Cape Peninsula sandstones, South Africa, deposited during Noah’s Flood


Published: 26 July 2012 (GMT+10)
georneys.blogspot9 Maroon mudstone beds and buff sandstone beds alongside Chapman’s Peak Drive south of Cape Town.
Maroon mudstone beds and buff sandstone beds alongside Chapman’s Peak Drive south of Cape Town.

In the steep road cut alongside Chapman’s Peak Drive, south of Cape Town, South Africa, you can see some of the flat-lying beds of sediment that form the 1000-metre (3000-ft) tall mountains along Cape Peninsula. The mudstone has a distinctive maroon colour while the coarser sandstone is buff. The road runs just above the contact between the sandstone and the underlying granite.

Geologists have called these sediments the Graafwater Formation, which is around 70 metres (200 ft) thick along Chapman’s Drive.1 Above it sits another 550 metres (1800 feet) of sedimentary strata, the Peninsula Formation, which lacks the distinctive maroon mudstone layers.2 The Peninsula Formation forms the impressive cliff faces prominent in Table Mountain and the escarpments above Chapman’s Peak Road.2

There are many features of these sandstone deposits on the peninsula that point to large-scale, rapid deposition, as you would expect during Noah’s global Flood.

  1. The sediments cover a large geographical area. McCarthy and Rubidge have a geologic map that shows the Table Mountain Group extending beyond Port Elizabeth, 700 km (400 miles) to the east, and almost as far as Vanrhynsdorp, 300 km (200 miles) to the north.3 This points to a geologic process that covered a very large area, as would be expected from Noah’s Flood.
  2. The sandstone beds are “amazingly uniform”.2 This feature can be seen in the above image of the road cut, but also from a distance when you look at the escarpments in the area, such as the escarpment of Table Mountain or of the Twelve Apostles. Once again, this points to an energetic geologic process that covered a large area.
  3. The sandstone beds are frequently quite thick, some as thick as 6 metres (20 feet).4 This points to a large water flow with abundant sediment, again as would be expected from the Flood catastrophe.
  4. The continuous nature of the sedimentation indicates continually rising sea level. There is no evidence of erosion or a break in deposition at the contact between the two formations, so geologists believe that the sediments represent a process of continuous deposition.5
  5. Sedimentary structures indicating flowing water are common, including large trough and tabular cross bedding.6
  6. Abundant wave and ripple marks, again indicating flowing water.6
  7. The sedimentary beds show evidence of slumping, including load casts.6 Imagine how a billiard ball placed on a layer of soft mud would sink into the mud. When sand is deposited onto soft sediment, blobs of sand will sink into the underling mud forming ‘load casts’. These features indicate deposition so rapid that the sediments are still uncompacted and loose.
  8. Well rounded quartz pebbles up to 70 mm (3 inches) in diameter are distributed through the sandstone, sometimes forming thin lenses of pebble conglomerate.6 These stones give an idea of the water flow needed to carry them along.

Mainstream geologists don’t connect this evidence for large-scale watery deposition with Noah’s Flood. Often they do not appreciate the catastrophic implications of the evidence they are documenting. That is because they have eliminated any thought from their minds that the Flood actually occurred. The Flood does not form part of their interpretive process and this is a major blind spot in their thinking.

Instead, they try to explain the evidence in terms of geological processes operating at the present time: slow, gradual, limited in scale and energy. Part of their interpretive process is to match the sediments to a modern depositional environment but, as you can imagine, the match is problematical. In the case of these Table Mountain sediments, various opinions have been put forward7 but the sediments do not seem to comfortably match any environments that exist on the earth today.

One suggestion is that the sediments were deposited partly in a river delta and partly in the shallow ocean. The Graafwater Formation supposedly was in a sheltered tidal setting with large areas of still water (presumably to account for the mudstone8). The Peninsula Formation was deposited in a high energy coastal setting with sandy beaches and bars, to explain the abundant, well sorted sand.7

However, there are many features listed above that this environment does not explain, especially their large geographical extent and the evidence for flowing water and rapid sedimentation. More recently, geologists have suggested a major braided river system flowing over a wide continental plain.1 Today, braided rivers carry abundant sediment and form a wide, flat, gravelly river channels. However, there are many features of the sediments that this environment does not explain, including the thickness of the sediment pile.

Noah’s Flood involved flowing water, and that meant landscape erosion and sedimentary deposition. It covered huge areas of the earth as sea level was rising with respect to the continents. It was an ongoing process that took some five months until the entire earth was inundated (Genesis 7:24). It took a further seven months for the waters to recede from the continents into the oceans (Genesis 8:14–16). The sedimentary rocks forming the Table Mountain Group in South Africa were deposited partway through the first ‘half’ of the Flood as the floodwaters were rising. The evidence is graphic.

Image from georneys.blogspot interpreted as, ‘More trace fossil burrows!’ Notice the evidence of rapid sediment deposition in the form of cross bedding immediately above the pale streaks that have been interpreted as ‘burrows’. ‘More trace fossil burrows!’ Notice the evidence of rapid sediment deposition in the form of cross bedding immediately above the pale streaks that have been interpreted as ‘burrows’.

