Was Antarctica Once a Land of Forests?
Perfectly preserved leaves under Antarctic ice tell a story. But what is the correct plot?
Fossil forests under Antarctic ice (University of Melbourne). Australian researchers tell about the arduous expedition they took in 2001 to look for fossils in a remote part of Antarctica. They had to travel through Drake’s Passage, “the most treacherous stretch of water in the world,” but their trials were only beginning.
Together with Dame Professor Jane Francis from the British Antarctic Survey and with the help of our mountaineer, Robert Smith, we endured quad bikes bogged in mud, extreme 100 knot winds that constantly beat against our tents during a three-day blizzard, and were nearly stranded on Seymour Island for the entire winter when the sea ice choked the ship’s passage through the Antarctic Sound between Elephant Island and the main peninsula.
Despite the ordeal, they successfully collected fossil leaves from Seymour Island to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. Apparently they have been studying the fossils ever since. Fitting the leaves into the evolutionary timeline, they state that “They are evidence that extensive forests grew at high latitudes during the late Paleocene (around 58–56 million years ago).”
These beautiful impressions of leaves, preserved in fine-grained sandstones and siltstones, are the best-preserved Antarctic Peninsula flora from the Paleocene. They show significant diversity of leaf architecture – shape, size, patterns of leaf veins – despite growing in the polar region, where low angles of light are experienced during winter.
They found more diversity of plant species than had been known before from wood specimens. They say, “the diversity of entire-margined (or smooth-edged) leaves in the Paleocene forests was unexpected.” They also found differences between the east and west sides of the Antarctic Peninsula. The closest living analogues are found in the Patagonian forests of South America.
The presence of temperate forests in what today is the coldest part of the world means that earth has experienced dramatic climate change in the past. Secular scientists have this all worked out on their timeline, with names for the climate changes:
The Paleocene was a time that experienced rapid warming, leading into the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM in Figure 1) that saw a dramatic temperature increase of 8°C over 10,000 years, a mere blink of an eye in geological time.
This was followed by the warmest time of the Cenozoic Era, during a period known as the Eocene greenhouse, before Earth cooled and the ice caps first formed approximately 34 million years ago, caused by the break-up of Gondwana.
The names confer an appearance of history, but what do they really know? Certainly the discovery of plant materials, particularly leaves from temperate climates, were not expected when they were first found in 1833. These were big specimens, too, comparable to some of the large flowering trees of Australia and New Zealand, like giant kauri trees and eucalyptus trees.
We now know that fossils are, in fact, abundant in Antarctica, and the most common are of wood and leaves. They are evidence of what is called the Antarctic Paradox –how can forests be preserved on a continent that experiences temperatures as low as -83 °C and is covered in thick ice sheets?
Part of the paradox is the condition of the fossils. They are sandwiched in sedimentary layers. These leaves, they say, come from a warm time at the end of the dinosaur extinction, whereas other fossil wood described earlier (16 Nov 2013), is labeled Permian, which is 6 times older than these leaves in the evolutionary time scheme (250 million to 280 million Darwin Years old). And yet the report about these posted 22 Nov 2017 includes a statement that the explorers could still extract amino acids from the wood!
A shorter press release about this from the University of Melbourne expresses surprise that such plants could thrive in Antarctica, “despite the fact they’ve been growing in the polar region, where very low angles of light are experienced during winter.”
The research paper is published in Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, February 2021: Tosolini et al, “Paleocene high-latitude leaf flora of Antarctica Part 1: entire-margined angiosperms.”
Revisit our 22 March 2018 entry and see how confusing is the evolutionary interpretation of Antarctic plant fossils. They are really clueless about the sequence, but they toss millions of years around like dollar bills, drawn from their reckless drafts on the bank of time. They cannot say that the fossils on Seymour Island are contemporaneous with the Permian fossils, because flowering plants had supposedly not evolved by then. Consequently, the moyboys have to invent multiple warming periods separated by hundreds of millions of years in order to get these trees to grow in the land of the midnight sun. They try to distance the fossil species from extant species, saying “there are no modern, comparable species” but that could be due to (1) misidentification of the fossils or (2) the fact that many if not most species of plants and animals in the fossil record had gone extinct.
The secular timeline makes no sense if they can still extract amino acids from some of the oldest wood fossils. It’s interesting that the forests do not appear to have grown in situ. They admit (see 22 March 2018 entry) that the fossils resemble the Yellowstone fossil forests, which geologists now believe were rafted into their current positions (28 Sept 2015). A simpler interpretation without the extreme climate swings is that the plant material was rafted into these locations by the Flood. The extreme dynamics of a global flood could have carried rafts of vegetation far from their place of origin, depositing perfectly-preserved leaves in “layers of fine-grained sandstones and siltstones” instead of soil. Creation geologists and botanists should lead the secularists out of their slavery to Pharaoh Darwin into the promised land.
Noticed in passing: the press releases admit to dramatic warming episodes in the past on earth, but it wouldn’t be politically correct to cast doubt on the current global warming hysteria.
The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum is a fascinating time and one of the most dramatic and rapid warming events in Earth’s history. Although it pales in comparison to the rate of modern, human-induced warming, it is possibly our best analogue for Earth’s future climate.
Man must be blamed! We must not upset the activists in Paris!