Monday, March 19, 2018

The Ancient Amazonian Sea

For those who still have difficulty in thinking of South America as being mostly underwater in the distant past and that Lehi landed on an island, despite Jacob telling us that (2 Nephi 10:20), perhaps the following recent discoveries might be of help.
    According to a recent Smithsonian article, recent discoveries show that anciently, the Caribbean Sea flooded inland forests of the Amazon. Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobotanist (a study of fossil plants in biological reconstruction of past environments, i.e., paleogeography) and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, which is an out-of-country bureau of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., states: “It’s hard to imagine that you could have the Caribbean ocean in the West Amazon.”
    Yet, that is exactly what he has found.
According to Geologists, as the Caribbean Sea inundated the Amazonian Basin and spread over the inner shallow sedimentary basins the inland Pabesian, Pananense and Paranan epicontinental seas (on the continental plate) and other marginal seas were established leaving islands of very old crystalline shields, which cover only 36% of the land mass

It should be noted that because of the rise of the Andes Mountains to their present height, the Amazonian Basin sea found its northward and Pacific exit blocked through what is now Venezuela before finding its present eastward outlet into the South Atlantic. Gradually this inland sea became a vast freshwater lake and wetlands where sediment flattened its profiles and the marine inhabitants adapted to life in freshwater. Over twenty species of stingray, most closely related to those found in the Pacific Ocean, live today in the freshwaters of the Amazon, which is also home to a freshwater dolphin.
    This inland sea, it is claimed, covered a large section of the forest, creating an inland sea that jump-started the evolution of new species. This resulted from the rise of the fast-growing Andes mountains that created microclimates at different elevations, sparking speciation and funneling new plants and animals into the Amazon basin. When marine microorganisms were discovered in the Amazonian sediments in the 1990s, it was hypothesized that the forest was once inundated by an ocean. “It’s hard to imagine a process that would cover such a large forest with an ocean.”
Drill sites of the Amazon region. Yellow area shows a much younger period of geologic time than previously thought (green area older, reddish area oldest). Also shown are (blue dotted arrows) seismic lines and (red circles) drill sites from the Andean foreland to the Atlantic Ocean margin. In the far western Peruvian, Ecuadorean, and Colombian Amazon, ongoing uplift of Andean foreland basin sequences provides outcrops of Cenozoic sediments that are relatively easily accessed