Problems with Flood interpretation

There are always questions that flow out of geological interpretations, whether that interpretation is from a long-age uniformitarian perspective or a biblical one. One question that arises when we assign these sediments to rapid Flood deposition involves features called ‘trace fossils’, features that in this case have been interpreted as burrows.9 If the entire Table Mountain Group was laid down during the Flood, then how would there be enough time for organisms to make such burrows within some layers?

However, the ‘burrows’ are sparse and the beds are still clear, crisp and distinct. Depositional features, such as cross bedding, are still very well preserved. This indicates that there was not much time elapsed after each bed was deposited before the next was emplaced upon it. If there had been a long time we would expect the beds to be colonized by organisms and the depositional structures would have been obliterated as they burrowed in the sediments. This is called bioturbation. So, if these features are indeed burrows, they could be escape burrows for organisms that had been quickly buried in the sediment.

But they may not be burrows. When these sorts of problems arise we need to question the standard geological interpretations that are automatically assigned. Rapid deposition introduces other possibilities. It’s feasible that they could be features formed abiotically as the sediments were deposited. They could be dewatering tubes on account of the beds being deposited rapidly and needing to release the trapped water as the sediment settled. Or they could be small lenses of a different material, or soft sediment deformation. The fact that they are a different colour further suggests they involved preferential post-depositional staining by iron-rich, mineral-laden pore water.

References and notes

  1. Compton, J.S., The Rocks and Mountains of Cape Town, Double Storey Books, p.58, 2004. Return to text.
  2. Compton, ref. 1, p. 60. Return to text.
  3. McCarthy, T. and Rubidge, B., The Story of Earth and Life: A Southern African Perspective, Struik Nature, Cape Town, p. 194, 2005. John Compton, ref. 1, has a geologic map on pp. 110–111 that also shows the geographical extent of the Peninsula Formation but his map does not extend as far as Port Elizabeth. Compton’s map on p. 17 shows the geographical extent of the Cape Supergroup which compares well with McCarthy & Rubidge’s. Return to text.
  4. Theron, J.N., Gresse, P.G., Siegfried, H.P. and Rogers, J., The Geology of the Cape Town Area, Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs, Republic of South Africa, p. 27, 1992. Return to text.
  5. Compton, ref. 1, p. 61. Return to text.
  6. Theron, et al., ref. 4, p. 29. Return to text.
  7. Theron, et al., ref. 4, p. 35. Return to text.
  8. It was long thought that mudstone required a long period of time in a still-water environment in order for the fine particles of mud to settle. However, recent laboratory experiments have shown that mud can deposit from flowing water (See Walker, T., Mud experiments overturn long-held geological beliefs, Journal of Creation 22(2):14–15, 2008.) Return to text.
  9. Examples of interpreted ‘burrows’ can be found at Mervine, E., Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa, May 2011. Chapman’s Peak Nonconformity; Toward the bottom of the post are a number of photos of filled in burrows, or ‘trace fossils’. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Footprints in the Ash
by John Morris, Steven A Austin
US $17.00
Hard cover
The Geology Book
by Dr John D Morris
US $13.00
Earth's Catastrophic Past
by Andrew A Snelling
US $60.00
Hard cover

Reader’s comments

Marita V.
I wonder if you have ever seen the rock formations in Meiringspoort in the Klein Karoo in South Africa. No photograph can do it justice. The rocks are convoluted (still in layers) or layers even totally vertical! This is seen all along the 25 km road of the pass.
Tas Walker
Thank you Marita, that sounds fascinating. The article Warped Earth talks about folded strata.
Peter B.
Your statements in the paragraph "Mainstream geologists ... their thinking." following point 8. is simply not true. And why no mention of the tillites (glacial melt deposits), the subaerial dessication cracks or the complete sequence of the Cape Super Group of which the Graafwater Formation is only a small part.
Tas Walker
Hi Peter,

I can't see how you can think the paragraph, which says mainstream geologists don't connect the evidence to Noah's Flood, is not true. Unless you object to the term "mainstream geologists", which was mentioned by Jeff M on 26 July has already been replied to.

You are right that I did not mention the issue of tillites or the supposed subaerial cracks. Neither did I mention the issue of aeolian dunes in the Karroo. However, I did mention in the box that there are problems that arise with a Flood interpretation and discussed the supposed worm burrows. My aim was to keep the article short so that lay people could follow it. As I get time I intend to discuss these issues in separate articles.
For your information, the tillite 'problem' has been thoroughly addressed by Mike Oard in his book Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides, in which he devotes a whole chapter to the African setting. Also, Steve Austin in his Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe addresses the issue of cracks on pp. 42–43.
Pat G.
We have a curious rock formation in southern Arizona, near Vail. It shows that multiple layers of sandstone strata were warped while still in a plastic state. Had it taken eons to deposit this material, there would be cracks in the layers. There are none. Observe:

