Mount St Helens Eruption of 18/05/1980

The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 14

This entry is part 14 of 21 in the series The Bible Book of Genesis - Geology, Archaeology and Theology

Genesis 7 & 8: The Cataclysmic Deluge Account – a Worldwide Catastrophe or Local Flood? Part 6

The Geological Record and the Cataclysmic Deluge (part 3)

Modern Observed Catastrophic Mechanisms

When we look at modern observed catastrophic mechanisms we can see how some of the geological structures and modern landforms could have been formed in antiquity. For example, many people ask how could the Grand Canyon have been formed? We must therefore briefly examine these before moving on to the aftermath of the flood of Noah’s day.

Lessons from Mount St Helens Eruption

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980, started at 8:32 am local time and not only physically shook the surrounding area at that time but has since had some reverberating shocks on geological thinking on geologic processes and their speed of action.

Mount St Helens Eruption.
Source Public Domain, Austin Post – Huge tif converted to jpeg and caption from USGS Mount St. Helens, Washington May 18, 1980 Eruption Images.

The Eruption – Causes and Immediate Consequences:

The eruption lasted just nine hours but made dramatic changes in the landscape. An earthquake under the volcano shook the north slope that had been swelling due to pressure from below. This triggered a rockslide of 0.5 cubic miles of rock and ice. This released the pressure and allowed the superheated water inside the volcano to quickly change its state from superheated water to steam. This resulted in an estimated 20 megaton explosion of hot gas and rock fragments towards the north. In just six minutes this blast leveled 3.2 billion board feet of prime forest over an area larger than 150 square miles. (That timber could build 640,000 American houses, which are predominantly wood). Because of its location, it became one of the most photographed and studied volcanic events in history.

Rapid Erosion and Formation:

Part of the rockslide catastrophically displaced the water of Spirit Lake (to the North-West of Mt St. Helens) creating a wave upwards of 850ft (260m) above the lake level. It deposited a 320-foot-thick layer on the bottom of the lake, which was 40% covered by trees from the blast and the wave. It left a scoured cliff.

The explosion pit of the volcano gained most of its gullies and rills in the following five days as the rim slumped rather than by water erosion, giving the semblance of Badlands topography. According to traditional geological interpretations, such topography would have been assumed to take many centuries of erosion to form, had its formation not been observed.[1]

Mount St. Helens had a further explosive eruption in March 1982. This resulted in the melting of a thick snowpack in the crater. This created a destructive sheet-like flood and mudflow which cut down into the rockslide and pyroclastic-flow deposits formed in the 1980 eruption to the north of the volcano.

The explosion pit overflowed its rim in the west and cut a deep ravine in the pumice deposits from 1980. It also changed the drainage pattern of the North Fork of the Toutle River.[2] It created a miniature “Grand Canyon” like structure over 100 feet deep (30m), and the dendritic drainage pattern established has severe rill and gully erosion.

The various erosional features quickly formed at Mount St Helens are not unique.

  • The water wave scour of Spirit Lake was similar to Lituya Bay, Alaska where an enormous rockslide generated a wave that rapidly deforested the shore up to 1700 feet above sea level.
  • The wave-cut cliff along Spirit Lake is similar to what occurred at Surtsey Island, Iceland in 1964.
  • The dendritic rill and gully pattern is similar to the formed at Lake Peigneur, Lousiana when a drilling accident in a salt mine below the lake caused the lake water to suddenly empty into the mine.

By examining Mount St Helens we can begin to appreciate how deep gorges could be created quickly, such as the Grand Canyon. Also, how so many layers of sediment can be laid in a short time such as in the Grand Canyon. It also shows how today we can find only a small river in a large gorge such as the Grand Canyon.

For a more detailed report on Mount St Helens and its effects on its surroundings please see the following article on GeoScience Research Institute. [3]

Also see [4] under Volcanoes\Mount St Helens, particularly the 2 videos, which not only show the destruction but how much we still do not understand about the mechanisms of volcanic eruptions.

A worldwide cataclysmic deluge would surely have released volcanic activity, at a minimum like Mount St Helens, in multiple places, perhaps with multiple eruptions on the scale of Krakatoa’s activity witnessed in its 1883 eruption which lasted from 20 May to 27 August. This eruption was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic events in recorded history. The explosions were heard near Mauritius over 3,000 miles away and in Perth, Western Australia, nearly 2,000 miles away. The sound wave was recorded as traveling around the globe a total of 7 times. The ash cloud reached 27km high. The final explosion on the 27th of August was calculated to have been 180db 100 miles away. Sailors 40 miles away had their eardrums ruptured. Tsunamis over some 30 meters or 98 feet high were generated by all three major explosions on that day. The estimated energy released was estimated at about 200 megatonnes of TNT equivalence, approximately four times more powerful than the most powerful thermonuclear bomb ever detonated (the Tsar Bomba). The resulting pressure wave was recorded 7 times in total over that day and the following 4 days as it reverberated around the globe. It darkened skies for years afterward and the northern hemisphere temperatures dropped by an average of 0.3c.

