The Great Mediterranean Desert

Lambert Dolphin

Quite a few new scientific discoveries make the evening news, Time or Newsweek, or merit an hour program on the Discovery Channel. Other important finds are neglected sometimes. Perhaps some things are too hard to fit into the prevailing secular scientific world view or have consequences that don't seem to mesh with evidence from other sources. This article deals with a much-neglected discovery in the latter category.

Forty years ago sonar studies through the Mediterranean Sea and into the sea floor below revealed a strange reflecting layer 100-200 meters below the bottom and unexpected stratification of the sediments. Buried sub-bottom salt domes were also detected. The seismic data were tantalizing enough to merit a Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) by the Glomar Challenger beginning in 1970. (1, 2) This amazing ship was equipped with side thrusters for accurate position control, and a drilling rig capable of core sampling the sea floor even through water several miles deep. The first core samples off the coast of Barcelona, Spain did not yield sands, gravels and muds as expected, but gypsum, oceanic basalt, small fossil shells and hardened ocean oozes. The fossils were those one would expect from a shallow salty lagoon, or a surface evaporation pond, yet the water depth at the drilling site was 2000 meters deep.

Subsequent drilling revealed that the floor of the Mediterranean most everywhere was underlain with layers of evaporites, and more fossils such as blue green algae that can live only in sunlit waters. The fossils dated from the end of the Miocene Epoch and were all 5 to 6 million years old on the atomic time scale.

The researchers were reluctantly, but excitedly, driven to the conclusion that the Mediterranean Sea had dried up and refilled a dozen times in a million years. Since the Mediterranean basin is as much as 16,000 feet deep, the dry sea floor must have been an incredible hot desert for long periods of time. The lowest place on earth nowadays is the Dead Sea which is only 1300 feet below sea level. Further studies confirmed that deep gorges in solid rock (now filled with ocean sediments and then river muds) lay under the Nile River and the Rhone River, suggesting that these rivers were once great torrents steeply dropping water into the empty Mediterranean basin. (However, other filled in gorges are also found around the world and are not unique to the Mediterranean). Best of all, the researchers imagined a prehistoric waterfall at the Straits of Gibraltar bringing in Atlantic ocean water with the volume of a hundred Victoria Falls or a thousand Niagaras at intervals lasting a hundred years or more.

Did the Mediterranean Sea really dry up? Was it once a very hot and dry desert? Probably not. There is another possible explanation for the vast salt and mineral deposits found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Let us explore Australian astronomer Barry Setterfield's hypothesis that atomic time and ordinary calendar time are related by the velocity of light. Using Setterfield's red-shift data to give us the expected value of c for events some millions of years ago in atomic time, we find that the 5 to 6 millions years BP (before the present) in atomic time was between 2875 and 2825 B.C. in ordinary dynamical time! (3) The salt sediments in the Mediterranean would then have been deposited in a mere 75 years, not over a million years, too short a time period for evaporation and refilling processes in the basin.

A tight reading of Old Testament genealogies suggests that the Flood of Noah and the accompanying sudden continental breakup took place only hundreds of years before these salt-depositional events in the Mediterranean. (Setterfield's date for the Flood turns out to be 3536 B.C.).

What happened to cause the Flood of Noah? Most of the water for the Flood did not come from the atmosphere--the so-called vapor canopy could have held only a few tens of feet of water. It was the "fountains of the deep" that released the waters of the Deluge, suddenly and abruptly, covering the entire surface of our planet for a year and wiping out all of mankind except for eight persons safe on the Ark of Noah.

As originally created, our universe was evidently not characterized by the Second Law of Thermodynamics--the Law of science which describes how the physical world is running down, falling apart and decaying. It is also quite possible that there was no radioactive decay of the higher-ordered atomic elements before the Fall. It seems reasonable to suppose that natural radioactivity was switched on as a result of the fall of man or the fall of the angels subsequent to creation week.

