the stumps, but also (what appears to be) their flattened tops as well. This suggests that their burial may have been quite rapid. With regard to these two shales Brown tells us that:
“… with the exception of the thin layer of clay, g, there are no appearances of distinct surface lines in the beds f and h, although the eight trees have clearlygrown upon at least five different levels …”77
Since the “soil” that surrounds the roots of these trees is virtually no different than the strata that buried them, perhaps it isn’t a “soil” at all, but rather simply a sedimentary deposit that buried them while (they were) floating upright.
Perhaps more telling is the fact that the above tree in Fig. 2, along with its roots, is: “filled with a fine-grained greyish white sandstone.“ 77
In other words, the sediment inside this tree is different than that which surrounds it. Also of significance is the fact that none of the sediments above the tree consist of greyish white sandstone. This is evident from the list of strata types given above (next to Fig. 2). This also strongly suggests that this tree is not in its original position of growth, but rather has been uprooted and transported to this location where it sank to the bottom and was buried in beds of layered mud and clay. Some may say that since it was filled with sandstone then it couldn’t have been transported — because it would have been too heavy. However, if we look closely at Fig. 1, we can see what appear to be the tops of these trees still intact and attached. This is significant and may explain how such a heavy tree could have been transported by strong currents (see Horizontal Shear).
Another reason to doubt that any of the above trees (in fig. 1) are “in situ” because of what Brown said about beds f, h, and g. Consider his comments below:
“The superincumbent beds, f and h (separated by the thin layer of blue clay, g), in addition to the upright stems with their roots and rootlets attached, growing at different levels, contain also vast quantities of flattened stems of Sigillariae, Calamites and Lepidodendron, lying in … oblique and horizontal positions and a great variety of Ferns, & c. Immediately under the roots of one of the trees I found Neuropteris cordata with basal leaflets, two species of Sphenophyllum two of Pecopteris, Sphenopteris crenata, Asterophyllites, and Pinnularia capillacea.” 77
He also tells us that:
“All the upright stems apparently belong to the same species, and are evidently young individuals, ranging from two to sixteen inches in diameter only.” 77
The fact that oblique stems and leaves were preserved in this strata, and that such leaves were from many different trees, while the trees themselves were of the same type is suggestive of transport. And the fact that the tree in fig. 2 was filled with sediments unlike any that surrounded it strongly suggests that it didn’t grow here, but rather was transported. This, coupled with the fact that there are no distinct soil surfaces in sections f–h suggests that none of the upright trees in the above drawing are in situ.
Facts Omitted: The above tree also provides (perhaps) the best example of Dawson’s bias, since he used a replica of Brown’s drawing of Fig. 2 (above) in an attempt to persuade his readers that the erect trees in the Joggins and Sydney strata are in situ. This can be said for several reasons. First because he made the claim 78 that it was in situ without even providing a specific reference.79 Second, because he didn’t give any details: i.e. he didn’t mention that it was filled with sediments unlike those surrounding it; nor did he mention that other trees in this strata were inclined; nor did he say anything about the various different leaves that were found under one of these trees. Third, because he omitted (from his writings) various other drawings provided by Brown that clearly show upright trees and plants with their roots missing. And fourth, because Dawson claimed that the Sydney area strata “occur in circumstances very similar to those of the erect trees at the Joggins …” 80 Also, to be fair to Dawson who is not here to defend himself, it is possible that he only received a drawing of the tree in the mail — as opposed to the Brown’s entire article, or that he perhaps never actually read any of Brown’s articles: something that seems unlikely when considering his position and close contact with the London Geological Society.
In other words, since Dawson couldn’t find a similar tree with attached roots and rootlets from the Joggins vicinity that he deemed worthy to depict, why not use one from the Sydney area and simply state (as Brown had done) that because it had attached roots, and was upright, that is must have been in situ, and that the circumstances which created the strata in these locations were very similar. This may also explain why Dawson didn’t publish any drawings of the numerous drift trees that he observed at various locations in the Joggins strata, for to do so might have given his readers the (unwanted) impression that none of these trees are “in situ.”
Note: Although, Dawson did provide a drawing of what he called “drift”, it didn’t portray drifted trees, but rather what he termed “drift” rocks. However, in spite if his bias, Dawson is to be commended for providing us with a number of very detailed cross-sectional drawings of upright trees and tree stumps — something which other authors (i.e. Goeppert, 1848) didn’t do. He is also to be commended for providing detailed descriptions of a very large section of the Joggins strata, and much additional information regarding the fossils that are found in this area.
Concerning such phenomena Coffin says:
“The presence of overlapping, erect trees seems to preclude the amount of time needed for normal growth… The major portion of the lower trunk would have protruded above ground during the entire life of the upper tree if both are in growth situation. Sandy mud filled the hollow interiors of both when it buried them. The trees were three meters apart, and the nearly horizontal bedding, easily traceable between them, negates the suggestions that they grew simultaneously on an even surface.” 82
Conifers and Drifted Trunk Deposits:
Dawson records finding four different species of conifers (of the genus Dadoxylon) in the Joggins strata. The circumstances surrounding their burial were so obvious that Dawson, himself, referred to them as “drift” deposits. These consist of large trees or tree trunks that are buried in prostrate or oblique positions in relation to the surrounding strata. With the exception of the Fossil Trees of St. Etienne (and those “reclassified” as drift deposits in this paper), the image below was one of the few such (clearly indicated) deposits found by the author. It is from a German publication. Another image of “clearly indicated” drift trees is found in a book by Schuchert.
Rarely Erect: Conifers are found in many parts of the Joggins strata; however, they are rarely erect, but rather usually prostrate or oblique with regard to the surrounding strata, and are in what are called “drift” deposits. 83 Although Dawson mentioned finding such Coniferous “drift” trees in a number of locations in the Joggins area strata, he apparently didn’t think they were of significance: at least as far as drawing a picture of them for his readers to observe and consider what such a finding indicates: and even though this is apparently their normal state. Instead he chose to publish one that was erect — such as the first tree pictured in (Part 1 of) this paper.
