Velikovsky, Hibben, and the Alaska 'muck' deposits

5 Aug 2011

Velikovsky in Earth in Upheaval, at the very beginning of the book and therefore in order to draw the reader's attention, chose to quote Hibben on the Alaska muck deposits (he also quotes Rainey). Hibben was specific that the muck had a catastrophic origin - by tsunami or whatever. Hibben's article in American Antiquity, 1943 (volume 8:3) has over the last 60 years or so come under a lot of fire by detractors - but has enjoyed a consistent vogue amongst catastrophists of various persuasions, and is quoted endlessly by creationists resistant to uniformitarianism. See earlier post on the same subject but a different geologist, May 16th 2011. 

The fact that Hibben has been quoted, and misquoted, on many occasions, has it seems annoyed consensus geological commentators (see for example //www [dot] mail-archive [dot] com/metorite-list [at] meteoritecentral [dot] com/msg58676.html" title="www [dot] mail-archive [dot] com/metorite-list [at] meteoritecentral [dot] com/msg58676.html">www [dot] mail-archive [dot] com/metorite-list [at] meteoritecentral [dot] com/msg58676.html - 21st August 2007). In fact, it could be argued Hibben's book, Lost Americans (1946) is reproduced almost word for word by many people and it is likely Velikovsky relied heavily on the testimony of Hibben for his description of the muck beds. Now, conventional theory is that the muck was laid down not in one go but during several episodes - and there is nothing extraordinary about that. It is unclear if the muck is here being included in with loess deposits which the muck generally overlies, or did at one stage. Now, as loess was laid down on multiple occasions in China (and elsewhere) one can imagine the same interpretation of the loess in Alaska - but it is the muck that contains the broken trees and the animals (but even then geologists still think in terms of layering).

At http://all-ez.com/tilt.htm we have 'Sparky on Pole shift' and he also quotes Hibben and claims a tremendous wave of water caused the sudden death of 40 million large mammals - as a result of Pole shift. Sparky envisages huge waves pounding and rushing north, sweeping animals, rocks and boulders, soil and sediments, and vegation including whole forests, before them, washing over North America and Eurasia. This is not too different from Velikovsky - but the Electric Universe theory, with roots in Velikovskianism (electro-magnetic forces), has given rise to some even more daring catastrophism, huge lightning bolts (capable of creating Pole shift) creating a vortex that picked up huge amounts of material from the surface of the earth and then dumped it back down in heaps - the muck deposits fitting into this generalised picture. Likewise, others have suggested eskers have a similar kind of origin or are instead composed of material dumped by a comet or asteroid. The orthodox opinion is that eskers are glacial in origin, being washed out from base of ice sheets Alternatively they are the remnants of rocks and sediment left behind by a rapidly melting ice sheet. The point is that all non-orthodox sources are prone to quote Hibben - his book is that important. However, and this took me by surprise - Hibben was not a geologist. He was an archaeologist and spent most of his career in the South West. His work in Alaska was a one-off - and he was obviously impressed by the muck as he went on to write that book. As such, the criticism labelled at him is justified, in so far as he failed to appreciate the loess was much older than the muck. He had a similar setback at the Sandia Cave in New Mexico,  assuming that a layer covered in a hard crust had been laid down fairly recently, around 13,000 years ago. It was later found to date to around 300,000 years ago (or a very long time before he assumed).

At http://survive2012.com/index.php/pole-shift-evidence/Print.html ... the theme of Pole shift is used in conjunction with scary tales about next year, 2012. Hibben is again quoted as Frozen Muck is understood as evidence of previous Pole shifts. It says that Alaska was suddenly frozen over in mid-motion, twisted and torn trees piled in splintered manner and mixed up with four separate layers of volcanic ash (a new addition to the broth). At http://groups.google.com/alt.legend.atlantis/browse_thread/thread/c7df71... we learn that the 'so called muck' in Alaska is a favoured cliche produced as evidence for a terminal Pleistocene catastrophe (Andrew Collins 2000, Deloria 1997, Hapgood 1970, Allan and Delair 1995, and Hawkins 2007). Such catastrophists, we are told by the opinionated poster, love to quote Hibben's book and his paper in American Antiquity. He goes on to say that in the 60 years since Hibben's book nobody (meaning mainstream nobody) has elaborated on what he said (and quotes a raft of names). We all know why nobody has elaborated on Hibben in orthodox circles, its because Hibben counters the uniformitarian consensus, and to come out in support of Hibben would quickly curtail their careers. Mostly, paleontologists and geologists ignore the muck beds - too dangerous. The poster is sure of himself and claims Hibben 'grossly exagerated' the facts - such as the number of animal carcasses and splintered trees. In orthodoxy, or gradualist circles, the Alaskan muck deposit is a well-ordered layer cake sequence we are informed, a succession of strata of loess, colluvium, and solifluction deposits separated by paleosols, erosional unconformities, and a buried forest with in situ stumps. Why the stumps of trees from a forest should have been buried in the first place is not divulged - or how it could be accomplished in a gradualist manner is equally ignored. He says the layering process has been illustrated by Pewe (1975 and 1997) and Westgate (1990). There are, he assures the reader, seven well defined distinct layers (mainly to be seen in the loess). This argument of course ignores the fact Hibben was talking about the muck - not the earlier loess deposits (but never mind). These layers, he says, in some places are jumbled together (loess is mixed in with muck as the loess deposits were disturbed during the muck event). He claims they were disturbed not by the laying down of the muck, the most simple explanation, but by thermokarst, landslides, solifluction or even by gold mining activity. In the earlier post on the muck, May 11th, gold mining operations did involve removing a lot of the muck - in order to get down to base rock and the streams that had been buried beneath the muck which contained the gold they were after. 

