The Geology of Basaltic Rocks, and the Biblical Flood

Ó 2005 Nahor Sousa


The great themes of geology include the origin of the earth, the internal and external phenomena acting throughout its complex history, the dynamic processes of formation and transformation of the rocks, and the interaction of all of these factors with the ancient living creatures whose vestiges are very clearly registered in the sedimentary rocks.

Extensive and widespread evidences of past volcanic activity are preserved in the basaltic rocks in the earth's crust. These and other geologic phenomena of equal magnitude appear to have happened quickly and are better represented in a geologic column produced over short periods (months or years), rather than the long periods of time (millions of years) considered necessary by conventional geologists.


The objects of the study of geology are extremely complex and widespread. Geologic phenomena cover every order of size and space, varying from the defect in a crystal, on the order of a micron, to the concentric layers that comprise the earth itself, on the order of millions of square kilometers. In trying to interpret the geologic history of our planet the researcher will necessarily encounter the time factor: comparing the actual phenomena with those that may possibly have happened in the past, a geologist will naturally be pressured to accept the most popular hypothesis, that in which the geologic time periods represent intervals of millions or billions of years. In geology, scales of time and space are extraordinarily great, providing an irresistible attraction to the modern human mind.

Has the evolutionary hypothesis, which attributes long periods of time to the development of geologic processes, effectively answered the main questions remaining about the origin and history of the planet Earth? Do the mineral and structural characteristics of the rocks point to slow or extremely long processes? Is the large scale fossilization of plants and animals seen in the past, occurring on the earth today? How can we answer these questions and many others that the study of geology raises? Is there another conceptual model, based on scientific investigations, that is able to provide additional light to the sincere researcher who faces these questions?

The academic and professional experience acquired during two decades in pure and applied geology, allows me to conclude that geologic facts became more comprehensible in a more logical form when they are studied from a biblical perspective. Perhaps the Holy Book should not be considered a book of science. But its principles, when understood and lived, offer a clear basic guideline to all human activity including scientific research. Among those committed to this approach are the scientists represented by this web site who through their research in the laboratory and in the field, find compelling evidences of a great world catastrophe, the Biblical flood, that accords well with much of the known geologic data.

Among the geologic phenomena that can be observed, volcanic eruptions probably constitute the natural process which inspires the most awe, for its magnitude, suddenness and for the catastrophic effects that often endanger whole ecosystems. A careful, detailed study of the rocks permits us in many cases to reconstruct with good confidence the processes responsible for their formation. Basaltic rocks give us enough evidence to characterize them as extrusive igneous rocks, formed as a result of the cooling and crystallization of large masses of lava that spread over a wide area on the surface of the earth in the past.

Do the main geologic characteristics of the basalts point to an ancient origin, millions of years in the past, or to a recent one? Scientific research on the basaltic rocks of the Serra Geral Formation, in the south of Brazil, carried out over a period of twelve years, has allowed us to accumulate a significant bank of data and, consequently, it allows us to respond with confidence to the question formulated above.


The sedimentary basin of Parana constitutes the structural province of the South America Platform that contains the most widespread continental volcanic deposits on the surface of the earth. Looking at figure 1 you can see that from the portion of the Basin in Brazil (1,100,000 km2), 2/3 (734,000 km2) are covered by basaltic lava of the Serra Geral Formation (figure 2).

The fissures that allowed the ascent of huge volumes of basaltic magma, correspond to fractures and distention cracks that gave rise to hundreds of volcanic dikes. The extraordinary magnitude of this volcanism can be understood from the following figures: the dikes mentioned above can reach more than 100 km in length and up to hundreds of meters in width; the maximum thickness of the magmatic deposit is approximately 2000 m; the median thickness approaches 660 m, and the total area covered by the basalt flows exceeds 1,200,000 km2, including portions of the Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, and reaching a total volume of 750,000 km3 of extruded material.

The tectonism, responsible for the jointing and faulting of the crust and the rise of the large volumes of magma in the Mesozoic of the Parana Basin, is intimately related to the breakup of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland that corresponds to the present geographic provinces of South America, Africa, Antarctica, Madagascar, Australia, and India. The fissural eruptions of Parana Basin occured immediately before the beginning of the rifting of the South America and African continents.

Volcanic phenomena with this intensity and extent are, thankfully, not happening anywhere on the earth today. The "active" basaltic flows of Hawaiian Islands are insignificant when compared with the flows of the Parana Basin. A catastrophic explanation of some sort would seem to be required to explain the geologic data.

The Columbia River group constitutes one of the classic examples of fissural eruption of continental type. The "Columbia River" basaltic flows are distributed over a wide area. In northwestern North America, these flows extend over the southeastern part of Washington state, northern Oregon, and western of Idaho (figure 3). The intensity of the corresponding magmatic event, occurring in the Miocene, can be evaluated by the extensive area involved (200,000 km2). A total of 325,000 km3 of basaltic lava were poured out across this plateau. Near the center of the Plateau, the accumulated lava flows reach a thickness of about 3,000 m.