Regarding these deposits Dawson tells us that:
“…D. Acadianum, is found abundantly at… Joggins in the condition of drifted trunks imbedded in the sandstone of the lower part of the Coal-formation and the upper part of the Millstone-grit series. “
In addition Dawson informs us that:
“From the abundance of coniferous trees in the sandstonesabove and below the coal, and their comparative absence in the coal and coal-shales, it may be inferred that these trees belonged rather to the uplands than to the coal swamps; and the great durability and small specific gravity of coniferous wood would allow it to be drifted, either by rivers or ocean currents, to very great distances.” 83 **
And that such trees:
“… are most abundant in those parts of the section where the swamp conditions of the coal measures … disappear and where drifted plants predominate over those which have grown in situ… The prevalence of coniferous trees as drift-wood in the sandstones, above and below the Coal-measures, is probably … attributed to their capability of floating for a long time without becoming water-soaked and sinking.” 84 **
Leaves Present but Bark Missing: The conifers of Joggins are often found as “decorticated and prostrate trunks.” 85 In other words, they are missing their bark. In fact, of all the Corditalean trees at Joggins that were examined by Scott et al., none were found with their “periderm” or bark intact. 86 This was in spite of the fact that fossil leaves occur in the same deposits as these trees.86 Austin proposed that decortication could occur as a result of trees (in the form of log mats) rubbing against each other as they were transported by turbulent waters. 87, 88
Organic Material Intact: In addition to the above, Scott et al. report that the organic cell walls of some trees are still intact. 89 Dawson also reported finding similar organic material in fossil trees at Wallace Harbor. 90 With regard to this Dawson noted that after the calcareous mineral matter (filling the pores) was dissolved with hydrochloric acid, what was left was a piece of wood retaining the same size and shape as the original — only now it could be bent or burned in a fire just like ordinary wood. See also the unfossilized trees of Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands and Carbon 14.
Observations: The fact that the periderm (or bark) is missing tells us that something stripped these trees of their bark before they were entombed in this strata — thus implying that they were drifted in from a distance–as both Dawson and Scott readily admit. The fact that (fossil) leaves are found ( in the strata) along with these trees is suggestive of rapid burial. The fact that organic material is present in any specimens suggests that they are not hundreds of millions of years old but rather (more likely) only a few thousand.
Ancient Peat Lands Or Organic Sedimentary Deposits?
One of the most significant aspects of the Maritime strata are the multiple seams of coal. Joggins alone has about 80 different coal seams — ranging from thin films to seams that are 2.5 feet thick. Are these the remains of multiple forests that grew in place, or is there a more plausible explanation?
Many geologists believe that coals were formed as a result of multiple forests which grew in stagnant swamps. In the case of the Joggins area, these forest-swamps are said to have been drowned over and over again by flood waters, as the land repeatedly subsided at about the same pace that new sediments were being laid down. 91 They believe that the plant matter found in such coal grew in (or near) that location. This view is called the “Autochthonous” method of coal formation. For example, Lacefield states that:
“As plants died, their remains fell onto swampy floodplains and settled into lowland mires. Plant material under these conditions would accumulate as thick blankets of peat… because the stagnant water would be too low in oxygen and too acidic to support bacterial growth necessary for decay. The resulting peat layers were then buried under layers of sand, silt, and mud. This allowed the final stage of coal formation to proceed — physical and chemical alteration of the organic material through the pressure and heat generated by burial for an extended period of time.” 92
This belief is still held by many geologists today. It postulates that the plants which grew in such (ancient) swamps, –after many hundreds (or thousands –?) of years– accumulated into thick beds of peat, which were buried under sediments, and then, after many more hundreds (or thousands –?) of years, as a result of heat and pressure turned into coal. This method of coal formation requires long periods of time simply because of all the time it would have taken for all of those forests upon forests to grow.
Other geologists believe that coal seams were formed as the result of plant material being uprooted, carried off by flood waters, and subsequently reburied by sediments. This view is known as the “Allochthonous” (or drift) method of coal formation. It does not require long periods of time to account for such (multiple) deposits of coal.
Evidence for the Autochthonous (Peat-Swamp) Theory of Coal Formation:
Upright Trees: When the base of an upright tree is imbedded immediately above a coal seam it is almost always assumed to be in growth position–even if no discernible roots are found attached to it. In this case the roots are assumed to be hidden in the seam, even though its base may be very large and the seam quite thin.93 The tree to the left, above Coal 50, in the illustration below is one such example.
After Brown, 1849, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 129, Fig. 5. Sydney area, Nova Scotia.
Underclays: In many cases coal seams are resting on top of what is termed an “underclay.” Such beds may consist entirely of clay, or, as is more often the case, of shale, or sandstone, or a mixture of these; sometimes they even consist of limestone (ref. 125) However, to properly be termed an “underclay” it must contain rootlets. Underclays are sometimes referred to as “seat-earths,” or soils. They are thought to represent ancient beds upon which the swamp/forests grew. Dawson believed that:
“The occurrence of Stigmaria under nearly every bed of coal, proves beyond question that the material was accumulated by growth in situ,while the character of the sediments intervening between the beds of coal proves with equal certainty the abundant transport of mud and sand by water. In other words, conditions similar to those of the swampy deltas of great rivers …” 94
Dawson further believed that the:
“Stigmaria-underclays… furnish the key to the whole question of the origin of coal, and that the comparisons of Coal deposits, by Sir Charles Lyell, with the ‘Cypress-swamps’ of the Mississippi perfectly explain all the more important appearances in the Coal-formation of Nova Scotia.” 94
Banded Seams: Coal seams are quite often banded or layered. Such laminations are believed to represent multiple forests that grew one on top of one another.
Lack of Upright Fossils: Instances of upright trees that traverse coal seams are not supposed to occur. This is because coal is believed to take hundreds (if not thousands) of years to accumulate from beds of peat- growth, and thus any trees that might have protruded through the pre-coal (peat) should have fallen over and decayed during the time it took the seam to form. Yet such trees, though rarely documented, do occur, and will be discussed shortly.
Absence of Sulphur in Underclays: According to Dawson, the underclays have an:
“absence of sulphurets, and the occurrence of carbonate of iron in connexion with them, prove that, … rain-water, and not sea-water, percolated them.” 94
This autochthonous (in situ growth) theory is believed by many geologists today to be the correct interpretation of how coals were formed. It is also the only view that is compatible with evolutionary philosophy.
Evidence for the Allochthonous / Drift Theory of Coal Formation:
Truncated or Missing Roots: The overwhelming majority of upright trees and tree stumps in this strata have truncated or missing roots and rootlets. For example, in the drawing by Brown above there are two trees embedded at the base of underclay No. 52. Note that none of their roots are visible in shale No. 51. This is significant since shale is thought to be an ancient soil, and because in many other instances, Stigmaria roots and rootlets are preserved in shale. It is also significant because there is no coal seam present whereby the roots might be concealed.
Absence of Large Roots: Another indication of catastrophic deposition for the Joggins strata is that few “underclays” possess large roots with (or without) intact rootlets. For example, there are only a few beds where Dawson records finding large roots of Stigmaria. One of these is in limestone. Concerning this section of strata Dawson wrote:
“Coal Group 31: Gray sandstone.
Coal and coaly shale, 1 foot.
Underclay, Stigmaria, 1 foot.
Coaly shale, 6 inches.
Coal 2 inches
Argillaceous underclay, Stigmaria.”
He also provides the following details:
“The roof contains Sigillaria, and the coal has flattened impressions of the same. This bed is remarkable as having a roof of sandstone. Its underclay is also peculiar. It is about 9 feet in thickness, and contains Stigmaria and nodules of ironstone throughout. It rests on a bituminous limestone containing Naiadites and scales of fishes, and also large roots of Stigmaria … This bed gives more colour to the idea of Stigmaria having grown under water than any other bed at the Joggins.” 95
Here is one of the few instances where Dawson records finding “large roots of Stigmaria” in the Joggins strata; however, in this case they are not in the “underclay,” but rather under it in a bed of limestone. In addition, as far as we know, these (large) roots were not attached to trees, nor did they possess attached rootlets.
