The "Fossil Forests" of Nova Scotia:
A Review of the Literature
Coffin provides additional difficulties with an in situ interpretation for the Joggins and Sydney strata.
Further Implications of the In Situ Theory:
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 worth looking into 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 clearly grown 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 is not a "soil" at all, but rather simply a sedimentary deposit that buried these trees 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. Even more significant 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 strongly suggests that this tree is not in its original position of growth, but rather has (also) been uprooted and transported to this location where it sank to the bottom and was buried in two beds of shale and a thin layer of clay. Some may say that since it was filled with sandstone then it could not 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 Part 1: Horizontal Shear).
Another reason to doubt that any of the above trees (in fig. 1) are "in situ" is 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 **Additional Comments: 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. The fact that the tree in fig. 2 was filled with sediments unlike any that surrounded it also 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, and that he perhaps never actually read any of Brown's articles: something which -- when considering his position and close contact with the London Geological Society -- seems unlikely.
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 did not 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) did not 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.
| After Kluseman, Von H.,
Natur und Volk, Band 84,
Nov. 1, 1954, Heft 11, pp.
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 of the Joggins area, he did not think them worthy to depict -- 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 sandstones above 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 begin to 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." 85In 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" (i.e. bark) intact. 86 This was in spite of the fact that fossil leaves were also found in the same deposits
in which these trees occur.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
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
The fact that the peridern (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.
Coal Seams : Ancient Peat Lands or Organic-Rich 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?
"...are most abundant in those parts of the section where the swamp conditions of the coal measures begin to 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." 85In 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" (i.e. bark) intact. 86 This was in spite of the fact that fossil leaves were also found in the same deposits in which these trees occur.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.
Conclusion: The fact that the peridern (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.
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
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:
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, which exhibit 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 converted into 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 difference between 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.
Unexpected 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
Then he adds:
"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 limestone of 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.
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..." **111
"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.
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, not be that uncommon. 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 Brown further tells us that these trees "are too high up in the cliff to be examined properly".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.
strata of the coal
After Bölsche, Wilhelm, Im Steinkohlenwald; 1906-- (Various Eds.), p. 35
After Williamson, William C., A Monograph on the Morphology and
Histology of Stigmaria Ficoides, 1887, p. 13.
Click Here for Full Size Image.
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 **
A note about underclays, in general: 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)
Conclusion: In the opinion of this writer the evidence overwhelmingly favors an allochthonous
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. For
more on underclays, see: Appendix
A: The Underclays of Joggins. See also The Origin of Coal.,
and the Coal Question, Geology
and the Age of the Earth.
Coal: How Did it Originate, 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:
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 **
"In most cases, it was quite difficult to trace a Stigmaria specimen over its entire length through the enveloping
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:
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 **
"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.
Other authorities have made similar remarks. For example, in the only book ever published on the subject of Stigmaria, Williamson said:
123 -- p. 12 **
"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."
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:
abundant remains or trunks of Knorria and Lepidodendron" 124 ( pp. 43-44) **
"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) ...
Lesquereux's own observations were very similar and are rendered below:
, 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 **
"Fragments of Stigmaria, trunks
"All the geologists who have examined the distribution of the carboniferousmeasures 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 **
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.
"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.
"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:
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
"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
"These plants present an illustration of the mode of growth and nature ofStigmaria. 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
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.
Can Trees Be Buried Upright?
With regard to trees buried in vertical (i.e. "growth") position, Helder reports the following:
-side-up.'" 126 **
"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
Further evidence of this is reported by Coffin,127 Morris, 128 and Austin.129
Evidence of Marine Influence in the
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: 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
"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
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:
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 exibit tidal rythmites. This relationship indicates marine influences, probably in an estuarine setting..." 139
"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.
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 **
"The recent discovery of agglutinated foraminifera in close proximity to coals
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
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
is a type of ray or shark; it has been found in the coal of Coal-group 22 at the bottom of Division
and in the roof strata of Coal-group 6 in Division 4; 148
this bed also contains remains of Spirorbis, Cythere, and Naiadites.
Selachians are sharks. Dawson noted that some of the beds at Joggins contain
"teeth of Selachian fishes of considerable size."
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.
are tiny crustaceans that look like miniature clams.
Dawson refers to them as 'Cythere'.. According to
Selachians are sharks. Dawson noted that some of the beds at Joggins contain
"teeth of Selachian fishes of considerable size."
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.
are tiny crustaceans that look like miniature clams.