The geologic details of the Columbia River group, worked out over three decades, have permitted a stratigraphic subdivision into many units, down to the level of individual members, which may correspond to a single flow. The characteristic of the Pomona flow, just one member of the Columbia River group, constitutes one example of the extraordinary manifestation of volcanic energy represented here. This single flow, with an average thickness of 30m, traveled 550 km and covered an area of 18,000 km2, corresponding to a volume to 540 km3. The magnitude of this event, considered in isolation, bears eloquent testimony that, here, at least, "the present is not the key of the past."

The tectonic events that affected that area during the Columbia River volcanism are associated with regional tectonics involving the North American and Pacific lithospheric plates (Barrash et. al., 1983). A similar situation is visualized for the formation of the Serra Geral. However, in this case, the South American and African Plates are involved. Careful study has revealed a close association between fissural eruptions and tectonic plate activity. In fact, petrographic analysis of samples of oceanic and continental basalts, called tholeiitic basalts, has revealed notable similarities. Some scientists have given consideration to the possibility that the basalts of continental vulcanism and those on the oceanic floors might be the result of a single geologic process that occurred violently and rapidly - perhaps due to the impact of large meteorites.


Basaltic magma originated deep in the crust, probably at the interface of the mantle and the crust. When this magma reached the surface, it spread as broad rivers of incandescent lava (around 1000 C) and began to cool. This process of cooling and solidification, generally a very slow process, can be accelerated significantly by the presence of water. Some secondary structures observed in the basalt of the Serra Geral Formation (SGF) and the Columbia River group (CRG) constitute evidences of the participation of continental water ( rivers and lakes) in the process of cooling; among these secondary features are:

-"Pillow Lavas" (Lava in submarines flows)

SGF: Mano (1987)

CRG:Waters (1960)

-"Basaltic Ring Structures"(Circle structures due to secondary emissions of lava)

SGF: Araújo (1982)

CRG: Hodges (1978)

-"Spiracles" (Vapor explosions resulting from the presence of water-saturated sediments)

SGF: Moller & Cabrera (1976)

CRG: Waters (1960)

The critical influence of water in the process of cooling basaltic lava flows becomes even more significant when one considers a definitive structural feature observed in the great majority of the Columbia River flows. This feature is referred to as "entablature"(see below). The flows that exhibit this structure are recognized to have solidified while submerged in extensive bodies of water. This entablature, a fundamental structural feature of such basaltic flows, exhibits a dense network of joints with subvertical orientation. Petrographic analysis reveals the basalt to be extremely fine-grained, with an abundant glassy matrix. A similar type of entablature has also been described from the Serra Geral flows in Brazil (Souza Jr. 1986A), where basalts are also characterized by its widespread occurrence (SOUZA Jr, 1992a, l 992b, 1993a, 1993b, 1994a, 1994b).

This structural feature is characterized by a non-linear distribution of thin more-or-less parallel joints. It is possible to distinguish a number of related features that appear to be useful in the genetic characterization of this unique rock. The entablature generally occurs associated in the same flow with another type of structure called columnar basalt, in which the joints are polygonal and regular, forming in some places perfect vertical columns (figure 1c).

The processes of solidification, whether the flows were under the influence of water or not, are represented in the model shown in figure 5: flows of type I (deposited on paleoslopes, had not been flooded); flows of type II (numerous inundations, alternating with periods of dryness); flows of type III (permanent inundation until completely solidified); we ought to add a fourth type, flow type IV to represent those flows observed with entablatures in Brazil, where the columnar section is absent. In this last type, the process of cooling begins immediately after the eruption of the lava body underwater, the fracturing isotherm moves very quickly downward so there is no time to the formation of the lower columnar basalt.

The following question can be then formulated: Would it be possible to determine how quickly flows of the entablature type have solidified? or even more significantly, how long would have been necessary to accumulate the flows of the Columbia River group? A phenomenon recently observed in Iceland can help us formulate answers to these questions. The eruption of the volcano "Heimaey" was observed in Iceand in 1973 (BJRNSSON, 1982). Water, in great quantity, was poured on the basaltic lava flow in an effort to prevent the flow from destroying a local town; the area treated in this process (7,000 m2) was inundated with a continuous stream of water; later studies showed that after 2 weeks of this "irrigation", the solidified lava extended to a depth of approximately 12m. When the lava was completely consolidated, dissection of the flow revealed the lower part of the flow to exhibit columnar type structure, and the upper part, more directly influenced by the water, exhibited perfectly preserved entablature. Would a completely submerged flow show even more influence of rapid consolidation? Yes, probably.

Beyond the intense fracturing, other characteristics also show the influence of rapid cooling under water, seen in flows that exhibit structures of the entablature type. These features include:

- extremely fine grained rocks with abundant glassy matrix.

- Joints of type I (see figure 4) exhibit alteration haloes produced by secondary minerals of hydrothermal origin in a regular sequence (figure 6). Thus the type 1 joints were formed under water, as indicated by the formation of the alteration haloes (microzones) in the joints.