Notice also that the larger roots were found below the smaller rootlets. This is the opposite of what we would expect if such roots were in situ; for if this were the case then the larger roots should be above the smaller rootlets. They should also have rootlets attached, but, as far as we know, they don’t.
Lack of Distinct Soils: An absence of distinct soils around rootlets and under trees suggests that such beds are not “soils” at all. Regarding this, we again note Coffins’ remark :
“Only a small number of vertical trees arise from coal. The majority originate in shale or sandstone, whichexhibit no change in texture or organic content.” 96 **
Over and over again, when observing this strata, distinct soils are missing. For example, in Brown’s drawing (1849, p.357) of the stump above the Sydney Main seam there is no distinguishable difference between the layering of the “shale without fossil plants,” that is said to be a “soil,” from the shale immediately above it.
Dawson noticed this as well. Consider his remarks from the 1868 Edition of Acadian Geology :
“Subdivision IX is a … series of underclays and coals, alternating with mussel beds. It contains seven distinct soil- surfaces, the highest supporting an erect tree,which appears as a ribbed sandstone cast, five feet six inches high, nine inches in diameter at the top, and fifteen at the base, where the roots began to separate… Five of the underclays support coals, and in three instances bituminous limestones have been convertedinto soils, none of which, however, support coals. The last of these… limestones is a very remarkable bed. First, we have an underclay; this was submerged, and Spirorbis attached its little shell to the decaying trunks, which finally fell prostrate, and formed a carbonaceous bottom, over which multitudes of little crustaceans (Cythere) swam and crept, and on which fourteen inches of calcareous and carbonaceous matter were gradually collected.”
“Then this bed of organic matter was elevated into a soil, and large trees, with Stigmaria roots, grew on its surface. These were buried under thick beds of clay and sand, and it is in the latter that the erect tree already mentioned occurs; its roots,however, are about nine feet above the surface of the limestone, and belong to a later and higher terrestrial surface, which cannot be distinguished from the clay of similar character above and below.” 97
In the first paragraph Dawson refers to the surface supporting this tree as a “distinct soil.” In the second he tells us that the sediments surrounding its base “cannot be distinguished” from those above or below it. Such assertions cause doubts to arise with regard to Dawson’s objectivity — especially his conclusion that these were “soils.” The fact that they are indistinguishable from the strata which buried the tree is a clear indication that they are not “distinct”; if they were, then there should be an observable differencebetween the “soil” that enclosed the roots vs. the sediments that buried the remainder of this tree.
Note also that although Dawson tells us that this tree appeared as “a sandstone cast, five feet six inches high,” he does not say how deep it was buried in the clay. For all we know it may have been several feet.
Vegetation: While the type of vegetation in this coal offers some support for the forest-growth (autochthonous) theory; this same evidence raises questions as to whether such a forest ever was a swamp. This is because Conifers do not grow in swamps, nor do ferns. Regarding this Dawson states that:
“The Sigillaria grew on the same soils which supported Conifers, Lepidodendra, Cordaites, and Ferns, plants which could not have grown in water…” 98 And, “with the exception, perhaps, of some Pinnulariae and Asterophyllites there is a remarkable absence from the Coal measures of any form of properly aquatic vegetation.” 98
Although there may be a lack of what Dawson calls “properly aquatic vegetation” in these coal measures, there is abundant evidence of aquatic life, such as crustaceans, clams, fish, and marine tubeworms. 99
However, Dawson’s statement is questionable for other reasons as well. For example, almost all Coniferous trees in the Joggins strata are found in the form of fossil logs buried in drifted Channel Deposits. 100 With the exception of leaves and (perhaps) bark, their remains are not found in the coals themselves — except for small pieces found in coal balls. Dawson here takes aim at those who had previously proposed that Sigillaria and Lepidodendrons were aquatic (i.e. that they grew in water). This view was first proposed by Brongniart, 101 and was later espoused by Binney. 102 More recently, Scheven 103 has proposed that such trees were not only aquatic, but comprised what he terms “Floating Forests.” Scheven later discovered that he was not the first to propose such a view; for Kunze104 had done so over 100 years prior. Such a view would allow for much larger forest areas than are currently available on the Continents alone. However, since no Sigillarias or Lepidodendrons exist today (other than as fossils), we may never know for certain whether or not this was the case.
Abundance of Fragile Fossils: According to Dawson, 105 56 coals at Joggins contain leaves of one or more of the following types: Asterophyllites, Cordaites (previously Poacites), Cyperites, Alethopteris lonchitica, Pecopteris lonchitica, Lepidophylla, and “vascular bundles of ferns.” Dawson also informs us that at least two of the Joggins coals are composed almost entirely of leaves. 106 This is also suggestive of a rapid organic sedimentary deposit — as opposed to that of fossil soils.
Varying Lamina within Seams: Dawson also records the following details about “Coal Group 12”, a one foot thick multilayer “Coal and coaly shale.”
“The coal has in one layer much Cordaites, in others it includes an immense number of specimens of Sporangites papillata; it has also bast tissue, epidermal tissue, and discigerous tissue.” 107
If such a seam resulted from a single forest, then we would not expect to find individual lamina with leaves, but rather many. Such fossils would only be preserved if they were buried rapidly, or perhaps slowly if the environment was anaerobic. In this case, however, since it represents a single layer among many different layers, the rapid burial scenario is (perhaps) the most likely. If, on the other hand, these coals resulted from “stagnant swamps” under anaerobic freshwater conditions, then we would not expect to find bivalves with marine tubeworms attached. For example, consider Dawson’s account of Coal Group 18–an eight inch thick laminated coal:
“The coal is shaly and laminated. It contains much Cordaites, also Lepidodendron, Calamites, and Alethopteris lonchitica. In one layer there are Naiadites, Spirorbis, and scales of fishes.”108**This phenomenon was also described by Duff and Walton, who — with regard to a section of Logan’s Division 4 — reported that:
“A remarkable feature of the coals is their occasional interbanding with limestoneof calcareous shale. The boundaries of the coal and limestone are usually sharp; very thin laminae and even isolated shell layers (bivalves) can be seen along parting planes in the coal in thin sections.” 109 **
Finding alternating (and/or isolated) layers of limestone and coal–along with fragile fossils of leaves and isolated layers of shells with marine tubeworms is, again, more consistent with the rapid deposition of drifted (organic) matter than with the concept of multiple slow growing forests which grew on mud-flats, limestones, and peat. Also, according to Price, 110 few trees are known to grow on a peat surface, and even those that do must have their roots in an earthy type of soil, as opposed to (only) the peat. However, such may not have been the case with the Sigillarias and Lepidodendrons (that comprise much of the Carboniferous coals), as their radiating roots are typical of modern aquatic plants.