Setterfield has shown that the total energy released by radioactive decay processes is independent of c, the velocity of light. However assuming radioactivity was indeed switched on suddenly, the shorter-lived radioactive isotopes would have begun to decay rapidly, so there could have been a season of rapid crustal heating during earth's early history. (4)

Walter Brown, (5) John Baumgardner and others have proposed a very rapid rupturing of the crust at the time of the Flood. Radioactive decay of the shorter-lived isotopes would have superheated the waters in the crust of the earth. These waters erupting through thousands of feet of water above them would have been very hot--many hundreds of degrees Centigrade. Coming into contact with the colder ocean waters the hot water from the crust could have precipitated the salt layers found under the Mediterranean. Living creatures on the surface could well have been killed suddenly raining debris to the sea floor to add to the salts being rapidly precipitated out in a series of violent events. The Mediterranean basis is already known for its vigorous past vulcanism (Santorini, Vesuvius, Stromboli, etc.). During the years the earth was recovering from the Flood of Noah it is quite possible that what we now know as deep ocean "black smokers" were present everywhere under the Mediterranean Sea. They could be responsible for the huge copper deposits under Cyprus and the vast salt layers under the Mediterranean sea floor. (5) Of course rapid weather and climate changes were probably taking place during that same time as well. As soon as nature's upheavals had slowed, the civilization of Egypt could have rapidly expanded and European civilization soon after as well.

Earth's past history appears to have been marked by catastrophes and disasters that were denied vehemently in previous generations by secular science, Catastrophes now seem inescapable. Kenneth Hsü's book is exciting reading no matter how you interpret his amazing research results. Walt Brown's book is must reading also for the well-informed who want to form a Biblically-based scientific world view. Above all else, our Creator invites us to learn and understand and to inquire of him--the universe has a more remarkable history than we first imagine and we do not yet know very much at all about the world we live in. "Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it -- the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known." (Jeremiah 33:2,3)


1. Hsü, K. J., The Mediterranean was a Desert: A Voyage of the Glomar CHALLENGER. Princeton University Press (1983) 216 p.

2. The Mediterranean is the world's largest inland sea. It lies between the continents of Europe and Africa and is bounded on the east by the westernmost stretches of Asia. Its length is about 4,025 km (2,500 miles), its average width 805 km (500 miles), and its area about 2,965,500 sq km (1,145,000 sq mi). The greatest depth, 5,092 m (16,706 ft), is in the Matapan Trench of the Ionian Basin. The mean depth is about 1,525 m (5,000 ft). (Grolier Encyclopedia, 1996)

3. Setterfield, Barry, Creation and Catastrophe, 1993. Available from Box 318, Blackwood 5051, South Australia. Also see

4. Radioactive heating is thought to be the main source of earth's interior heat. A core melt down within the earth with a subsequent redistribution of the elements in the core and crust is a popular model among leading geologists today. See Questions Concerning the Early History of the Earth, Early.html

5. Brown, Walter, Ph.D., In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood. On-line book as well as ordering information at


Published Sunday, November 21, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

Below the Black Sea

Washington Post

As the story is told in the Old Testament, the great flood lasted for 40 days and 40 nights and submerged every living thing on Earth beneath 24 feet of water, sparing only Noah, his family and the pairs of animals he protected on his ark.

Scientists have never found Noah or his ark, but they believe in his flood -- or something like it. It happened about 7,600 years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea, swollen by melted glaciers, breached a natural dam separating it from the freshwater lake known today as the Black Sea.

It was an apocalyptic event, in many respects much worse than anything described in Genesis. Every day for two years, 10 cubic miles of sea water cut through the narrow channel now known as the Bosporus and plunged into the lake -- more than 200 times the flow over Niagara Falls. Every day the lake level rose six inches.

And every day the water marched another mile inland, forcing people and animals to flee or drown, killing freshwater fish and plants by the ton, inundating forests, villages and entire cities and spreading pestilence and death for miles.

But as the deluge filled the lake and transformed it into a sea, it also created an ecosystem unique in the world -- an oxygen-less abyss where shipwrecks could rest for thousands of years in chill, inert darkness uncorrupted by living creatures.

The possible presence of old ships in near-mint condition on the Black Sea floor has made Noah's flood the starting point for perhaps the most ambitious project ever undertaken in the emerging field of deep-water archaeology.

Since explorer Robert D. Ballard discovered the Titanic 12,500 feet beneath the North Atlantic in 1985, deep-sea experts have used ever more sophisticated robots and submersibles to plumb the world's seas for both science and profit.

Secrets that have withstood prying eyes for hundreds or even thousands of years are being unlocked in a new age of discovery reminiscent of the early days of space travel.

