Sunday, 27 May 2007

Billions of Dead Nautiloids in the Grand Canyon: Evidence for a Rapid Burial

Joel Kontinen

Introduction: The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most colourful geological formations in the world. The 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep canyon has been used as a showcase for slow gradual geological processes and the “fact” of millions of years of Earth history. However, two unexpected discoveries made by creation scientists are beginning to challenge the dogma of an old Earth.[1] First, the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 indicated that thick rock sediments and river canyons can be formed in just a few hours.[2] Second, billions of nautiloid fossils were found in the Grand Canyon.[3]

What are nautiloids?

Nautiloids are marine mollusks that have a long outer shell. The subclass Nautiloidea includes the chambered nautilus that still thrives in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. [4] The word “nautilus” comes from the Greek noun Ναυτίλος, ‘sailor,’[5] an apt name for a fast-moving deep-sea creature that uses jet-propulsion to move forward. Yet their speed was no match for the raging waters of the catastrophe that buried them before they had time to escape.

Evolution glasses = no discoveries

Many people suppose that scientists are highly objective, but the history of science has time and again shown that deeply ingrained dogmas can distort thinking and bias can prevent scientists from making discoveries. Answers in Genesis-USA President Ken Ham often uses the analogy of evolution glasses that prevent people from seeing evidence for biblical history. Geologists who believe that the Colorado River slowly eroded the Grand Canyon during 70 million years[6] did not expect to find myriads of extinct deep sea creatures buried in the Redwall Limestone. Although nautiloid fossils were first discovered in 1966, [7] they were thought to be very rare in the Grand Canyon.[8]

Biblical glasses = astounding discoveries

In 1995 two creationist PhD scientists, Steven Austin and Kurt Wise, found that there were at least 71 nautiloid fossils on the rock ledges of the Grand Canyon. Four years later Steven Austin examined the ledges more thoroughly and found hundreds of nautiloids in a few days. They were of all sizes, from small to very large, some over six feet long, suggesting that a large population of these sea creatures, both young and old animals, was buried simultaneously.[9] This discovery supports the biblical view that Noah’s flood “deluged and destroyed” the early Earth (Genesis 6-8; 2 Peter 3:6).

The nautiloids were trapped in a layer that is from seven to forty or fifty feet thick and at least 180 miles long. There are probably ten billion nautiloid fossils in the bed along with other sea creatures such as corals.[10] Using flow models,[11] Dr. Austin was able to deduce that an enormous and a very rapid sedimentary flow caught the nautiloids and fossilised them almost instantly. The standard explanation of a slowly moving sea could never have produced this phenomenon that Austin aptly calls a mass kill. [12]

What made this astounding discovery possible? Creation scientists were not restricted by the unnecessary straitjacket of millions of years that kept mainstream geologists from even searching for alternative solutions that would support a rapid formation of the entire canyon. In other words, most geologists thought that millions of years were fact. Putting on biblical glasses, i.e. believing in the historic reliability of the Bible, made all the difference. Genesis 6-8 describes a watery catastrophe that wreaked havoc all over the world.

ICR geologist Dr. Steven Austin and other creation scientists knew what to look for. They found millions of dead things buried in a limestone layer in the Grand Canyon. 15 per cent of the nautiloids were buried in an upright position. The evidence supports strongly a fast catastrophic burial. The Creation Science Association for Mid America website concluded, “if you were on a jury and saw billions of large nautiloids (average nearly 3 feet long) buried, 15% standing on the point of their shell, and learned that hydraulic modeling required it all be deposited in a day, would you vote that the deposition and mass kill took 30 million years?”[13]

The Grand Canyon is just one example of the numerous fossil graveyards found all over the world. Dead things speak of the wages of sin.[14] Fossils illustrate the words of 2 Peter 3 about the destruction caused by Noah’s flood. Peter’s words can also be understood as criticism of uniformitarism, the view that gradual changes over long ages have produced the geological formations we see around us. The passage suggests that by refusing to believe what God has done in the past we might fail to see what He will do in the future:

3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed…
13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.


The Grand Canyon has long been used as proof of millions of years of Earth history. However, the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 indicated that huge sediments can be formed in a few hours. There are good reasons for believing that the Grand Canyon could also have been formed rapidly.[15] The presence of billions of nautiloid fossils speaks of a catastrophic burial during the year-long Flood of Noah’s day. Nothing short of a world-wide flood could have made the canyon walls a graveyard of fast-moving deep-sea creatures. It is time for a radical reassessment of thinking about time: Little water over much time could not have buried billions of fossils in limestone but a lot of water in a little time could easily have done it.


[1] These are by no means the only evidences for a young Earth. For instance, Dr. D. Russell Humpreys listed 12 good reasons in the booklet Evidence for a Young World published by Answers in Genesis in 2000. More recently, the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) project made the astounding discovery of carbon-14 in diamonds which were supposedly millions of years old. With a half-life of 5700 years, there should be no C-14 in diamonds if they really are as old as secular scientists suppose. Another spectacular find was the discovery of red blood cells and soft tissue in tyrannosaurux rex bones.
[2] Morris, John and Steven A. Austin. 2003. Footprints in the Ash. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 62, 70-77.
[3] ICR Geologist Presents Discovery at Geologic Society Meeting. Acts & Facts 32:1, Jan 2003.
[4] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. S.v. “nautiloid”. Accessed 9 April 2007.
[5] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. S.v. “nautilus”. Accessed 9 April 2007.
[6] Ref 2, page 77.
[7] Garner, Paul. 2004. The Grand Canyon Adventure – Part One. Origins 40:3.
[8] Nutting, Dave and Mary Jo Nutting. 2004. Nautiloids: An Amazing Discovery in the Grand Canyon. Think & Believe 21:5, Nov/Dec 2004.
[9] Ref. 7.
[10] Austin, Steven. 2003. Geologic Evidences for Very Rapid Strata Deposition in the Grand Canyon. Answers in Genesis DVD.
[11] Ref. 10.
[12] Refs 7 and 10.
[13] Creation Science Association. Local Evidence for Creation. Accessed 10 April 2007.
[14] See Genesis 3:3; Romans 6:23a.
[15] Austin, Steven A. 1990. Were Grand Canyon Limestones Deposited by Calm and Placid Seas? Acts & Facts 20:1. Impact article #210.