For more on how coal seams were formed see: Upright Trees in Coal.
What About Sydney? With regard to fragile fossils in the strata near Sydney, Dawson makes the following comments:
“The Sydney Coal measures contain not only erect trees, but also numerous with Naiadites, Cythere, Spirorbis, Fish-scales, etc.; though these do not so frequently overlie coal-seams as at the Joggins. The shales at Sydney are also much more rich than those at the Joggins in leaves and other more delicate parts of plants…” **
“Wherever erect trees occur ferns, Asterophyllites, Sphenophylla, and other delicate leaves, are found in the greatest abundance… having been covered up by successive layers of fine mud, deposited at frequent intervals … In these localities single fronds of ferns are sometimes found covering a slab of shale… as sharp and distinct in their outline as if the had been gathered only yesterday from a recent fern, and spread out with the greatest possible care, not a single leaflet being wanting. 111
Upright Tree with Sedimentary Coal: Coffin discusses a tree which had its interior filled with coal for a distance of three feet. The tree itself was imbedded in sandstone. Its lowermost portion was filled with sandstone; however, above this it was filled with coal. Consider his remarks below:
“One short section of cliff near Sydney Mines constitutes a good case history to illustrate several of the above points. One large, upright petrified tree (probably Sigillaria) originates in the same bed where compass measurements established the parallel orientation of Stigmaria with one another and with the dominant current. Thus, if the Stigmaria were not in growing position it is doubtful that the tree would be. The erect tree passes through a bed of shale 1.5 meters thick that contains abundant quantities of exquisitely preserved fern leaves — good evidence of rapid sedimentation. Sediments approaching that of crude coal fill about a meter of its length. No corresponding one – meter – thick bed of coal exists outside the tree, but directly above the broken top we do notice a seven- centimeter seam of the dark-gray deposit.
“Apparently when the material washed out over the surface, it filled the upper meter of the hollow tree. In this case it is obvious that the thin organic layer lying directly over the tree cannot be a growing level but rather a water laid deposit.” 112
Upright Trees in Coal: Documented and detailed instances of trees that transcend coal seams are somewhat rare; however, such trees do exist and may, in fact, be common. Below are two such cases from the Sydney area on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The first instance involves the three trees above coal No. 172–a nine inch seam. It appears that these trees are crossing another seam about 2 inches thick. We cannot be certain of this (thickness) because it is not given. All we are told is that section 173 is 5 inches thick and is composed of“argillaceous shale containing layers of coal”. 113, 114
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 130
The second instance is between sections 182 and 183 in the same drawing (above). Here we see a large tree with roots that cross a coal seam. Regarding this tree we are told that it is:
“18 inches in diameter…, with strong roots penetrating downwards at an angle of 45 degrees, and piercing through the three-inch layer of mixed coal and shale No 182.“114
Note: Brown’s number 182 is positioned incorrectly. It should be shifted to the right so that it is next to No. 183 (a 4 ft. Arenaceous shale with erect trees, plants and Stigmaria).
Two other examples of upright trees in coal are reproduced below; the first is from a book by Bölsche that is in German. The author does not tell us where it is from; however, more than likely it is from Germany, since there are many coal seams there. The second is from a book by Williamson on the subject of Stigmaria. Note that in Williamson’s drawing there are no visible traces of roots even though the tree is sitting atop a laminated Fireclay.
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strata of the coal
After Bölsche, Wilhelm, Im Steinkohlenwald; 1906– (Various Eds.), p. 35
Williamson, William C., A Monograph on the Morphology and Histology of Stigmaria Ficoides, 1887, p. 13.
High Sulphur Content: Dawson, noted at least 12 instances of coals (near Joggins) that are either pyritous, or contain pyritized fragments of wood — an indication of high sulphur content. Dawson also recognized this as an indication of marine influence. For example, with regard to Coal Group 4 of Division XXVII he states:
“The upper shales and coals are very pyritous, and decompose when exposed to the weather — an indication that sea-water had access to these beds, while the vegetable matter was still recent.”115
Gilbing concurs with this view. Consider his remarks below:
“I am pretty sure that marine influence was active at Joggins. In addition to the forams and trace fossils (1995 paper), Sr isotopes on fish bone material are suggestive of marine / estuarine influence(John’s 1998 paper). Also, mud drapes at one level include some paired drapes, which is suggestive of tidal activity. The coals are rich in sulphur, especially pyrite — a marine sulphate source?” 116
Further evidence of marine influence is reported by Skilliter, who said that:
“The 1433 m thick section exposed in the cliffs at Joggins, Nova Scotia has long been held to have formed in a fresh-water, continental basin.Recently, the possibility of periodic, distal marine influence has been inferred for… part of the section from the trace fossil and microfossil record. Multidisciplinary data from a further detailed investigation of … 65 m of strata supports this inference … Palynological, geochemical, and petrographic data indicate the Forty Brine coal seam originated as a minerotrophic mire of elevated pH; enriched sulphur (up to 19%) is suggestive of marine water influence. This re-interpretation has implications for the accepted paleoecology of the aquatic fauna, and for predictive stratigraphic modeling of similar ‘continental’ basins.” 117
Structure of Carboniferous Coals: With regard to the “microscopic texture and structure of coal,” Nevins makes the following comments concerning a study by Cohen.
“A. D. Cohen initiated a comparative structural study between modern autochthonous mangrove peats and a rare modern allochthonous beach peat from southern Florida. Most autochthonous peats had plant fragments showing random orientation with a dominant matrix of finer material, while the allochthonous peat showed current orientation of elongated axes of plant fragments generally parallel to the beach surface with a characteristic lack of the finer matrix. The poorly sorted plant debris in the autochthonous peats had a massive structure due to the intertwining mass of roots, while the allochthonous peat had characteristic microlamination due to the absence of inter-grown roots.” 118
Nevins then quotes Cohen as follows:
“A peculiar enigma which developed from study of the allochthonous peat was that vertical microtome sections of this material looked more like thin sections of Carboniferous coal than any of the autochthonous samples studied.” 118, 119
Note about Underclays: George M. Price, in his book “The New Geology” quotes Arber as follows, with regard to underclays:
“Professor E. A. N. Arber, of Cambridge University, has given us some very enlightening remarks about the ‘underclays.’ He says that ‘nothing could be more unlike a soil, in the usual sense of the term, than an underclay.’ (“Natural History of Coal,” p. 95) He further points out: ‘Not only are fire clays commonly found without any coal seams above them, but they may occur as the roof above the seam, or in the seam itself… Sometimes coals occur without any underclay, and rest directly on sandstones, limestones, conglomerates, or even on igneous rocks.’ — P. 98. ‘Another difficulty in connection with the underclays is that their thickness commonly bears no relation to the extent of the seam above. Often thick coals overlie thin underclays, and vice versa.'”
