picture of the day
Palouse Falls, Eastern Washington. Photographer unknown.
Jun 18, 2008
The Channeled Scablands
Some researchers have theorized that hundreds of megafloods in a
cycle ranging over thousands of years formed the scars in Washington
State. Electricity could have carved the region in minutes.
On September 20, 2005, National Public Broadcasting sponsored a NOVA
television documentary, “Mystery of the Megaflood.” The program elucidated a
theory for how Eastern Washington State was scoured down to the bedrock, leaving
formations that geologists find difficult to explain from a uniformitarian
perspective. Rather than relying on traditional models of slow, progressive
erosion, a catastrophic hypothesis was proposed.
As the theory suggests, during the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000
years ago, a flood of water taller than mountains swept down through valleys and
drainage channels, moving at 120 kilometers per hour. The force of the water was
so great that it washed away the forests, the topsoil and any signs of
civilization that might have existed in its path. Nothing remained except humps
of basalt lava, dry canyons, waterfalls that today have no water and deep chasms
that mark where the colossal flow
etched into the rocks.
NOVA based their program on a theory originally published by J Harlen Bretz in
1925. It was Bretz who referred to the area as The Channeled Scablands
because he thought that mounds of dolerite scattered throughout the
Grand Coulee territory resembled crusty scabs on the flat plain. Along with
fellow geologist J.T. Pardee, Bretz became convinced that the Columbia River
Plateau has been the scene of not one but
hundreds of floods that periodically erupted from a now dried up lake that
collected behind a glacial dam.
Bretz proposed that a glacier blocked the mouth of an ancient river valley and
the runoff from melting ice gradually filled it with water, forming what is now
known as the extinct Lake Missoula. As the water grew deeper – theorized to be
nearly 300 meters deep – the pressure on small cracks in the ice dam forced it
to crumble and fail all at once, discharging as much as 60 cubic kilometers of
water per hour out over the landscape.
Bretz and Pardee formulated their theory of flooding because the prevailing
opinions among scientists of their day did not seem to fit the observations that
they made in the field. The two researchers conducted extensive surveys
throughout Oregon and Washington, finding
anomalous terrain and evidence that seemed to demand an alternative to the
gradualism on which their scientific discipline was based.
Large boulders, some weighing many thousands of kilograms, known as
glacial erratics, are supposed to have been carried by ice for many
kilometers before it melted away, dropping the burden of stones and gravel on
top of rock strata that is different in composition from the material that was
frozen into the icy matrix. Bretz and Pardee did not think that frozen water was
responsible for the boulders they found. Instead, they suggested that liquid
water rolled and floated the stones downstream, depositing them at the point
where the flow diminished enough for them to fall out of suspension.
Erratic boulders are found
all over the world. In some cases they lie scattered in
fields or stretched out in long lines and are often
accompanied by piles of loess (silt and clay supposedly
ground up by glaciers and then blown into deep deposits by
the wind). Giant sandbars of gravel and glacial till,
ripples 30 meters high and 150 meters between crests
that march for kilometers across terrain that is desert-like
today, and “potholes”
100 meters in diameter and 50 meters deep are also located
It is fortunate that some
scientists were (and perhaps are) willing to consider
explanations that differ from those that have been
established for more than 200 years. It is unfortunate that
the proposed alternatives do not take into account
electrical activity as a formative agent in structures such
as those revealed by the Channeled Scablands.
We have considered the scarring of planets and moons in many
previous Picture of the Day articles. Lightning bolts orders
of magnitude more powerful than anything seen on Earth today
could have created the topography that Bretz and Pardee
ascribed to ice dams and flowing water.
As the Electric Universe theory explains, Mars has been
subjected to similar electrical jolts that etched its
surface with gigantic “skylights” (much like the potholes
found in the Scablands), deep canyons with multiple side
branches at right angles to the main channel, coulees, dry
falls, terraces and other features that can be found on
Due to their close resemblance to terrestrial physiography,
the Martian formations are thought to be extremely old and
cut by water millions of years ago. Electricity is never
considered part of the equation when geological theories are
presented. Bretz, Pardee and NASA scientists have missed a
vital clue in the search for answers to the puzzles of
By Stephen Smith
Please visit our new "Thunderblog" page
Through the initiative of managing
editor Dave Smith, we’ve begun the launch of a new
presentations of fact and opinion, with emphasis on
and the explanatory power of the Electric Universe."
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The Electric Sky and The Electric Universe