In 1988, commercial salvagers found perhaps $1 billion in gold in the 19th-century paddle wheeler Central America, sunk in deep water off the North Carolina coast. In 1998, Tampa, Fla.-based salvagers found a 2,500-year-old Phoenician cargo ship off Gibraltar.

In 1989, Ballard found the German battleship Bismarck, sunk by the British in 15,600 feet of water during World War II, and this summer he found two ships nearly 3,000 years old lying more than 1,000 feet below the surface of the eastern Mediterranean.

But the Black Sea Project, with Ballard as lead oceanographer, has far more audacious goals than the discovery of a single ship. Project leaders hope to prove that literally thousands of years of history may lie intact in the shipwrecks that are blanketed by the sterile waters of Noah's flood.

``It's very much like a bathtub, but without a drain,'' Ballard said. ``The Bosporus acts like an overflow valve, but the trapped water can't circulate, so it went anoxic (lost its oxygen) long ago. Such conditions exist nowhere else in the world.''

In the past five years, project researchers trying to determine the Black Sea trade routes of antiquity have studied scientific literature, history and classical texts such as the myth of Jason, whose quest for the Golden Fleece is believed to have made him the first of the ancient Greeks to enter the Black Sea.

At project headquarters in the Turkish city of Synope, archaeologists mapped a seaport that acted as a major trading center during the Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago, and maybe even earlier. Artifacts have linked Synope to Black Sea sites north in the Crimea and west in Bulgaria, as well as to Troy, the fabled Aegean city that guarded the entrance to the Black Sea.

Rather than hugging the coast, the research suggests, sailors were willing to save time and money by traveling point-to-point over waters reaching depths close to 7,000 feet.

``Once an ancient mariner got into water beyond visual depth, he didn't know how deep it was,'' Ballard said. ``Here you've got a trade route that can be documented as far back as any.''

And just this summer, the project's underwater surveyors found an ancient coastline at a depth of 450 feet, just above the anoxic dead zone: ``I'm not sure whether it's Noah's flood or not Noah's flood,'' said David Mindell, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor leading the marine survey. ``But I do buy that there was a flood.''

The theory of the Black Sea's Neolithic catastrophe was developed by Columbia University marine geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman over three decades of research and published this year in their book ``Noah's Flood.''

The authors describe how the sea level worldwide began to rise as glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age 15,000 years ago. When the melt began, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake fed by rivers, among them those known today as the Danube, the Dnieper and the Don.

On the lake's southern edge, a 360-foot natural dam held back the waters of what is now the Mediterranean Sea. By 7,600 years ago, sea level probably had risen to within 15 feet of the lip of the Bosporus. And then it flooded.

``It probably started as a trickle when it pierced the Bosporus valley,'' Pitman said in an interview. ``But when it got to the Black Sea, it gouged out a channel, and within 60 days it began to flood with a rush.''

It was a one-of-a-kind event, and it had a unique result. The incoming salt water, denser than the fresh water it displaced, plunged straight to the bottom of the lake bed. As the sea level rose, the fresh water floated on top, and, being less dense, stayed on top, flowing in from the northern rivers and out via the Bosporus.

This bathtub phenomenon repressed the natural heat exchange that causes water to circulate and re-oxygenate in seas and lakes throughout the world. Trapped on the bottom, the creatures that lived in the original floodwater used up the original oxygen, then died.

Today, the top 450 feet of the Black Sea are constantly renewed and support a vigorous marine life. But the abyss, leached of oxygen long ago, lies like a cold blanket thousands of feet deep covering the sea floor and its secrets.

If there is no oxygen, then there should be none of the wood-boring mollusks that consume wooden ships at almost any depth. Marine archaeologists learned long ago that in ordinary circumstances, an old wooden wreck will appear as nothing more than a jumble of amphorae or other cargo on the sea bottom.

But in the Black Sea, anything on the bottom should be intact -- including ancient wooden ships. And because the Black Sea lies within shouting distance of the Fertile Crescent and served as a commercial waterway for civilizations from ancient Greece to Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire, the possibilities are dazzling: ``One should have a complete chronicle of human history,'' Ballard said.

Lambert Dolphin
12/5/97. Addendum, November 21, 1999