“Regarding the many instances of upright stems, this author argues that — ‘These stems in some instances are certainly not in situ. Examples have been found which are upside down, and in some districts the prone stems far exceed those still upright. No doubt the majority, if not all of these trunks have been drifted.’ — P. 114.” (Price, p. 464)
Observations: In the opinion of this writer the evidence favors an allochthonous (or drift) origin for the Carboniferous coals — as opposed to the popular Peat-bog / growth-in-place theory which is still taught in many institutions of higher learning. See also The Origin of Coal, Coal: How Did it Originate, Conifers and the Coal Question, Geology and the Age of the Earth; Brown Coal Mining in Germany, Coal: It’s Occurrence and Origin,
The Fragmentation of Stigmaria:
While studying the Coal strata of Nova Scotia, Professor N. A. Rupke also concluded that the strata that contains Stigmaria roots and upright trees is not representative of in situ growth and burial but is of allochthonous origin.120 His conclusions were based on the the following:
1. Preferred orientation of Stigmaria axes,
2. Fragmentation of Stigmaria,
3. Filling of fragments with different sediment than that which surrounds them,
4. Evidence of rapid burial.
With regard to these roots Rupke stated that:
“In most cases, it was quite difficult to trace a Stigmaria specimen over its entire length through the enveloping rock, especially when it was cropping out in cross section. Nevertheless, for a good many specimens, it could be established that they were but fragments, that is, no longer connected with a tree stem and quite often with the finer end broken off.” 120
Rupke also noted that :
“beds with upright trees often contain Stigmaria, sometimes spread through the entire thickness of the bed.” 120
When challenged by Ferguson, 121 Rupke responded by providing more details. For example, Ferguson suggested that the Stigmaria fragments in question were perhaps still connected with trees (that were) hidden in the cliff, or that the trees had eroded away. To this Rupke gave the following response:
“1. For a few specimens it was possible to trace both ends into the rock, since they were sub-parallel to the cliff face and slightly bent so that only their outward bend was exposed. Both ends were found to terminate abruptly, without any connection with a tree.
2. The stigmarian beds on Cape Breton Island are traversed by several upright trees that start at the bottom of the beds. The Stigmaria specimens occur throughout the entire thickness of the beds, although for the greater part in the upper half. Nowhere was an upright tree found that starts in the upper half of the beds or somewhere else within them. In case the Stigmaria specimens are still connected with trees, one should find some evidence that trees do begin at some level within the stigmarian beds. Moreover, most of the upright trees that are actually seen in the cliff face stand on an underclay, a coal seam or a carbonaceous layer. If the Stigmaria specimens are still in situ and thus representative of a succession of forests, one should find carbonaceous layers or some other indication of soils within the stigmarian beds. Evidence for this, however, is absent; on the contrary, well developed and completely undisturbed cross-bedded units can be seen in many places in these beds. Consequently, the contention that it is fragments of Stigmaria that are dealt with and not in situ occurrences seems beyond doubt.” 122
Other authorities have made similar remarks. For example, in the only book ever published on the subject of Stigmaria, Williamson said:
“Having so many proofs that some of the examples of Stigmaria discovered in the fireclay or seat-bed are the downward extentions of Sigillaria and Lepidodendroid trees, it surely can no longer be doubted that the fragments of this identical Stigmaria ficoides with which that clay is so constantly filled must also be portions of similar roots. Such fragments, both of roots and rootlets, are extremely abundant. Indeed it is rare to find a fireclay in which such is not the case, but how these roots have so often become disturbed and broken up is a question not easily answered.” 123 — p. 12
Williamson makes no attempt to answer it either. He does, however, provide references to other authorities who also noticed this. For example, in his Conclusion he states that:
“The fact that large quantities of fragments have been found in localities unassociated with any Lepidodendron or Sigillarian stems has led some geologists to ‘consider Stigmaria as originally representing floating stems becoming roots under peculiar circumstances.'” 124
“… and Lesquereux cites Schimper’s authority for the fact that a deposit in the Vosges is filled with a prodigious quantity of fragments of Stigmaria … (and) … abundant remains or trunks of Knorria and Lepidodendron” 124 ( pp. 43-44) **
Lesquereux’s own observations were similar:
“Fragments of Stigmaria, trunks, branches and leaves, are generally found embedded in every kind of compound, clay, shales, sandstone, coal, even limestone, in carboniferous strata … They are always in large proportion, far above that of any other remains of coal plants…” 125
“All the geologists who have examined the distribution of the carboniferous measures and the composition of the strata have remarked the predominance of Stigmaria in the clay deposits which constitute the bottom of the coal beds. As the remains of Stigmaria are always found in that peculiar kind of clay and also in the intervening silicious beds generally called clay partings, without any fragments of Sigillaria, it has been supposed that these clay materials were merely a kind of soft mould where the Sigillaria began their life by the germination of seeds and there expanded their roots, while their trunks growing up did contribute by their woody matter the essential composition formed above clay beds. This opinion has an appearance of truth indeed. But how to explain the fact that beds of fireclay twenty to thirty feet in thickness are mostly composed of Stigmaria, or filled from the base to the top with remains of these plants, stems and leaves, without a fragment of Sigillaria ever found amongst them and without any coal above? Roots cannot live independently of trunks or of aerial plants …” 125
“Large surfaces of rocks … are seen in Pennsylvania entirely covered with stems and branches of Stigmaria. The stems, very long, nearly the same size in their whole length, rarely forking, crossing one upon another in all directions, cover the rocks with their leaves still attached to them in their original disposition of right angle. They have evidently the same position and distribution as during their growth, and there, over the whole exposed surface of the rocks, an acre or more, nothing is seen, either in any modification of the size of the stems or in their direction, which might indicate the rooting process or the axis of a trunk. 125
“As seen from their fragments, the Stigmaria stems are not exactly cylindrical … The pith is thus exposed naked on the under side of the stems, and the leaves come out from the sides and upper surfaces only … This conformation shows that the stems of Stigmaria were floating or expanding at the surface of soft muddy lakes, and independent of the growth of trees. 125
Lesquereux goes on to propose a new theory regarding the peculiar aquatic nature of Stigmaria roots. It is summarized below:
Whether Lesquereux was correct in his assessment is uncertain. However one thing does seem to be certain with regard to Stigmaria roots: namely that they are very commonly found as fragments that were buried while floating in prostrate, oblique and upright positions — as opposed to in their original positions of growth.
“At the present epoch some kinds of plants inhabiting the swamps have floating stems. Their mode of vegetation is similar to that of Stigmaria. Expanding their loose stems on or below the surface of the water, they gradually fill the ditches by their interlacing branches, and do not bear any flowering stems as long as they remain immersed…” 125
“These plants present an illustration of the mode of growth and nature of Stigmaria. The stems could grow independent for a considerable length of time as floating and sterile, or bear erect flowering stems or trunks when the ground was solid enough to support trees.” 125
“The process of transformation of floating sterile stems passing into trunks bearing roots in not easily explainable. We see, however, … the same phenomenon reproduced on a number of semi-aquatic plants of the present time the Lycopods — the mosses especially. 125
Can Trees Be Buried Upright?