One of the overall problems was, despite extensive hydrocarbon exploration undertaken in this region, including many deep drill cores and thousands of mliles of seismic lines, little is known about the non- petroleum-bearing shallow, more recent part of the sedimentary record, which holds key information about the evolution of the modern rainforest and the establishment of the Amazon river drainage system. To determine this reality, Jaramillo and his colleagues turned to core drilling into the jungle floor.
    According to Lizzie Wade, a former Fulbright scholar at the National University of Mexico, a Fellow at Wired, and an intern and contributing correspondent for Science, covering archaeology and Latin America for the magazine from Mexico City, the drilled cores were three inches wide and 1970-feet deep, and preserved a record of the region’s past environments in the form of fossils, pollen, and sediments, well back into prehistory.
    Using two cores, one from eastern Colombia, drilled by an oil company, and one from northeastern Brazil, taken by the Brazilian Geology Survey in the 1980s, Jaramillo team went through the cores layer by layer. As Jaramillo reported: “Most of the remains came from land-dwelling species. But in two thin layers, we found marine plankton and seashells. The Colombian core even contained the fossils of an ocean-dwelling mantis shrimp and a shark's tooth.” That was enough to convince Jaramillo, who was once a firm believer that the waters of the Amazon forest were nothing but rivers to switch his thinking to the Caribbean Sea, which he now understands reached down into the western Amazon of Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru.
    “It’s a lost ecosystem,” he stated in Science Advances. According to Jaramillo, The Amazon once possessed a vast inland sea surrounded by seasonally flooded land. The Caribbean waters penetrated deep into the west Amazon with the salty ocean water flooding the forests during raining seasons and receding from some areas during the dry seasons. Before Jaramillo’s discovering, it was believed that this central area of South America was thought of as being dry land throughout its history.
    However, Jaramillo, who was initially skeptical of the idea, was able to piece together this portrait of a lost ecosystem through these deep core samples of rock and soil and studied exposed outcroppings at many locations around today’s Amazon.
    “I thought it was impossible,” Jaramillo said from his Panama City office beside a long table covered in books, printed scientific papers and fossils of bones and plants waiting to be categorized. “It’s hard to imagine that you could have the Caribbean ocean in the west Amazon...It’s too far away. But even though it rains a lot in the Amazon, it seems hard that the ocean could gain terrain through the rivers. It would have taken a flooding ocean.”
    Jaramillo added that if one could travel back in time and fly a hundred feet above the ground, one would experience a world where land and water intermingled across a vast region.
    The Amazon is arguably the most biodiverse place on Earth, with a 4,000-mile river running from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean that is currently surrounded by a two and a half million square mile river basin, roughly the size of Australia. Yet, as vast as the region is now, the modern Amazon rain forest ecosystem represents but a fragment of the diversity of habitat and wildlife that once existed between when it was flooded with ocean water from the Caribbean Sea. Today, it is now understood that the Amazonian flood covered hundreds of thousands of years, extending over all of Colombia, and was affected by the rising Andes Mountains.
    The new work “makes the case [for marine flooding] much stronger, and it makes the timing more definite,” says Carina Hoorn, a geologist and palynologist at the University of Amsterdam and Ikiam Regional University of Amazonia in Tena, Ecuador, who first proposed the marine flooding theory. While Paul Baker, a geologist at duke University in North Carolina, and Yachay Tech in Urcuquí, Ecuador, is hesitant about such a flooding extending as far as Jaramillo claims, he is in agreement that Colombia was underwater during this inundation period.
    Despite the public conscience thinking of South America as always being a huge continent, the idea of inland seas, marginal seas, epicontinental or espeiric seas, is not only a reality, but shallow seas over continental plates is a foregone conclusion to geologists and oceanographers for more than a century. Today, we recognize that the Baltic Sea, White Sea and Black Sea are all inland seas, with the Hudson Bay and James Bay are withjin the North American continent and along with Baffin Island to Quebec and Ontario share some similarities with the Gulf of Bothnia in Fennoscandia both lie in the middle of a shield.
    In fact, at various times in the past, inland seas have been greater in extent and more common than at present. In South America, swathes of Patagonia were subject to a marine transgression that linked the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as inferred from the findings of marine invertebrate fossils of both Atlantic and Pacific affinity in the La Cascada Formation.
    The point is, to those who study the past, the idea of inland seas inundating Southern America is not only common, but is being proved with more and more research into the subject. The problem that Land of Promise theorists, and often members alike, is that they try to assess the past by the appearance of topography and geographical appearances of today. South America was once a series of islands, with the western coastal shelf (Andean Shelf) a long, narrow island stretching from around the Colombian border to the area of Santiago, Chile, and upon this island, Lehi landed. Nephi, to escape his brothers, made his way northward, to the area of Cuzco, Peru, where he settled, and the story of the Nephites and Lamanites took place within that region, from Cusco to Lima to Ecuador—definitely a limited Geography area—from that point onward.
    Perhaps the bottom line here is the statement made by Donald R. Prothero, a geologist specializing in the history of South America, teaching geology and paleontology for 35 years at Caltech, Columbia, and Occidental colleges, and the author of over 40 books, including six leading geology textbooks, and over 300 scientific papers. He is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the Paleontological Society, and the Geological Society of America, and also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Science Foundation. He served as President of Pacific Section Society for Sedimentary Geology in 2012, and five years as Program Chair of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, receiving numerous awards, such as the Charles Schuchert Award for outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40, the James Shea Award of the National Association of Geology Teachers for outstanding writing and editing the geosciences, the Joseph T. Gregory Award for service to vertebrate paleontology, and been featured on numerous TV documentaries. Regarding an inland sea in South America, he stated: “The theory that the Amazon Sea once existed is not new. It dates back at least to the 1950s, but evidence for it had been weak until now.” 
    Little by Little, the facts about South America are being proven to show that it was once an island and coupled with the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, verifying the reality of a Nephite existence there.


  1. In his Universal Model Dean Sessions provides very good evidence for Noah's flood covering the entire earth to a depth of 30,000 feet. If true, couldn't that explain much of the inland sea evidence, and marine life specimens found on the tops of mountains?

    1. Short answer no. When you look at the fossils they are buried in nice horizontal layers. You can tell from the position of the fossils and other features that they were deposited horizontally. After or maybe near the end of the flood there was mountain building that thrust the mountains up. Then three was another period of erosion followed by volcanism then more erosion. It followed that patter: sedimentation, tectonic mountain building, erosion, volcanism, and finally erosion as the waters drained off the land.

      The Universal Model has many errors that are fatal. I do like the idea that finally some LDS people actually accept the flood however. That is progress! That part is great. They really need to look at what the Evang. Christians are doing because their model does match the bible and fossil record and other periods of mountain building far better. They aren't perfect and there are mistakes but they come closer to the truth in the matter.