Upon touring Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Manitou, Colorado, one would hear that it takes millions of years to grow stalactites and stalagmites. Their website (https://caveofthewinds.com/learning-center/cave-ecology/ June 2018) states, “Caves and their ecosystems are considered by many scientists to be among the most fragile ecosystems on the planet. Caves are non-renewable resources that take many millions of years to form…” This article will offer definitions and examine the truth of the natural growth of stalactites and stalagmites to discover whether it supports evolution or creationism.
Their site says under ‘Cave Geology,’ “Almost 500 million years ago, during the Ordovician period of the Paleozoic Era, something amazing happened in our area. Warm shallow seas covered the Pikes Peak region of Colorado, and were home to an abundant shell life. As the sea creatures died, their shells fell to the sea floor. Broken up shells accumulated over millions of years. These many layers of shells eventually squeezed, compacted, and cemented together into solid rock that we now call limestone. Fast forward to 70 million years ago. The warm shallow seas started to recede and dry, lifting the limestone and forming what is now known as the Rocky Mountain region. Approximately 4 – 7 million years ago, the limestone fell below the water table. Rainwater mixed with carbon dioxide, forming a weak carbonic acid. This acid solution slowly ate away at the limestone, leaving behind small pockets that filled with water.
As more limestone dissolved over many thousands of years, pockets grew into passageways. Passageways grew into rooms, rooms grew into caverns, and the caves were slowly formed. As the water table continued to drop below the cave system, air filled the passageways and rooms, eventually forming stunning speleothems. Stalactites formed within the caves when calcium carbonate-rich water would form on a cave’s ceiling and start to drip. Every droplet that formed on the ceiling would crystallize into a calcite ring.
Over many thousands of years, this slow process would form beautiful icicle-like stalactites. Underneath the dripping stalactites, stump-shaped stalagmites would slowly form from the calcium carbonate crystals being built up on the cave floor. One of the most amazing features in caverns at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is the flowstone. Flowstone, also called frozen waterfalls, are curtain-like formations that gently flow along the side of a cavern or passage. These areas were formed by mineral-rich water flowing down the cave wall for thousands of years, leaving calcite behind.”
The above article reveals several points that should be examined. The article notes that “seas covered the Pikes Peak region;” “sea creatures …shells accumulated over millions of years… and cemented together into …limestone…;” and “Flowstone… (formed in) thousands of years…” And let’s not forget that they say scientists teach that caves are among the ‘most fragile ecosystems.’ Modern biology texts, as does LiveScience.com, teach Evolution and speak of Eras such at the Paleozoic stating it “ran from about 542 million years ago to 251 million years ago.” I guess the “1” in 251 gives it more creditability, but what does nature actually teach us.
DEFINITIONS From: A Glossary of Karst Terminology (1970); U. S. Department of the Interior Note: Karst comes from the Slave word krs meaning stone. https://pubs.usgs.gov/wsp/1899k/report.pdf
Stalactite: A cylindrical or conical de- posit of minerals, generally calcite, formed by dripping water, hanging from the roof of a cave, generally having a hollow tube at its center. From Greek word meaning exude drops.
Stalagmite: A deposit of calcium carbon- ate rising from the floor of a limestone cave, formed by precipitation from a bicarbonate solution through loss of CO2. The water drops on the stalagmite from above. From Greek word meaning drip. See also dripstone.
Cave formation: Secondary mineral deposit formed by the accumulation, dripping, or flowing of water in a cave. See also speleothem.
Dripstone: Calcium carbonate deposited from water dripping from the ceiling or wall of a cave or from the overhanging edge of a rock shelter; commonly refers to the rock in stalactites, stalagmites, and other similar speleothems; in some places composed of aragonite or gypsum. See also flowstone.
Dry Cave: A cave without running stream. See also dead cave.
Dead Cave: A dry cave in which all solution and precipitation has ceased.
Flowstone: Deposits of calcium carbonate, gypsum, and other mineral matter which have accumulated on the walls or floors of caves at places where water trickles or flows over the rock. See also dripstone.
Speleothem: A secondary mineral deposit formed in caves, such as stalactite or stalagmite. Synonym for cave formation.
CAVE or CAVERN (from: Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation)
A cave is any cavity in the ground that is large enough that some portion of it will not receive direct sunlight. There are many types of caves. A cavern is a specific type of cave, naturally formed in soluble rock with the ability to grow speleothems. So, although a cavern can accurately be called a cave (since it is a type of cave), all caves cannot be called caverns.
Solution Caves: This is the category of caves that is classified as caverns. They are formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone (calcium carbonate), dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate), gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate) and salt (halite).
