Continental Sediments

So some geologists are not satisfied with the uniformist explanation for continental sediments, where millions of cubic kilometres of quartz rich sandstones, as well as finer grained siltstones and shales, occur.  The origin, or provenance, of these deposits remains a mystery but based on the mapping of internal structures and the presence of marine fossils, some interpret these sediment beds as the result of gross increase in sea level, 200m, which is a stretch of the imagination, for what goes up, must come down, and then how?

An interesting essay by J.P. Snoep here, discusses the problem of the continental red-beds, and suggests these continental sediments are the result of enormous tsunamis or catastrophic tidal phenomena.  The explanation offered is restricted to strict Newtonian mechanics, and is thus inherently restricted to limitations of what is physically possible.

However adding the mechanism of plasma magnetohydrodynamics to the mix allows greater scope in explaining the origins of these continental deposits, and if interplanetary interactions are included, (The Romans feared Mars, the god but physically the planet), then even more explanations could be considered.

One problem with invoking tsunamis is that these mechanisms start in oceans and only acquire their sediment load once they make land fall. If it is imagined we are dealing with a tsunamic turbidite, then the aquisition of the sediment load becomes very difficult, if not impossible, especially if the Earth is treated as a closed system.

If however the Earth is an open system and detritus captured from external sources, such as red sediments from a “red planet”, Mars for example, are considered, then this might widen the scope of possible and plausible explanations.

One problem with a “Martian”, or external, origin of the continentl red beds, especially the siliciclastic rocks, aka sandstones, is that these are restricted to the land masses. There are no deposits of these sediments in the oceans. Which means that these sediments are pre-ocean.

If this is a disturbing idea, then also consider the fact that some North Kimberley Aboriginals reckon their ancestors saw the eruption of the Argyle AK1 diamond pipe, and insisted that another one erupted near the town of Kununurra, physical evidence for which exists as a geophysical anomaly and downstream heavy mineral anomalies including diamonds and garnets. (Access is hampered by four separate Native Title claims that are too finanically onerous for any one to test the geophysical anomaly at present).  The significance of the Kununurra diamond pipe hypothesis is that it’s conventionally dated to have occurred ~ 1150 Ma ago.  The Darwinists among us might find this slightly problematical, but this does not mean the biblical fundamentalists get a guernsey either.

As the age date of ~1150 Ma was determined radiometrically from the AK1 pipe, one might think the matter settled but that depends entirely on the belief that radiogenic decay is a physical constant; if it isn’t then all bets are off, one might say.

An added complexity is the allied aborioginal belief that the Australian landscape was sculpted by the Rainbow serpent that also is held responsible for forming Sturt Creek and the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater near the Kimberley town of Halls Creek.  The problem for those of us who accept the aboriginal traditions at face value is when.

More to follow………


About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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