Tails of a Recent Comet

9 Apr 2010

At http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.0416 there is a reference to an SIS article, 'Tails of a Recent Comet' by Milton Zysman and Frank Wallace, in which they describe eskers and drumlins that appear to swarm up hills and across streams and valleys in discontinuous strands sometimes for 100s of km. They say they have their parallel beneath the oceans - a reference I think to the material attributed to iceberg activity in the Heinrich event model. They describe this as layers of silted clay so thick they fill gaps between ocean flow ridges and mountains on the ocean bottom that give an impression of a plateau. Esker and drumlin formation is disputed even by geologists themselves - were they formed beneath an ice sheet or after an ice sheet melted (as rapid run-off). However, in the Zysman and Wallace paper they are identified as material emanating from a comet nucleus - the dust and debris that Clube and Napier perceived as forming great streams of debris orbiting in near space, they claim inter-acted with the earth and formed the snake like esker formations. Hence, such a theory would require some kind of evidence of an extraterrestrial origin - which has not been forthcoming to date (in a convincing manner). At www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/25016/?ref=rss they ask if this is feasible. Geologists say eskers and drumlins are formed by glaciers and left behind when ice sheets retreat. They conclude the scenario of Zysman and Wallace is unlikely but at the same time suggest that a new theory on the formation of eskers and drumlins is long overdue. In other words, they are not particularly critical of Zysman and Wallace and they continue by saying they do not rule out extraterrestrial forces which is interesting (but the whys and wherefores are left unsaid). However, although they make the point that eskers and drumlins have not been seen to form near ice sheets in the modern world they also say this does not mean they did not do so in the past. We may note we have not witnessed what might have happened when an ice sheet collapsed very quickly as a result of rapid warming. In addition, how would the ice sheet have reacted to a shift in the poles? These are imponderables. Canadian territory immediately to the west (and possibly even the north) of the Canadian Shield (the region most certainly identified as the core of the ice sheet in the Late Pleistocene period, simply because all sedments have been eroded and bare rock is all that remains) is full of eskers and drumlins, small lakes and large lakes, a myriad of rivers and streams, and might this not have arisen as a result of the disappearance of an ice sheet on the Shield. In that sense a new intepretation of eskers and drumlins might be in order - and some geologists have actually suggested something similar to this (without the movement of the poles). Eskers and drumlins are also a prominent feature in the landscape of northern Europe. For example, a pronounced esker virtually snakes it's way across Ireland, from sea to sea. In Britain there are eskers and drumlins too - and it is moreorless certain there was glaciation here in the Late Pleistocene era. One such esker snakes across the countryside and is even incorporated into the small market town of Buckingham. A sand quarry, now defunct, cut a gaping hole into the esker and anyone can visit it and look at the formation as it were from inside out (it is actually a popular dog walk for the townspeople) and decide for themselves if it might have had a cometary or extraterrestrial origin - or is composed of water borne material. Large boulders tend to be located at the bottom of the esker, rounded as if shaped by a rolling action, and smaller pebbles and stones occupy the upper layers - quite often broken and cracked. It contains predominantly clay and sand and small grains of rock.