With regard to trees buried in vertical (i.e. “growth”) position, Helder reports the following:
“Evidence that tree trunks sink in a vertical position, can be found in the work of Fritz, who studied the famous multiple ‘fossil forests’ of Yellowstone National Park (Geology, 1980, Vol. 8, pp. 309-313). The traditional interpretation of this region is that forests were preserved on top of other forests with the whole process consuming millions of years. But Fritz concludes that no such forests ever existed. Rather, the tree stumps were carried by mud flows to their final resting place: ‘Many of the petrified vertical stumps in the Lamar River Formation have a wide root system with short, broken trunks. Such trees would behave as an irregular clast with the vertical position being most stable and would tend to be deposited right-side-up.‘” 126
Further evidence of this phenomenon is reported by Coffin,127 Morris, 128 and Austin.129
Evidence of Marine Influence in the Joggins Strata:
The discovery of marine fossils in the coal-measures of Joggins also suggests that this area was at one time submerged under some form of ocean current. Lets look closer at the evidence.
Spirorbis is a marine annelid (worm) that lives inside a spirally arranged calcareous tube — often referred to as a “tubeworm.” It is an extant (i.e. living) species found in oceans throughout the world. It is not known to inhabit freshwater lakes or rivers. 130 At Joggins, Dawson found Spirorbis fossils in 18 different beds of (Logan’s) Division 4 Coals. They are often found in the same beds with Naiadites (bivalve mollusks) and tiny crustaceans which Dawson refers to as Cythere (now known as Ostracodes). Dawson was aware that these tubeworm fossils at Joggins looked just like those living in modern oceans. Regarding this he stated:
“the result was a … seam of coal … succeeded by other limestones and coals, and then by a considerable thickness of shales and bituminous limestones, in which we find not only the Cythere, but the scales of small fishes, bivalve shells (Naiadites) allied to the common mussel, and a small whorled shell (Spirorbis carbonarius) resembling those now found adhering to the seaweeds of the shore (the common Spirorbis spirillum)…” 131
And: “This little shell, which I described as a Spirorbis as long ago as 1845, is apparently not specifically distinct from Microconchus carbonarius of the British Coal-Fields. Its microscopic structure is identical with that of modern Spirorbes, and shows that it is a true worm-shell. It is found throughout the Coal formation, attached to plants and to shells of Naiadites, and must have been an inhabitant of enclosed lagoons and estuaries. Its occurrence on Sigillariae has been used as an argument in favour of the opinion that these trees grew in seawater; but, unfortunately for that conclusion, the Spirorbis is often found on the inside of the bark, showing that this had become dead and hollow. Beside this, the same kind of evidence would prove that Lepidodendra, Cordaites, and ferns were marine plants.” 132
Dawson’s assertion that these annelids inhabited “closed lagoons and estuaries” is a possible scenario; however, is it the most plausible? He also here suggested that for anyone to think otherwise is synonymous to believing that such plants grew under the sea. This is one more example of his unwillingness to consider other scenarios — especially when they pointed in a direction he did not want to consider.
Dawson’s argument rests on the assumption that the Sigillaria on which these annelid fossils are found were entombed in their original growth position, and that their interiors were solid (as opposed to hollow). 133
Are there other possible scenarios that better fit the evidence?
The fact that such plants are found with Spirorbis attached suggests one of the following:
1. That these plants and trees grew in the sea.
2. That the Spirorbes of Joggins were once freshwater creatures.
3. That the Spirorbes of Joggins lived in the ocean, and that the ocean swept over the land.
Let’s look more closely at each of these three possibilities.
The First Scenario requires many different species of (known) land plants to have lived in the ocean. This view is not taken seriously–at least not with regard to the Coniferous Cordaites and Ferns. However there is evidence that both the Sigillaria and Lepidodendrons were not only aquatic, but may have supported what has been termed “Floating Forests.”
In brief, the idea that these trees grew in water was first proposed by the French Botanist-Geologist Adolphe Brongniart, and later espoused by the English Geologist E. W. Binney 134 These authors were of the opinion that such trees (though in water) grew in the same spot where they were entombed. According to Scheven, it was not until 1870 that the German Botanist Otto Kunze 135 proposed that these trees not only grew in water, but actually floated on the surface. However, he and his theory were forgotten for over 100 years, until Scheven (another German), who — after coming to this same conclusion — discovered Kunzes’ work.
The Kunze-Scheven scenario asserts that the semi-hollow Lycopod trees, with their hollow roots, supported large “Floating Forests,” which, in turn, provided a habitat where other (non-aquatic) plants, such as ferns, could thrive. This would not, however, mean that these trees were submerged under water, but rather simply floating upon its surface.
The Second Scenario: that the Spirorbes of the past were freshwater creatures is possible; however, there is little evidence to support this view — except the circular argument that the strata of Joggins are freshwater deposits, and therefore, the Spirorbes found there must also have been freshwater organisms.
The Third Scenario: that the ocean swept over the land, requires the least amount of conjecture. I.E. The Spirorbes found at Joggins look just like modern Spirorbes because they are one in the same species. The only “problem” with this is that it strongly suggests that the coal beds of Joggins and Sydney may not have formed in slow-growing peat bogs, but rather as a result of major Continental (or Intercontinental) flooding. It is this author’s opinion that this scenario, is by far the most likely. For more on Spirorbis, see Coffin,136 and Schultze and Chorn. 137
Charles Lyell was perhaps, more than any other, Dawson’s mentor. Lyell also commented on the subject of finding Spirorbis fossils in the Coal strata. Consider his remarks below:
“When the carboniferous forests sank below high-water mark, a species of Spirorbis or Serpula … attached itself to the outside of the stumps and stems of the erect trees, adhering occasionally even to the interior of the bark… These hollow upright trees, covered with innumerable marine annelids, reminded me of a “cane-brake,” as it is commonly called, consisting of tall reeds, Arundinaria macrosperma, which I saw in 1846, at the… extremity of the delta of the Mississippi. Although these reeds are fresh-water plants, they were covered with barnacles, having been killed by an incursion of salt-water over an extent of many acres, where the sea had for a season usurped a space previously gained from it by the river. Yet the dead reeds, in spite of this change, remained standing in the soft mud, enabling us to conceive how easily the larger Sigillariae,hollow as they were but supported by strong roots, may have resisted an incursion of the sea. 138
Unlike Dawson, Lyell considered Spirorbis to be a marine annelid, and readily acknowledged that its presence was evidence of “an incursion of the sea”.