Now, this gradualist scenario is no doubt seen as a conspiracy by some catastrophists (if not all of them), and is a subject that has been watered down by gradualists in order to comply with uniformitarian theory (rather than facts on the ground). Gradualism is as much a hypothesis as catastrophism, although uniformitarians claim they won the debate in the 19th century (when catastrophism was bound up with religion and the Flood). Lyell, for example, was a lawyer, and he presented a sort of legal case to hammer the opponents of Gruadualist geology with - and won the battle of the words. He never won the battle of the minds - as that is still going on today. Each side likes to think they are right and the other side is deluded. Catastrophists quote Hibben because his book appears to hold the kind of evidence they require whereas  gradualists have a very low opinion of Hibben (as trawling the Internet will reveal). In general Hibben is criticised for over exaggerating the facts - swelling the magnitude of the muck deposits. Did he find evidence of a tsunami wave that might be explained by a very large volcanic eruption or earth shudder or was it several orders larger in scale, the kind of thing to warrant ideas of Pole shift or something equally dramatic. Sadly, it is difficult to tell as most geology books underplay the muck deposits and one is left with the impression of a cover up of unpalatable facts. Many geologists actually ignore the Pleistocene extinctions as they see it as a quagmire of controversy, not wishing to dip their feet in the water (or mucky stuff). However, when it comes to evidence of Paleo Indian artefacts within Late Pleistocene muck deposits we enter into another fierce debate that has raged for many years - when did the first humans enter North America? Velikovsky appears to have got his information, once again, from Hibben - in  particular his 1943 paper in American Antiquity. It seems archaeologists are generally dismissive of the idea that Paleo Indians could have been living in Alaska during the Ice Age so how could their tools pop up in a muck deposit? Haynes and Holliday are quoted by the poster, two archaeologists that have commented unfavourably on the Younger Dryas impact theory - particularly on the claim that Clovis people were exterminated in an impact event (or were reduced to very low numbers). They are currently the two most prominent archaeologists on Paleo Indians so the poster is right to point out their opinions. However, when archaeologists some time ago sought to relocate Hibben's site they came across a site that had been overwhelmed by a marine inundation (not necessarily catastrophic in nature). It could well be from salt marsh deposits which may simply indicate rising sea levels at the time. Hence, archaeologists now say there is no evidence of human artefacts in the muck and Hibben was mistaken and attributed a much later event to the Pleistocene. If it was marine mud it could possibly have an origin in a storm surge, or an earthquake - it might also reflect a prehistoric tsunami. On that basis, and until human artefacts are found in the muck, Hibben's human element has to be discounted - but is anybody looking for artefacts in the muck? Archaeologists claim they rediscovered the site he looked at but he is not around to say so, positively or negatively. Further, a succession  of scientific papers over the last 30 years have questioned other factors or disproved several of Hibben's discoveries. That is the claim - but again, what traction should we put on that as it may be part of a purposeful campaign to undermine modern catastrophists (perceived as a thorn in the flesh). Allan and Delair, in When the Earth Nearly Died, (Gateway Books, Bath:1995) also quotes from Hibben's work when broaching the subject of the muck. However, they go on to look at similar discoveries of vast bone burials in other parts of the world, including North America, and cite other authors and scientific papers, and most especially, papers from Russian research on the same period in Siberia. There is a lot of stuff that uniformitarians would need to debunk in the sources listed by Allan and Delair as most western scientists are quite unaware of Soviet era research papers (not on their radar). All these appear to support the general gist of Hibben's scribblings.

The thread continues in the same vein, attacking Hibben rather than appraising the evidence on the ground. This is a typical ploy that is used frequently in CAGW attacks on sceptics - shooting the man rather than looking at the science). Clearly, something of enormity occurred in Alaska during the Late Pleistocene. Confusing the loess deposits, by creating what is basically a red herring, is somewhat disingeneous - and smacks of politikking. The muck is beyond the debate, it would seem, and is not being re-evaluated in a sympathetic manner. There is still a lot of untouched muck around as not even the intrepid gold rush boys with their spades and mechanical shovels were capable of shifting deposits hundreds of feet thick, in order to get at the stream beds below. Hibben is attacked from a stance of we know there was no catastrophe so evidence of a catastrophe cannot exist.