According to BBC Focus Magazine Science Focus at ScienceFocus.com, “Stalactites form when water containing dissolved calcium bicarbonate from the limestone rock drips from the ceiling of a cave. As the water comes into contact with the air, some of the calcium bicarbonate precipitates back into limestone to form a tiny ring, which gradually elongates to form a stalactite.
Stalagmites grow upwards from the drips that fall to the floor. They spread outwards more, so they have a wider, flatter shape than stalactites, but they gain mass at roughly the same rate. Limestone stalactites form extremely slowly – usually less than 10cm every thousand years – and radiometric dating has shown that some are over 190,000 years old.
Stalactites can also form by a different chemical process when water drips through concrete, and this is much faster. Stalactites under concrete bridges can grow as fast as a centimetre per year.”
According to the U.S. National Park Service, “Scientifically, cave formations are referred to as speleothems. A speleothem is any cave decoration that formed after the cave itself finished forming. …All formations are forming by water saturated with dissolved calcium. The water begins on the surface, where the water passes through the soil and absorbs carbon dioxide, transforming the water into a weak carbonic acid. This weak acid then dissolves a small amount calcium from the limestone rock as it travels through cracks and pores on its way to the cave system. As the water drips into the air-filled cave, the dissolved carbon dioxide released. Because the water has lost carbon dioxide, it cannot hold as much dissolved calcium. The excess calcium is then precipitated on the cave walls and ceilings to make up speleothems. Most calcium deposited in the cave in the form of the mineral calcite (CaCO3). Slight differences to this process result in the creation of different cave decorations.”
“The Chemical Process: Degassing is the one main cause of calcite deposition. The carbon dioxide content of the groundwater entering the cave passage is about 250 times higher than that of the air. So when the water contacts the air, it degasses just like a soda pop does when you open it. Without the carbon dioxide, the calcite cannot stay in solution. The chemical reactions reverses: Ca+2 +2(HCO3-) (in solution) –> CO2(gas) + H20(water) + CaCo3 (calcite)
The water continues on, but it does not carry as much calcite in solution. Another major method for deposition of calcite is evaporation of the water it is dissolved in. Either way, calcite is deposited. Depending on the shape the calcite takes, it may be called by different names. Travertine is one name for the calcite in the cave. Dripstone is a generic cavern term that encompasses any cave decoration caused by dripping, splashing or seeping water. Speleothems are cave decorations formed after the cave passage has formed, such as dripstone…”
“…Broken columns have growth rings that… might be thousands of years between each period of deposition. It is not possible to count the rings to date a stalactite… so we can only guess by observing the current growth rates… many formations now are dormant and probably grew in the past when the climate was wetter…”
EXAMINATIONS and REBUTTALS
1. “Seas covered the Pikes Peak region:” Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Rocky Mountains at about 14,115’ (4,302 m). Thus, in order for seas to cover this region; it would also have rushed through the Grand Canyon and covered the entire world, which support Creationism and the Flood.
2. “Sea creatures and shells” formed limestone which ‘accumulated’ and covered the mountainous region. This also supports the Flood and ‘Young Earth’ (God spoken) Creationism. For more on rebuttal points 1 and 2 see:
3. All of the current taught theories admit that “caves are among the most fragile ecosystems.” And that in many or most cases they are “dormant” or “dead” and thus, have no growth. And that the growth occurred “in the past when the climate was wetter.”
4. Caverns are created by limestone bedrock being dissolved by water, acid or strong forces of waters and shifts, such as caused by significant geological events such as a Great Flood, earthquakes, etc.
5. Weak carbonic acid (formed when carbon dioxide dissolves into water) could not cause most of the worlds caverns. Although, many geologists now are using a hydrogen sulfide theory to support millions of years forming caverns; there is no evident to support that. Hydrogen sulfide is generated by oxygen free (anaerobic) decomposition of organic materials (plants, coal, fossils of sea creatures). It is also formed by the oxidation of sulfide minerals or deposits (iron pyrite and other such compounds of sulfur and metals), when exposed to weathering. It is produced from volcanos and geothermal springs. Through sulfuric acid dissolves limestone slowly over time; the fact that limestone remains shows that it is not likely that this alone caused most caverns; and it is more likely that this process only modifies the caves.
CURRENT EVOLUTION TEACHING
The Bulletin of the National Speleological Society (37: p.21, 1975) teaches growth rates as ranging from 0.1 to 10 centimeters per thousand years. An exceptional spurt of growth might exceed the higher rate for short periods of time, but it could no more be maintained than a winning streak at the Las Vegas poker tables. Moore and Sullivan (1978, p. 47) give an upper average rate of ‘only a little more’ than 0.1 mm/year [10 centimeters or 4 inches per thousand years].
Direct measurement via radiometric dating gives stalactite ages over 190,000 years (Ford and Hill 1999). Other deposits in caves have been dated to several million years old. For example, argon-argon dating of alunite (an aluminum sulfate mineral) gives an age of 11.3 million years for a cave near Carlsbad Caverns (Polyak et al. 1998).
