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Klondike and Beringia

18 April 2019

At https://sites.ualberta.ca/~areyes/BertoPage/Publications_files/GSAToday_… … (or alternatively, https://www.academia.edu/2907699/The_Klondike_goldfields_and_Pleistocene… … published in GSA Today, 19:8 August 2009. This is a remarkable piece of research which opens up all sorts of possibilities that contradict the mainstream position – up to this moment. The authors are four Canadians and one guy from the Univeristy of Aberystwyth in Wales. The Klondike goldfields are often quoted in catastrophist literature and Velikovsky had a section on the muck deposits in his populist book, Earth in Upheaval. The colourful story woven by Velikovsky was not welcome by uniformitarians – and his sources were thereafter tarnished (such as Hibben). However, the truth will out and although it is not as simple as painted by Velikvosky it is never the less a problem for uniformitarians (or so it would seem from a position outside of the debate). The Klondike goldfields of the Yukon contain a long record of Pleistocene Beringia – and not just the Late Glacial Maximum. What is now clear is that Beringia (eastern Siberia, the submerged continental shelf system, and Alaska and the Yukon) were unglaciated during the late Pleistocene – and various times before that. Some of the silt or loess was laid down as early as 700,000 years ago and the region has an exceptional level of preservation of palaeo-environments. In the Yukon there is evidence of relic tundra vegetation during cold intervals of the Pleistocene – and layering of loess. This has provided good soil for vegetation cover and supported mammoth steppe habitat on other occasions (and grazing by megafauna).

Swedish biogeographer Eric Hulten introduced the concept of Beringia in order to explain the similarity of plants around the Bering Straits. He considered it a refugium that consisted of essentially, the continental shelf system between Russian Siberia and Alaska which is exposed during lower sea levels. Nowadays, Beringia is composed of the unglaciated land mass from the Kolyma River in Siberia all the way to the Klopndike goldfields – and presumably even eastwards of this location (although the boundary has yet to be defined). The Klondike region is classifed as on the edge of the eastern boundary. Beringia, we may note, is a large unglaciated region – and this occurred on more than one occasion between the Pliocene and the end of the Pleistocene. We therefore have a muddles, or complicated, history – within the Ice Ages. The sedimentary archive is said to span several million years. In additon, there are ash layer laid down by volcanic events – known forthwith as tephra beds. These are said to be datable by various methodologies.

Since the discovery of placer gold in the Klondike in 1896 mining has uncovered various former surface sediments – and lots of fossil animal bones (and tusks). Hundreds to thousands of fossils are still produced every year from placer mining. The most prominent tephra bed is dated 30,000 years ago (at the beginning of the Late Glacial Maximum). Known as the Dawson tephra bed it marks the onset of glacial conditions of Marine Isotope (MIS) 2 in central Yukon. Other tephra beds provide similar time markers. Old Crow tephra bed for late MIS 6 for example (which is directly prior to the last interglacial period) or MIS 5. The Sheep Creek tephra bed (dated 80 thousand years ago) marks the transition from MIS 5 to 4. These numbers are important to paleontologists as they be used as compartments for certain animals (or the abundance or not of them).

Muck deposits in the Klondike are one part of a complex of silts we are told – or locally retransported loess through creek and river valleys. Catastrophism is of course not part of the scenario being painted in this research paper but one can see that a tsunami wave as envisaged by Velikovsky would indeed propel a lot of silt and loess up river valleys. Unfortunately, the paper does not really define the difference between muck and loess deposits, which is a pity. Velikovsky was interested in the muck but his arguments were rubbished by mainstream on the basis the muck consisted mainly of loess that had been laid down on many occasions prior to the end of the Pleistocene. However, there is a difference between the muck and the loess – if only because the muck came last. The loess on the other hand has degraded via permafrost action and is clearly mixed in with Late Pleistocene muck. Untangling the timetable of these upheavals is a problem – but researchers have patience and mostly the resources to do so. Or that is the impression we are given. Muck deposits are ice rich they say – another way of saying that it contains a lot of water (that became ice when it was frozen). They seem to prefer to use silt deposits just as often as loess – and they may here be making the point that loess laid down in river valleys may well have a watery origin (rather than the mainstream wind generated theory of loess formation). Loess is found along river valleys all around the world. Even in the UK (in modern river valleys and in archaic river valleys – or terrce formations). These are found in the Yukon on east and north facing slopes within narrow valleys and along hill slopes. The frozen muck has high organic carbon content, they say, obscuring the tree parts and vegetation as well as animal bones. The muck deposits are often tens of metres in thickness. The process of deposition buried surface soils from before the event horizon including root debris and other plant material. In other words, muck deposits were laid down very quickly. Similar Pleistocene deposits are present in Siberia where they are called Yedoma. Most sites with muck are north and east facing or in narrow valleys – since covred in black spruce forest. They are sometimes characterised by thick covers of moss and humified vegetation litter. Most Klondike fauna exhumed are of mammoth, horse, and bison – but less common species are also recorded (such as western camel, mastodon, american lion, short faced bears, musk ox). These are all large animals and miners appear to pick these out rather than smaller species. However, ferrets, horses with stomach contents, and other animals have been found. The nature of the terrestrial ecosystem in Beringia has been a major research focus of palaeo-ecologists since the 1980s – and more viorously in the 2000s.

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