Cavitation and Glen Canyon

Cavitation is a process that is at constant work in rivers, and wherever there are currents in the sea. Usually, its results are imperceptible except over a long period of time. However, under flood conditions, this can change dramatically. It is known that cavitation can generate forces of up to 20,000 psi (pounds per square inch) and temperatures of up to 1,000 F (Fahrenheit).

Back in 1983, due to high rainfall and high river volume, the spillways were opened to reduce the water behind the Glen Canyon dam. This very quickly led to serious damage. In this case at the elbow in the overflow outlet tunnel in a maximum of a few minutes, the water dug through 5 feet thick rebar reinforced concrete tunnel walls and made a hole 32 feet deep, 40 feet wide, and 150 feet long in the bedrock below the tunnel. See the “Challenge of Glen Canyon[5] a US Government Film on the powerful forces that water can unleash. Also for a technical explanation of how cavitation occurs see this fascinating presentation on dam safety.[6]

Turbidity currents.

Turbidity currents typically occur underwater as part of a rapidly moving, sediment-laden water moving down a slope, or water-saturated sediment. The existence of Turbidity currents has only been recognized since the 1950s. The definition of a Turbidite is as follows “Turbidites are defined as all those sediments deposited by turbidity currents. They are geologically instantaneous event deposits, although the deposition of a single turbidite bed may take minutes (gravels and coarse sands) to a few days (fine silts and muds).”[7]

It is interesting to note that in recent years the Geological science community are now acknowledging that 1/3rd to 1/2th of all Sedimentary rocks are turbidites in formation. In other words, they were formed catastrophically underwater. A worldwide flood would account for this, while slow processes would only account for a small proportion of these rocks as in the current world they are only found where large rivers meet the sea, and large flood events create the turbidity current.

Tsunamis – eg Japan 2011

Tsunamis can unleash very destructive forces. Some have been filmed moving at 30mph and over 20ft deep. The tsunami unleashed by an earthquake off the coast of Alaska in 1964 reached a height of 200 feet on reaching land.[8] Tsunamis can move very heavy objects and destroy almost anything in their way. As mentioned previously tsunami’s generated by the 1883 Krakatoa eruption explosions reached 100 feet.

Ancient Observed Catastrophic Mechanisms No Longer Observable

Continental and Intercontinental Megasequences

The following beds are found either intercontinental-wide or at the very least continental-wide (North America). There is no known mechanism today that could cause these mega sequences.

They are :

  • Banded Iron Formation – PreCambrian.
    • This type of rock is not being deposited today and it is not understood how it was formed.
    • Found worldwide.
    • 99% of Iron mined around the world comes from this formation or deposits derived from this formation.
  • Black Shales – Devonian.
    • This bed is very thick and contains lots of Organic matter.
    • Found worldwide.
    • Due to the organic matter it is a source of a lot of oil and gas around the world.
  • Phosphate Beds – Permian.
    • Large quantity of phosphate.
    • Found worldwide.
    • Used for mining, most phosphate found comes from here.
  • Sands and Red (shale) beds – Permian\Triassic.
    • Very thick sandstone.
    • Found worldwide.
    • Source of sand for Sahara desert. Exposed in Petra, Jordan, and Sphinx carved out of it.
    • Associated with it, Red shales in great thicknesses
    • Found worldwide.
  • Chalk – Cretaceous
    • 100 feet plus thick
    • Found worldwide
    • Made of billions of billions of microscopic organisms

This all suggests a linear rock history rather than a cyclical one. The Cambrian to Cretaceous contains trans-continental water lain sediments. Yet today we do not find any continental-scale sediments. Above the Cretaceous, we get only regional sediments which become regional over smaller and smaller areas. We also do not have sediments hundreds of feet thick. Further, all the sediments of this period between Cambrian and Cretaceous can be found to display an East to West current direction based on over 1 million readings. Even where basins occurred e.g. Idaho, the current flow goes straight through the basin. Pre-Cambrian rocks display random directions, as do post-Cretaceous. In addition, the sediments all came from distant sources. In the present day, we only see random directions eg down the Mississippi basin or east from the Appalachian mountains, etc.

What could explain the East-West flow? It was likely the moon exerting a very strong flow (that flow is east-west today, but not as strong as those found during this period.)

These features

  • Thickness
  • Global
  • Water
  • Catastrophic
  • Quantities of organisms

all point to a worldwide cataclysmic deluge, rather than slow cyclical processes.


Both Modern and Ancient Observed Catastrophic Mechanisms together give evidence to the occurrence of an ancient catastrophe of global proportions.


  1. See figure 3 p92, pdf pg 4.

  2. See figure 5 p94, pdf pg5.





  7. paragraph 3.1


Series Navigation<< The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 13The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 15 >>
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