EVIDENCE for Rapid Stalactite Growth (against thousands/millions years)
Case 1: Russian geologist Natalya Polina, of the Geological Museum in Siberia, reported, “This is a cross-section from a stalactite. The rings show how much it has grown each year… The dirt that surface water carries into the cave varies between summer and winter (causes the rings)… There is more dirt in summer so a dark ring is deposited, whereas in winter, when the surface is covered with ice and snow, the deposit is cleaner.”
This is confirmed by NASA’s article at Earth Observatory:
“Paleoclimatologists analyze the growth rate of stalactites and stalagmites to reveal patterns of past rainfall. This graph shows the thickness of near-annual growth rings for the past 450 years from a stalagmite in Carlsbad Cavern. Thick rings indicate a relatively wet climate, while thin rings indicate a dry climate.” earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Paleoclimatology_Speleothems (June 2006)
Thus, as stated at Creation.com:
“The scale on the graph in question is graduated in 0.1 mm steps, from zero to 0.3 mm. By contrast, the Siberian ring was about 15 millimetres wide—50 times greater than the widest rings on the Carlsbad chart. This is because the Carlsbad Cavern is found in the New Mexico desert, where rainfall is low, even in the wetter years. But the stalactite Natalya Polina showed me was recovered from the Altai Mountains of south-western Siberia, where summer rainfall is much greater.”
Case 2: There are many variables to Speleothem growth rates. How much carbon dioxide dissolves in the water will vary based on temperatures and pressure. The amount of carbon dioxide in the water can vary significantly. Thus, the rate of limestone dissolved; as well as the rate of growth by dripstone, etc. can vary significantly. Moreover, whether a cave is live and active; or dominant (dead) is an obvious factor. Dead caves can have no grow; while very active ones can see growth an inch in a little over a week.
Carbon Dating has many errors past 5,000 years. Manhattan Project scientist and Nobel Prize Chemist Willard Libby proposed carbon dating in 1947 and won the Nobel Prize for studies in Carbon Dating (carbon-14) in 1960; yet, he stated that it is unreliable after a few thousand years dues to unknowns in the atmosphere at various points in time and due to the half-life of elements tested.
Problems with carbon dating see: Creationism: Population and Dating Analysis
Case 3: Stalactites and Stalagmites grow in garage within 20 years.
Case 4: Inches do not equal centuries or thousands of years; but rather are directly related to the drip source location, and the environment within and without the cave.
Case 5: New Mexico Tech University: Grew Stalactites overnight
Image below is after two weeks of growth
Case 6: Sequoyah Caverns in Alabama had fast-growing formations:
According to article the Director of Cavern now believes in Noah’s Flood.
“Director of the caverns, Clark Byers, cemented a clear plastic panel in front of some stalactites in April, 1977, to prevent tourists from breaking them off. In less than 10 years the stalactites grew about 25 centimetres (10 inches or one inch per year). On the ceiling of the cave, animal tracks can be seen, and there are fossils of many marine creatures—plus a bird fossil which looks like a chicken. In an interview in 1985, cavern director Byers made no secret of the fact that he believes these fossils are a result of Noah’s Flood.”
Same article states: “In October 1953, National Geographic published a photo of a bat that had fallen on a stalagmite in the famous Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, and had been cemented on to it. The stalagmite had grown so fast it was able to preserve the bat before the creature had time to decompose.
Stalactites many centimetres long are sometimes seen under modern-day bridges and in tunnels. Some stalactites have formed quickly in a tunnel in Raccoon Mountain, just west of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The tunnel was blasted through the mountain’s limestone rock to build a power plant in 1977. Water from the plant’s pump-turbines dissolves the limestone, and stalactites form rapidly.
At Australia’s Jenolan Caves in New South Wales, a lemonade bottle was placed below a continually active stalactite in the ‘Temple of Baal’ in 1954. In the following 33 years a coating of calcite about three millimetres thick has formed on the bottle. The same amount of deposit has formed since development in 1932 of the Ribbon Cave in the jenolan system. At this time pathways were cut through areas of flowstone. Water flowing down the sides of these cuttings over the past 55 years has built up the current deposit.
A photograph taken in February, 1968, shows a curtain of stalactites growing from the foundation ceiling beneath the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Some of the stalactites had grown to five feet long (a metre and a half) in the 45 years since the memorial was built in 1923.”
Case 7: Australian Creation Museum
“One year ago (October 2015) we set up the world first stalactite machine at Jurassic Ark which has been growing stalactites rapidly at around 1cm per month since then. This makes nonsense of evolutionist claims that Tites grow so slowly, and caves are vast ages…”