Daniel R.
How did dry land appear in the beginning? God shaped the earth, mountains and valleys, rivers and seas, seasons and climates and life in accordance with their environment. He did not place palm trees at the north pole or polar bears in the jungles of Africa. He did not say dry land appear and it popped up out of the waters all flat at the same elevation. It had to be irrigated. There had to be streams and lakes, caves and dessert for dessert creatures, tropics for tropical, a habitat of all the forms of life in the air, the waters and on land. And it had to be mature already for instant adaptation. So it’s not strange it looks like it took millions of years to form, He shaped it, molded it and formed it in a day, is that not what we would do?
Tas Walker
Hi Daniel,

Similar features would have formed as the waters of the Flood were receding. I only published part of your comment because it is unfortunately too long for our comments section.
Jeff M.
Dear Tas

I wonder if I can make a few points?

* There are no "mainstream geologists". There are just geologists. I suspect your use of a modifier for the noun is to separate their views from yours?
* You do geologists a dishonour by suggesting they are wedded to long-age views to the exclusion of all else. Like all scientists they simply open their eyes and look. Lyell did and he wasn't wedded to a long-age view - that view appeared as he studied with an open mind and yes, appeared to contradict his religious upbringing.
* Your first three points are non sequiturs. You make the same point three times that a feature could be connected to a large area flood. So? We know floods often cover large areas. It doesn't prove Noah's flood.

All in all, you are very passionate but you do not convince this "religious evolutionist" as Ian H of Australia says.

Yours sincerely, politely, and sadly

Tas Walker
Hi Jeff,

1. The use of the modifier is perfectly appropriate. Geology has long been engulfed with controversy and it has been standard practice to use modifiers to distinguish different schools of thought. Google the book "Great Geological Controversies" by Hallam.

2. Your understanding of Lyell needs updating. Warren D. Allmon, Director of the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University said,

Lyell also sold geology some snake oil. He convinced geologists that … all past processes acted at essentially their current rates (that is, those observed in historical time). This extreme gradualism has led to numerous unfortunate consequences, including the rejection of sudden or catastrophic events in the face of positive evidence for them, for no reason other than that they were not gradual. (Post Gradualism, Science 262, p. 122, October 1, 1993)

3. Read the article carefully and you will see that I do not say I have proved Noah's Flood. This is a worldview issue. The question is, "What interpretive framework will you use to explain these geological features?" I assume Noah's Flood actually happened as the Bible describes and seek to interpret the evidence from that perspective. That is exactly the same approach as Lyell who assumed Noah's flood never happened and assumed the evidence could be explained by means of present processes. Did you see the box in which I spoke of questions that flow out of geological interpretations? All geologists have these issues which is why we are still doing research.

Finally Jeff, you won't be convinced unless you consider the possibility. Get youself a Bible, read the account of the Flood in Genesis 6–8, and ask yourself the question, "If this happened as described what would I expect to find?"

Sincerely and hopefully,

Colin M.
I was just wondering if anyone has mapped all of the large scale so called "local" floods? It would be good to see how they all link together for a Big Picture view of the Global Flood.
Johan S.
One of the questions I had as a geology student during an excursion there was why the Cape Fold Mountains, which partly consists of the same strata that makes up Table Mountain was so intensely deformed (ductile deformation) while on Table Mountain it remained untouched. Conventional theory assumes that the rocks were hard at the time of deformation, and therefore the pressure - temperature regime had to have been high in order to accommodate ductile instead of brittle deformation. This required the entire package to have been buried more than seven kilometres deep, folded under intense pressure and then exhumed by erosion. But looking at Table Mountain, this does not fit the theory. But if the entire mass of sediments were (still relatively soft soon after deposition) folded by tectonic forces according to the Flood Model, this can explain intense folding in one area, while others (Table Mountain) remained untouched.

It is interesting to note that the famous Karoo Supergroup of South Africa (famous for its fossils and flat landscape further inland) occurs above the Cape Supergroup (Table Mountain rocks), but in the south has also forms part of the Fold Belt.
Martin J.
In the Eastern Cape, especially Baviaanskloof, these formations are slanted, but still the same reddish colour. At the end of the ravine the formation rapidly changes to a very pebbly rock-formation, almost like concrete cast with round quartz river-pebbles. There are huge amounts of these pebble deposits scattered over a vast area, from Hanky near Jeffreys bay to Staetlerville in the Karoo, and further east to Uitenhage. Almost as if riverbeds or a lake shore's pebbles were moved by rapidly flowing water and deposited in one area. These pebble deposits are quarries for building material. In the Swartkopsriver, when it rains over 100 mm in the Elands mountains west of Uitenhage, there are huge amounts of pebbles deposited in the bends of the river at f.i. Kruisrivier and just downstream from the bridge in Uitenhage crossing Swartkopsriver.
Ian H.
Very good article Tas, a picture paints a thousand words. If people would open their eyes and examine road cuts, the sandstone formations in Sydney and other multitudinous examples of layering- THEN they might see beyond the myths perpetrated by the FAITH of religious evolutionists.

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