Dawson refers to them as 'Cythere'.. According to
Ostracodes are tiny crustaceans that look like miniature clams. Dawson refers to them as 'Cythere'.. According to Copeland151 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 ostracod fauna within profundal lagoonal beds of the basal Blue Beach Member, including species of the western European genera Copelandella and Carbonita and the more cosmopolitan Shemonaella (Tibert 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:
..." 160 **
"It is found throughout the Coal-formation, attached to plants and to shells of Naiadites
"...Naiadites, Spirorbis, and Cythere constantly occur associated in the same beds; and the 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 multiplyfast 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." 160 Note: 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:
the molluscan shell around the surface of attachment which remains stationary." 161 **
"In a recent discussion on Carboniferous Spirorbis Trueman (1942) observes that these coiled tubular worms produce deeply marked impressions on the outer surfaces of Naiadites and 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 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 cycles have 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."s change in analogs will profoundly influence Carboniferous paleoenvironmental reconstructions." 164 **
"...Recognition of these influences requires changes in analogs away from the traditional fluvio-deltaic to tide-affected coastal models. Thi
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:
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."
"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,
Im Steinkohlenwald = In the Coal-forming Forest,
* Translated by the author with editing assistance from A. 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.] **
In light of the information presented, it is the author's contention that the coal measure strata from Nova Scotia and similar strata from Europe, with upright fossil trees, roots and fragments thereof, were likely not the result of rivers that flooded their banks time and time again, but rather the result of one or more major 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:
occurs in... modern submarine forests." 165 **
"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
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 166and 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
utter 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
involved with the creation of life (in all its various forms) on Planet Earth.
The Author's Bias:
Like Dawson, I also am a Christian. I believe that God was intimately involved with the Creation of the Universe, the Earth, and all life forms therein. In fact, due to the (extreme) "difficulties" involved with getting that first single-celled, self-replicating, living organic "machine" started -- along with the massive amount of pre-programming that must have been involved with each of the 100,000 or so species of insects that undergo a complete metamorphosis -- I cannot with a clear conscience accept the totally unscientific, and highly speculative evolutionary theories that are still trying (in vain) to come up with plausible scenarios for how life might have got itself started, and (once started) changed into ever more complex forms over eons of time. I also no longer believe that the earth is billions of years old, but rather (probably) a lot less. I
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 utter 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.
The Author's Bias:
This evidence has been presented here in the hope that others who read it may come to see that it is still possible (from a purely scientific standpoint) to believe in such scenarios as have beenclearly described in the book of Genesis. Additionally, in the opinion of this author, it is quite likely that the great periods of Time which comprise today's Geological Time Chart will (in time) have to be greatly revised, if not entirely abolished.
The Absurd, yet Possible:
The author also openly acknowledges the (almost) absurd story (which is probably a historical account) about Noah and his three sons building a large boat in the middle of a forest for 120 years, and then climbing on-board with their wives and sitting back and watching while every type of animal
It is my firm belief that a reevaluation of the widely held autochthonous (growth in situ) view of Coal formation for both the Joggins and Sydney Coal Measures is necessary to account for the data. The evidence seems to suggest that these coals were formed as the result of massive flooding that swept over the land in Noachian fashion, uprooting virtually all organic material in its path and carrying it for hundreds, or (perhaps) thousands of miles, where many of these plants and trees were deposited either upright prostrate or inclined positions in relation to the enclosing strata.
Whether or not the geological community has the courage to realize this is another matter entirely. I also realize that this is not likely to happen until a number of enterprising students get "permission" from their instructors and the Nova Scotia authorities to conduct more detailed studies of these trees and publish their findings. However, doing so may (very likely) also be the end of the Geological Time Chart as we have known it for the past 180 years, and also the end of the dogmatic parroting by obedient and faithful evolutionists that the earth is "billions of years old." For an ancient (billions of years) earth is the last vestige of credibility they have with which to try to convince the naive of the "Boldfaced Lie" (for lack of a better word) that has been propagated to the public during the past 150 years that we somehow, (against all "odds") got here by purely natural causes, apart from the aid of an Intelligent Creator / God. For anyone who is acquainted with the elementary basics with regard to how a living Cell makes protein molecules from its own DNA blueprint -- via the RNA (mobile copy machine) and transfers that information to the Ribosome (card reader / protein factory) which assembles all 20 amino acids into their correct order, knows that such a complex machine could never have "evolved" by chance. Even if nature had, by some lucky stroke, produced a half-way formed (pre) self-replicating bacterium, such natural processes, could never, in and of themselves, finish that process, but rather only (according to the laws of nature) tear it back down; and no amount of wishful thinking or dogmatic parroting by evolution-believing scientists will change this. Also, the very fact that such a multitude of highly complex creatures did spontaneously come into existence is, in itself, strong evidence of a Creator.
I would also like to acknowledge the works of men and women like Dr. Harold Coffin, Prof. N. A. Rupke, Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. Margaret Helder, Dr. John Morris, Guy Berthault, Dr. John Calder, Dr. Deborah Skilliter, Prof. Martin Gibling, Dr. Joachim Scheven, John William Dawson, and Richard Brown, without whose works and/or assistance, this paper would not have been possible. It is also noted that not all of the above persons agree with the author's conclusions.
Copyright, 2002, 2004, 2005,Randy S. Berg; No part of this paper may be reproduced, used, or sold for profit
Upright Trees In Coal
The Underclays of Joggins
Radiometric Dating and the Age of the Earth
The Age of the Earth:
Ian Juby's Site