Agglutinated Foraminifera: If these were “river” deposits, then why do many sections of this strata have fossils of marine foraminifera in them? For example, Archer, et. al. state that:
“Some of the trace fossils at Joggins have traditionally been interpreted as having been produced in nonmarine settings… The traces, however, occur on the surfaces of siltstone laminae, which exhibit tidal rythmites. This relationship indicates marine influences, probably in an estuarine setting…” 139
And “At Joggins, trace fossils are not common, and those that occur throughout the study interval do not generally refute the long-standing interpretations of a basin dominated by nonmarine deposition. One the other hand, the cooccurrence of specific trace fossils and agglutinated foraminifera within the trace-fossil bed indicates that deposition took place in brackish-water, presumable estuarine conditions. This… indicates greater coastal proximity than had been previously considered … this new information should facilitate reinterpretations of… many additional Carboniferous sections.” 139
Consider also the findings of Wightman, Scott, Medioli and Gibling with regard to the Sydney Basin– a setting similar to the coal-measures of Joggins.
“The recent discovery of agglutinated foraminifera in close proximity to coals in the Carboniferous Sydney Basin of Nova Scotia … constitutes the first identification of marine fossils in 150 years of investigation of these coal-fields. The find indicates that the coals formed in a coastal setting rather than on flood plains … as previously thought. …” 140
Eurypterus: These are extinct arthropods found in Cambrian to Permian strata. They reach lengths of up to nine feet. They are (thought to be) related to horseshoe crabs. Price 141 refers to them as sea-scorpions and Lacefield as “giant sea-scorpions” 142 They have been found in the roof strata of Coal- group 8, in Division 4. 143
According to Moore, Lalicker, and Fischer, eurypterids are:
“… not animals of the open shallow seas. Nor are the sedimentary deposits containing (eurypterids) fresh-water formations, laid down in lakes or made by rivers.“ 144
They go on to state that:
“…eurypterids were spread throughout large water bodies” that were either too salty or not salty enough for “corals, brachiopods, or various other invertebrates which occur… in normal marine environments.” 144
And according to Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, Eurypterids are:
“Extinct marine, or estuarine scorpion-like arthropods, related to the horseshoe crab.” 145
Gyracanthus is an extinct elasmobranch fish with round sculpted spines similar to a shark or ray. It has been found at Joggins in Coal-group 40 in Division 4. 146
Ctenoptychius is a type of ray or shark; it has been found in the coal of Coal-group 22 at the bottom of Division 3 147 and in the roof strata of Coal-group 6 in Division 4; 148 this bed also contains remains of Spirorbis, Cythere, and Naiadites. 149
Selachians are fish from the family of sharks and rays. Dawson noted that some of the beds at Joggins contain “teeth of Selachian fishes of considerable size.” 150
And while it is true that finding sharks and rays in the coal measure strata does not (in itself) prove that these creatures lived in the ocean; however, it does add weight to the growing amount data which strongly suggests the presence of a marine influence during the deposition of (much, if not all, of) this strata.
Ostracodes are tiny crustaceans that look like miniature clams. Dawson refers to them as ‘Cythere’.. According to Copeland 151 Calder, 152 and Tibbert and Scott, 153 the ostracodes in the rock formations of Nova Scotia include a wide variety–some of which are believed to be of marine or estuarine origin. For example, in this regard Tibbert has said that:
“Recent reevaluation of microfauna of the Horton Bluff Formation, long held to be solely lacustrine, has revealed the presence of a marginal marine ostracodfauna within profundal lagoonal beds of the basal Blue Beach Member, including species of the western European genera Copelandela and Carbonita and the more cosmopolitan Shemonaella (Tibbert 1996)…” 154, 155
Echinoderms: According to Moore, Lalicker and Fischer, 156 echinoderms are “exclusively marine invertebrates.” According to Skilliter 157 echinoderms have been found in two different limestone deposits above the Forty Brine coal seam (which is part of the Joggins Formation).
Naiadites: “Naiadites” were first discovered, and named, by John W. Dawson.158 These are bivalve Mollusks similar to clams. In the literature they are sometimes referred to as Pelecypods or Lamellibranchia. There are three different species of Naiadites at Joggins. According to Dawson they are often found in association with the coals. They are also often found with “Spirorbis attached.” For example, in a table of the “Relative Frequency of Occurrence of … Plants and Animals in the Coals of the South Joggins” 159 Naiadites and Spirorbis occur together in 16 different beds of Division 4 Coals. When discussing the occurrence of Spirorbis at Joggins, Dawson states that:
“It is found throughout the Coal-formation, attached to plants and to shells of Naiadites …” 160
And that: “… Naiadites, Spirorbis, and Cythere constantly occur associated in the same beds; andthe conclusions as to habitat applicable to any one of these genera must apply to all.“ 160
Dawson goes on to state that Spirorbis shells are often found adhering to Sigillaria and Ferns, and to explain this as follows: “Spirorbes multiply fast and grow very rapidly; and these little shells no doubt took immediate possession of submerged vegetation, just as their modern allies cover fronds of Laminaria and Fucus.” 160Note: Laminaria and Fucus are extant seaweeds found in the ocean.
Additional information on the habitat of Naiadites comes from an article by Condra and Elias in which they state:
“In a recent discussion on Carboniferous Spirorbis Trueman (1942) observes that these coiled tubular worms produce deeply marked impressions on the outer surfaces of Naiaditesand other pelecypods, to which they are often attached. Says Trueman (p. 313) ‘When the worm tube breaks or falls away it leaves a very sharp and clear mold of its position’ and ‘no evidence has been noticed of Spirorbis tubes which could be regarded as being underneath the peristracum of the shell; he concludes that the sharp impression is produced not by boring or by etching of the worm but rather by the normal growth of the molluscan shell around the surface of attachmentwhich remains stationary.” 161
The fact that Naiadite shells had time to grow around the Spirorbes suggests that they shared the same habitat. The fact that various species of Naiadites and Spirorbis, along with Curvirimula (another bivalve) have been found with Echinoderms in the same bed of limestone suggests that this habitat was marine, and that the oceans swept over the land, and buried freshwater, terrestrial, and marine creatures together in the same beds. In this regard, it is quite likely that the ocean currents came from the West, and were moving in an Easterly direction. This is suggested by the fact that, as we look at the coals of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee we see a much greater association of marine fossils, or marine and fresh water fossils (mixed together) with the coal strata of these areas. In other words, as the ocean waters moved further Eastward, over the land, fewer and fewer marine fossils are found associated with the strata — strata that was probably all laid down within a very short time period.
Marine Algae: According to Skilliter 162 Dascycladacean algae (a “marine green algae”) has been found in the above- mentioned limestones along with Spirorbis, echinoderms, and Naiadites.
