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Creation 20(1):14, December 1997

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Caving in to reality

The shrinking ’age’ of stalactites and stalagmites.


‘But don’t stalactites and stalagmites take millions of years to form?’ This is a very common question at seminars.

Even a hundred years of water carrying dissolved minerals, dripping hour after hour, is an awfully long time. There have been many centuries since the great Flood described in the Bible, ample time for beautiful limestone caverns such as this one (left) to form. The unusually moist conditions at the end of the Flood would have contributed to the high rate of formation.

Most of us have ventured underground to see spectacular limestone formations like those pictured here. Guides commonly labour the point about the alleged ‘millions of years’ of slow and gradual formation—or at least they used to. Comments from supporters around the world indicate that caverns offering guided underground tours are becoming less confident about the belief that cave decorations need long ages to form. In fact, many have become notably silent about the whole subject.

Creationist publications, like this one, have undoubtedly contributed to this by putting photographic evidence for rapid formation of limestone cave structures into the hands of hundreds of thousands of people. So the average guide must contend with a fair chance that any tour party might contain at least one informed creationist—perhaps even armed with a relevant copy of Creation magazine. For example, the issue showing the stalagmite shawl in a mining tunnel less than 150 years old; 1 or the very long stalactites and fair-sized stalagmites in a disused mining shaft;2 or the host of stalactites growing under the Australian War Memorial;3 or perhaps even the Western Australian waterwheel which was frozen in limestone after only 65 years!4

The change is also happening because, it seems, reality must eventually catch up with even the most cherished myth. A delightful recent article in a secular travel magazine5 about a journey down into an Arizona cave powerfully made this point.

The article concerned a descent into a cave called ‘S.P.’ near Sierra Vista, Arizona. It featured comments by and about Jerry Trout, a cave specialist with the Arizona Forest Service. Trout has been a high-school teacher and a geologist. The writer states, ‘What geologists used to believe was fact, in terms of dating a cave, now is speculation, Trout says.’

Trout is then quoted as saying:

‘“From 1924 to 1988, there was a visitor’s sign above the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns [New Mexico], that said Carlsbad was at least 260 million years old. In 1988 the sign was changed to read 7–10 million years old. Then, for a little while, the sign read that it was 2 million years old. Now the sign is gone.”’

The article continues:

‘In short, he [Trout] says, geologists don’t know how long cave development takes. And, while some believe that cave decorations such as S.P.’s beautiful icicle-looking stalactites took years to form, Trout says that through photo-monitoring, he has watched a stalactite grow several inches in a matter of days.’

This sort of thing should not surprise us, since we have the real history of the world in the infallible Word of the God who was there, and who never lies. It couldn’t have taken millions of years to form cave decorations—there simply hasn’t been anywhere near that much time!


  1. Batten, D., ‘Instant’ stalagmites!, Creation 19(4):37, September 1997. Return to text.
  2. Focus: News of interest about creation and evolution, Creation 19(2):5, March 1988. Return to text.
  3. Jamieson, E., Do ancient stalactites really exist?, Creation 16(1):14–15, December 1993. Return to text.
  4. Petrified waterwheel, Creation 16(2):25, March 1994. Return to text.
  5. Arizona Highways, pp. 4–11, January 1993. Return to text.