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How do you freeze a slab of meat as big as a mammoth

6 November 2013

William Thompson forwarded part of a correspondence from Sam Windsor, colleague of Don Patten (in days of yore). Bearing in mind that the assumption is made that Arctic Pleistocene mammals died and were frozen in situ rather than by any other means (for example the views of Allen and Delair in various SIS articles), it is clear the pair spent a lot of time discussing how that might happen. They theorised that inter planetary ice imported from the outer regions of the solar system was dumped on Earth (bearing in mind they used planets rather than comets because the latter were in consensus opinion of the time regarded as little more than harmless fluffy snowballs). Mammoths were about 8 feet thick at the front shoulders and many of them were frozen so quickly their stomachs still contained recognisable and undigested food. It takes 18 minutes to freeze a 4 inch thick salmon at -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It would have taken much longer to freeze a big beast like a mammoth at the same temperature. Clearly, they thought they had found a problem with the consensus view, the assumption that mammoths could freeze quickly and remain largely intact (though all specimens display some evidence of rotting). The letters  also show they were aware mammoth die-offs were not confined to a single incident as they refer to remains dating back to 35,000 years ago (as well as the last occasion at around 13,000 years ago).

They appear to have discounted an injection of gases into the atmosphere as a means of sudden freezing, but were unremittingly critical of the idea of mammoths falling into a cold lake and freezing or the idea of becoming trapped in mud as a result of permafrost melting in summer sunshine (and subsequently freezing). In other words, palaeontologists may not have thought too much of the processes involved in freezing such a big animal. A lot of carcasses are preserved in the permafrost, some in good condition and others, only partially preserved (and displaying evidence of rotting). Patten and Windsor recite the tale about people dining on frozen mammoth flesh – but this is generally discounted nowadays as a myth. One also wonders if it is necessary to think in terms of extraterrestrial ice dumping (either by planets or comets). We are talking about catastrophes – and events that caused temperatures to plunge very quickly as a result of lots of dust and debris clogging the atmosphere. Shutting out the Sun is capable of producing very cold weather – and if mammoths had also been buried in an upheaval at the same time, one would have thought that was enough. They clearly thought the process involved warranted  something more dramatic.

This made me think a bit about the palaeontologists – why they assume that uniformitarian processes can explain the remains, such as falling into a crevice, a bog, or a a cold body of water. Are they just not looking properly at the processes involved in freezing a large carcass, purposely injecting some spin over the numbers by conveniently concentrating on a few well preserved specimens. It's a bit of a puzzle – why would they do that? Is uniformitarianism more important than science itself? If they had felt unqualified they could include a co-author with the necessary skills. Is it all just a case of projecting your head above the parapet of peer opinion and thereafter being regarded as a nut-job. 

We might have a consensus that has been built up over several generations solely because palaeontologists have not been adventurous enough – as far as the processes involved are concerned. Some of them may hardly have ventured into the far north to see for themselves, apart from the odd field trip, relying on the reports of others. Those 19th century palaeontologists that did go to Alaska and prodded around in the Muck deposits and looked at the stuff prised out of the ground by the gold mining industry (the Muck was unceremoniously deposited in slag heaps) are nowadays universally scoffed at as exaggerating what the Muck contained. How could modern palaeontologists have investigated the Muck and said that?  In Earth in Upheaval Velikovsky quotes from eyewitness accounts. He didn't make up the magnitude of the Muck. He may have used it to support other theories but his treatment of the Muck appears to be derived directly from a scientist who visited Alaska during the gold rush and actually stayed on to work for one of the gold mining companies that was set up once gold was found – diligently aiming to reach the bottom of the Muck deposits in order to find the gold in the bed of the river. He saw the Muck as it came out (or up) – day after day, and month after month, over several years. Unlike the coal miner that digs out the odd anomalous fossil this man was not an ill educated working man – he had a recognised scientific vocation. Only prejudice as a result of the uniformitarian belief system would reject what he had to say – and this appears to be at the heart of the palaeontologist dilemma. Do they want a bout of the same treatment – or do they shorten their career. Drastically. In reality the Muck appears to have been deposited by water, a huge tsunami like wall of water that rushed up the river valleys of Alaska, finally running out of steam as the river upstream was at a higher and higher elevation. It isn't a mystery. All very simple. Unfortunately, the idea of a 'flood' of water was  absolutely to be rejected as far as the budding uniformitarian theory was concerned. Floods and giant waves were to be eliminated – even if it meant sacrificing those scientists that had spent years studying the muck deposits.

Far fetched. No. You only have to look at modern climate science and the way serious and honest researchers such as Willie Soon have been treated, and maliciously slandered (often by environomentalists who have no stake in science, only in fostering doomsayings).

The evidence collected prior to the development of the consensus must have been more open and circumspect – and the literature from the 19th century should be re-evaluated. It will probably not please a lot of non-uniformitarians just as much as the uniformitarians – but the evidence looked at in eyes not coloured by modern views must be valuable. When we add that to the probability the consensus developed because palaeontologists were not prepared to go out on a limb an suggest a more radical explanation for the animals being piled up in great heaps and frozen in situ (in which water played a major role) we may suspect something of a cover-up. In those days there was no internet and no vehicle for sceptics to air their views. Hence, we are stuck with what the academics tell us – and when you look at what they pontificate on climate science you just can help being cynical.  Just take a look at Andrew Mountford's latest post on our latest government chief scientist – go to www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2013/11/6/a-walport-in-a-storm.html and read the comments and look at the video.

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