Tidal Influences: With regard to the “basin-fill of the half grabens, assigned to the Horton Group”, a series ranging from 600 to 1500 m in the Minas Basin, to 3000 m in West Cape Breton, Calder says:“Characteristically,
it comprises marginal thick extrabasinal conglomerates (Murphy et al. 1994) and a tripartite basinal stratigraphy of alluvial strata above and below intervening lacustrine beds (Hamblin & Rust 1989; Martel & Gibling 1996)… The lacustrine component has been inferred by these authors to represent a period of accelerated subsidence during which the basins were underfilled … Coarsening upward sedimentary cycleshave been ascribed to tectonism (Martel & Gibling 1991), but the lacustrine rocks, which record the effects of storm conditions … doubtless bear witness to climactic cyclicity, yet to be described.” 163
With regard to the laminated shales and heterolithic facies which are “common within the Carboniferous coal measures…” of Nova Scotia, Acher, et al. remark that:
“In general, such facies have traditionally been interpreted as the result of lacustrine and / or floodplain deposition in fluvial-deltaic setting largely because of a lack of benthic marine fossils. Detailed sedimentological analyses of some of these sites, however, indicates a significant degree of tidal influence,which include… cyclic tidal rythmites and a specific assemblage of biogenic structures, both of which are similar to those forming in modern … estuaries.”
“… Recognition of these influences requires changes in analogs away from the traditional fluvio-deltaic to tide-affected coastal models. This change in analogs will profoundly influence Carboniferous paleoenvironmental reconstructions.” 164
Coal Strata from Europe: In this regard, it is worth noting that among the various Coal Measure strata from England and Germany, are found differing amounts and varieties of Marine fossils. For example, Bölsche, has said:
“Indeed it turned out that the entire Coal-period strata was full of sea animals, but they just never had anything to do with the actual coal seams and their closely accompanying strata. Where ever they came in close proximity to the coal, it was always as if the rocks with sea inhabitants reached out like a stranger over the coal (and) only occasionally positioned (far) away from it or lying under it, exactly as if an area was formerly an inhabited seabed and then no longer, or as if it was again flooded from the sea at times, approximately in a riparian zone. It seemed as if there had been two types of seas at that time: one entirely without animal life which simply transported the coal (seams) and deposited the accompanying strata, — and a second, in which sea life bountifully blossomed, and these (two) admittedly changed positions in various places from time to time, however, at the same time never mixing.”
In Steinkohlenwald, Bölsche, W., 1914, p. 34.*
Im Steinkohlenwald = In the Coal-forming Forest,
* Translated by author with assistance from Anne Uebbing
But Bölsche was likely talking about the strata of his home land of Germany, which may be more like that of Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. In contrast, when discussing the English Coal Measures, Bakewell stated:
“The attention of the geological student is now required to contemplate a most important and extensive change in the condition of the globe, — at least, of that part of it which forms the subject of the present chapter. Over the marine rock formations before described, we find a series of strata, two thousand feet or more in aggregate depth, in which remains of marine animals are extremely rare, but which contain, almost exclusively, the remains of terrestrial plants… Carbon, in the form of coal, constitutes also numerous beds in the series, varying in thickness from a few inches to thirty feet of more, alternating with beds of sandstone, indurated clay, and shale or schistose clay. The remains of vegetables are distributed in greater or lesser abundance throughout the whole series, which, taken together, are called by miners, in the north, coal measures… marine beds … are the foundation of the series of coal strata, and also surround them…” Introduction to Geology, Bakewell, R. 1833. pp. 147-148.
And while Bakewell contends that the Coal Plants grew on “extensive tracts of dry land, containing rivers, marshes, fresh-water lakes, and mountains…”, such a scenario was challenged by Binney, who, claimed that: “Coal plants must have grown in very marine marshes” (See Ref. 102) or in “salt water” and that: “Recent investigations have shown that several of the plants of the Coal period possessed certain anatomical peculiarities, which indicate xerophytic characteristics, and lend support to the view that some at least of the plants grew in seashore swamps.” More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II; Letter 553. to J.D. Hooker. [June 2nd, 1847.]
Charles Lyell also noted the presence of marine fossils in association with coal seams as follows:
“Intercalated marine beds in coal. — Both in the coal-fields of Europe and America the association of fresh, brackish-water, and marine strata with coal seams of terrestrial origin is frequently recognized.” Students Elements of Geology, 1871, pp. 385-386
In light of the information presented, it is the author’s contention that the coal measure strata from Nova Scotia is very similar to that of Europe, with similar upright fossil trees, roots and fragments thereof, and that they were likely not deposited by rivers that flooded their banks time and time again, but rather resulted by numerous incursions by the sea. The author also questions whether or not any of the upright fossil trees or roots in any of the coal measure strata are the result of in situ burial, but rather believes that such organic remains were transported to their respective locations by a Worldwide Flood. Whether such organic remains were, before their burial, growing on Land, in Brackish or Marine swamps, or even on surface of the open Ocean is a question that is beyond the scope of this paper, and indeed one which may never be satisfactorily solved.
Philosophical Bias of Men:
The fact that Dawson didn’t publish any drawings of (obvious) drift plants or trees, coupled with his lack of interest in the longest upright (25 and 40 foot) trees, his very selective use of Brown’s drawings, the fact that one of his drawings was altered (to perhaps make the strata appear more in situ), his admission of finding coals composed almost entirely of leaves, yet refusal to admit that such beds were (almost certainly) the result of allochthonous (washed in) accumulation, along with his refusal to discuss the (very likely) possibility that this strata may well be the remnants of major Continental flooding are clear indications of his bias. Consider also the following statement he made with regard to finding evidence for marine influences at Joggins:
The occurrence of marine or brackish-water animals in the roofs of coal beds or even in the coal itself, affords no evidence of subaqueous accumulation, since the same thing occurs in … modern submarine forests. 165
In other words, no amount of (contrary) evidence was going to stand in the way of his declaring the coal seams and upright trees in the Joggins area strata to be the result of multiple “forests ” which flourished upon the places of their burial. With that said, and to be fair to Dawson, it should also be mentioned that this (in situ) interpretation, was the popular view within the “scientific” communities of America and Europe (with the exclusion of France) during his lifetime. For between 1836 166 and 1923 167 few publications advocated for a Catastrophic (allochthonous) origin for the coal strata, while numerous other publications did.
It is further contended by the author that Lyell, Dawson, Brown, Bell, and many others who were influenced and / or indoctrinated by their beliefs have chosen to ignore the 49 (or so) upright trees that are clearly missing their roots or whose roots are truncated, and instead have chosen to focus on the one tree with the longest roots — which are themselves, more often than not, also truncated. Such men have done so, not because of an objective search for the truth, but rather a philosophical search to vindicate the theory of evolution and an old earth. In other words, a bias which assumes that evolution, from inorganic chemicals (i.e. rocks) to man, really did take place, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary. For if they were aware of the impossibility of the “odds” of that 1st self-replicating (Information – based) living organism coming into existence via some hypothetical (purely imaginary) “slime-pool,” or “ocean vent” they would forever abandon such completely unscientific notions, and admit that there must be an intelligence behind the design of living creatures. This, of course, would mean that they must also surrender their Priest-like power and give (at least some) credibility to what the Creationists have been saying for years: i.e. that, based on the laws of probability alone, there must be a Creator / God who was quite involved with the creation of life (in all its various forms) on Planet Earth.