{News Releases / University Relations}

{MUN Logo}

Memorial University geologists challenge Columbia University 'Biblical Flood Hypothesis'

Ref. No. 55

DATE:     Nov. 20, 2001
SUBJECT:     Memorial University geologists challenge Columbia University 'Biblical Flood Hypothesis'

Memorial University researchers are at the centre of a controversy that began thousands of years ago. Dr. Rick Hiscott and Dr. Ali Aksu, Department of Earth Sciences, have recently uncovered data in direct opposition to that of renowned Colombia University marine geologists.

Drs. William B.F. Ryan and Walter C. Pitman III of Columbia released an article in 1997 and a book in 1998 claiming to have found the location of the biblical flood. According to Ryan and Pitman, the sea-level of the Mediterranean rose and water cascaded into the Black Sea following northern-hemisphere deglaciation about 7600 years ago. Their findings suggested that the terrifying and swift flood may have cast such a long shadow on succeeding cultures that it inspired the biblical story of Noah's ark. The story has caught the attention of the public and has been featured in several prominent publications including National Geographic and many scientific journals and magazines.

However, Drs. Hiscott and Aksu claim that the evidence presented by Ryan and Pitman is "flimsy". Aksu and Hiscott have collected large amounts of seismic data (sub-seabed reflections) and soft-sediment cores, and have analyzed these using mainstay methods of modern geology: conditions for microorganism survival, sediment description, radiocarbon dating, and geochemical information. Their results are completely at odds with the claims of Ryan and company.

According to Aksu and Hiscott, the Marmara Sea was isolated from both the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea during glacial periods, when global sea-level lowering exposed the shallow sills at the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, and was reconnected through both straits during interglacial periods during the rise of the global sea level. Because it filled earlier, by about 10,000-12,000 years ago the Black Sea started spilling into the Marmara Sea (rather than the reverse), leading to the development of a brackish-water surface layer that has persisted to the modern day and promoted depleted levels of oxygen in deeper parts of the water column.

"Our data are completely at odds with the 'Flood Hypothesis' of Ryan et al.", Aksu said. "The data do not support the catastrophic refilling of the Black Sea by waters from the Mediterranean Sea."

"We have written eight or nine papers that show clearly that the Ryan story has major flaws in it and we have presented our data in the most detailed form possible and everything points in the opposite direction. There is very little scientific evidence in support of this theory but they have published a book that can be found in most libraries, and the BBC even did a documentary", Dr. Hiscott continued.

Dr. Aksu contends that their scepticism is supported by other respectable researchers around the world: "We are not alone in our story -- new voices are beginning to emerge in the Middle East area that are questioning the notion of the biblical flood occurring in the Black Sea."

Drs. Aksu and Hiscott are not content with leaving things as they are: "We are hoping to go back in 2002 to collect more data so as to make our case that much stronger," Dr. Aksu said.


For more information, contact: Deborah Inkpen, information officer (research), Memorial University, at 737-4073 or e-mail: inkpend@mun.ca


List of News Releases
University Relations // News Service

Maintained by ccwebworks