Re: coal again!(1)

Bill Payne (
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 22:34:11 -0600

On Mon, 29 Mar 1999 06:49:47 +1000 Jonathan Clarke
<> writes:

>At the risk of repeating myself, coals potentially deposited by a mix of
>processes. If you have good evidence and can convince other people of
it, I
>have not problem. I am sceptical because other people writing on
>coals see different things.

Bob Gastaldo and I seem to see the same thing, at least as far as his
1984 paper goes. The divergence comes in our interpretation of what we
see, and our interpretation is strongly influenced by our paradigm. I
think my exchange with Keith illustrates this.

>> >the weight of opinion should always count for something. Of
>course, you
>> might be >right for individual seams. Maybe you are right about
>> seams you are talking about.
>> You don't want to go there.
>What do you mean by this?

Sorry, I guess that's an American expression. If you grant that I am
right about the seams I am talking about, and if these seams have
characteristics in common with Carboniferous coals in general, then the
allochthonous interpretation will sweep a very wide path - far beyond the
particular coals I am talking about. By saying "You don't want to go
there" I meant that the paradigm I think you work within would be
weakened. It was/is irrelevant to our discussion. My apologies.
>> The seams I am talking about are not atypical. If I am right about
>> seams I am talking about, then there is something very wrong with the
>> picture (uniformitarianism).
>I am afraid you have lost me completely. If you are right about the
>you are talking about, you are right about those seams. You will have
>successfully defended one model of coal deposition for a particular
seam, and
>falsified others. This sort of thing goes on all the time in geology.
>says little about the formation of coal in general. So why do you say
>this implies there is something wrong with "the big picture
>(uniformitarianism)? Since when have we been discussing

>So, if I read you correctly, you are saying here that originally you
>YEC because of your Biblical hermeneutic. Now you feel you have
evidence, on
>the basis of a number of coals, that the geological record supports a
>earth. So your belief in a young earth is now based on geological
>which reinforces your understanding of Scripture. Am I right?

Halfway, maybe. I really am not concerned with the age of the earth, and
I fully recognize that there are other geologic problems with the YEC
model. I do believe in a literal Adam and a worldwide flood, and, no, I
cannot explain all of the problems from a scientific POV w/ what I

>We make progress! Therefore, if the structure of a Biblical passage
>suggestions that is is figurative, then you would agree that it is
>that the authors intention was that it should be understood

OK. I don't know what I'm opening myself up to here, but OK.

>Thanks for clarifying this. So you haven't actually seen the Pittsburgh?

No, sorry if I implied that I had.

>> Not according to Gastaldo.
>No comment until I have read Gastaldo. However I am interested that you
>citing him in your defense. I thought you disagreed with him? I notice
>Keith Miller made almost exactly the same point.

I disagree with Gastaldo's conclusions, not his observations. Bob was
attempting to discredit Austin's floating mat model for coal formation.
In building his case, he stated that these trees were heavy and that the
roots went deep:

"Although speculation continues as to the
textural character of these trees, the fact that specimens have been
documented in excess of 38 meters in height attests to the
interpretation that these trees were not frail or lightly built. None
of these characters supports the contention of a reduction in weight
allowing for a floating habit."

"Morphological considerations suggest that these plants were adapted to
extreme swampy conditions, and the disposition of the stigmarian axes
within various lithologies can only be interpreted as recording growth
in situ. The variable angle of axial penetration and their
crosscutting relationships, the helical and undisturbed arrangement of
the 'rootlets', and the abiotically undisturbed sediment surrounding the
axial/appendage system, lend support to their autochthonous character."

In arguing against Austin's floating mat model by saying that the trees
were heavy and that the roots went deep, Bob inadvertently supported
(IMHO) allochthonous coal since coal seams do match his statements. Bob
was attempting to show that the floating mats could not have been living
mats (with the trees growing in/on the mats) as Austin I think originally
envisioned. I think the mats consisted of organic debris rather than
living trees in upright position on the mats.

>As I keep saying, I have a sceptical but (I hope) open mind on your
coals. I
>also keep stating that I do not have one model for coal, but a good half
>dozen. Not all are autochthonous. You, however, do seem to be wedded to
>single model for all coals.

Yes, for all Carboniferous coals, at least in the eastern US. This is a
product of my flood model, which, if correct, would encompass all of
these coals with a single depositional event, and a product of my
understanding that all of these coals display similar features. The
description of the Pittsburgh matches perfectly with what I see in
Alabama. I do appreciate your skepticism and willingness to keep an open
mind. I hope I can do as well.

>I don't see your point. What box are you talking about? Where are the
>roots if not directly beneath the coal?

Ah, we make more progress. The large roots I have seen are in the rubble
along with large tree trunks. In other locations I have seen vertical
tree trunks directly beneath coals. I have seen the bottom end of at
least three trunks, and none of them had roots, suggesting that they had
possibly (my interpretation) been sheared off, floated into vertical
position, settled to the bottom and buried within a relatively short
time. I believe that since the large roots are in the strata associated
with coal instead of being directly beneath the coal, then the large
roots also floated in with the trunks from which they were detached.

I wrote and asked Bob Gastaldo where the Stigmarian axial root photograph
in his paper was in relation to the Upper Cliff coal, located in Blount
County, Alabama. I had driven to the site and looked at the coal seam,
hoping to see these stigmarian axial roots (the big ones). When I saw
nothing but the same features I had seen in many other coal seams, I sent
Bob a cross-section of the pit highwall and asked him where in relation
to the coal seams was the stigmarian axial root pictured in his paper. I
also asked him to located the root on a topo map so I could see it for
myself. Bob responded by saying it had been years since they had worked
in that area, and wished me luck. The photo of the stigmarian root is
not associated with a coal seam as it should have been to support his

>Point it out for the slow brains like myself.

Forgive my arrogance, you are certainly not a slow brain. Did the
previous paragraph help?

>Without a geological dictionary to hand, traction currents are those
>drag coarse silt, sand and gravel (by creep, saltation etc.) to their
>places, as opposed to those which hold such sediment in suspension by
>turbulence. Most fluvial and shallow marine physical sedimentation is
>traction currents of one sort or the other.

I should have remembered that. I do see impurities in coals. Because
they are generally thin and widespread, I think they are the result of
turbidity currents rather than traction currents.
>I have seen erosion by overlying sediments in the Eocene, Triassic, and
>Permian. I gather they are also well documented in the literature of the

I have seen this over some coals, but I don't see how this supports
autochthonous coal. What was your point?

>Coal is best studied on polished blocks typically with oil immersion.
>bearing sediments are best studied using thin sections. Polished thin
>sections are a good compromise. I have used both thin and polished thin
>sections to study coaly strata.

>> The underclay should look like a topsoil which is black at the surface
>> (from rotted roots) and gradually transitions to native, inorganic
>This is what I think I see beneath coal beds, although the transition
occurs in mm to cm.

Interesting, I'm not sure I've ever seen that. If the transition is only
mm to cm, this still seems too shallow for a root system as described by

>>My impression was they were truncated at bedding
>> planes about 6 inches apart beneath the coal. I would like to think
>> they may have floated in.
>With the matrix as well? Or has that come in later?

If I understand your question, the roots and sediment were deposited
together I believe. The alternative would be that the vegetation was
still alive and sunk shallow roots in an effort to get a toehold before
it was buried by more sediment. I suppose this might have gone on all at
once, with plants sending down roots as they were being smothered by more

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