In the region of Sao Carlos - Sao Paulo state - there are many eruptions of basaltic rocks which sometimes exhibit typical entablature structure, yet have other characteristics of flows of type I (see figure 5) with a coarser granular texture of a phaneritic basalt. A possible geologic scheme to explain this area can be seen in figure 8.


If we add the evidences of fast consolidation of the lava flows to other evidence that indicates the high speed of the superposition of these flows, we would not need millions of years or even hundreds of thousands of years, traditionally considered necessary, for the piling up of these extensive basaltic flows (SGF and CRG).

The basaltic magma in its process of migration towards the surface uses fractures, cracks, or other discontinuities to form the ducts which will permit the ascension of the magma. During this process, frequently, during the period of the Serra Geral Formation, the rising magma was diverted laterally along bedding planes, creating intrusive bodies called "sills". From these forms, it was concluded that these bodies of magma, called diabase sills, solidified in subsurface.

Subsequent uplifting of certain parts of the crust, permitted the rock material that overlay the "sills" to be removed by erosional processes, making it possible for these rock bodies to be exposed at the surface. Therefore, today the field geologist can find masses of diabase separated by small distances of basaltic masses. The structural and textural differences between diabases and basalt ought to be considerable, with the diabases exhibiting coarser textures and more widely spaced fractures (cooling more slowly in the subsurface) and the basalts exhibiting much finer grained texture and a greater density of joints (cooling rapidly at the surface).

However, what is observed is that only the diabases match the expected description, while the basalts (those that do not show the entablature-type structures) also exhibit a coarse texture and an irregular jointing very similar to that observed in the diabases sills. Since there are no mineralogical or chemical difference between the basalt and the diabase, only one conclusion seems possible (SOUZA Jr, 1985, 1986a):

Almost all of the flows (exclusive of those exhibiting the entablature features) of the Parana Basin exhibit in their centers a structure referred to as a "joint-fault", a feature studied in detail by this author (Souza jr. 1986b, 1987a, 1989, 1990a, 1990b). It is a sub-horizontal imperfection somewhat resembling a crack. It is associated with regions of coarser texture still exhibiting a fluid structure. According to the descriptive model shown in figure 9, the sequences of events leading to the formation of "joint-faults" developed under the following conditions:

We would have no difficulty affirming that the four stages presented in figure 8 developed rapidly. The absence of evidences of alteration by weathering (the basalts are altered rapidly - Souza Jr. 1988), in the contacts between the flows, constitutes another evidence for the shortness of the time of exposure of each flow prior to being covered by the successive flow.

In view of the previously mentioned points: the origin of entablature structural features associated with the artificial cooling of basalt during the eruption of "Heimaey"; the similarity between diabases "sills" and basaltic flows; and the origin of the crack-joints, we would have no difficulty in affirming that in the great continental basaltic provinces, the accumulation of the basaltic flows developed in period of weeks. The consolidation could have taken place during subsequent months or years. A process of even more efficient cooling similar to the one considered for the entablature flows is shown by LISTER (1977). The phenomenon in this case would have taken place in the proximity of the spreading centers of the oceanic tectonic plates. We could apply time factors analogous to those mentioned in connection with the continental basaltic plates to the processes of the "continental drift" or "expansion of the oceanic floor". Could all of these questions be adjusted harmonically to only one geologic model?


As can be seen in table 1, the stratigraphic columns that are traditionally labeled with the evolutionary geochronologic scheme represent real episodes of a great catastrophe, the biblical flood. Therefore, the hundreds of millions of years given to the geologic ages will have to, by convention be reduced to months (little more than a year), corresponding to the period of the flood by itself. In the Post-Flood period, which includes the Pleistocene and the Holocene, the hundreds of millions of years must be converted into decades or hundreds of years, the period in which the Earth recovered slowly from the effects of the great cataclysm.

The details of each item of the model can be found in SOUZA JR.(1993c) with some additions and modifications in the time scale of this event( SOUZA JR. 1996). Questions about the origin and age of the earth and other geologic phenomena, shown in the last column (Geologic description) of the table, are also considered in the same references. Therefore, they will not be detailed in the present work. The geologic phenomena covered in this work are those emphasized in the last column of the table.

For some, it may be hard to reconcile geology, or any other area of science, with the bible or religion. Unfortunately, serious problems encountered during the last two centuries of our history, having some of the trappings of a planned conspiracy, have in many cases made it difficult for the honest researcher in his or her attempt to harmonize the scientific discoveries with his or her religion faith. On one hand, we can state with assurance that the dissociated natural laws form the Great reason - "THE I AM"- the Creator and Maintainer of the laws and life will never be completely comprehended. On the other hand, we have observed that religion contributes for one larger conflict between the scientific knowledge and the religion convictions.

In fact, science and faith can live harmonously. Believing and knowing are perfectly compatible concepts. Whenever we get involved with the geosciences, we always have to bear in mind the following principles: "The Bible is the written Word of God; the writings about the origin of the earth and the flood, as written in the book of Genesis, constitute historic truths" (Creationist sheet-1). "Science is always discovering new things; however, nothing brought from its research, when correctly understood, is in conflict with the divine revelation."



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