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Creation 39(3):38–39, July 2017

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Could the Flood have been tranquil?

Adapted from the author’s The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11, 2015.1



In response to the uniformitarian dogma of Darwin’s mentor Charles Lyell, Scottish pastor-zoologist John Fleming (1785–1857) proposed a novel idea. That is, the Genesis Flood was real and global, but it left no trace, because it was a tranquil flood. Modern long-age creationist Norman Geisler (b. 1932) also holds this view.2 Fleming wrote:

“The simple narrative of Moses permits me to believe, that the waters rose by degrees and returned by degrees; that means were employed by the Author of the calamity to preserve pairs of the land animals; that the flood exhibited no violent impetuosity, neither displacing the soil, nor the vegetable tribes which it supported, nor rendering the ground unfit for the cultivation of the vine. With this conviction in my mind, I am not prepared to witness in nature any remaining marks of the catastrophe, and I feel my respect for the authority of revelation heightened, when I see on the present surface no memorials of the event.”3

Theological problems

The Apostle Peter affirmed the global Flood as a historical event, and went even further with a warning to ‘scoffers’ who “deliberately ignore this fact, … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:3–6).

This entails that the Flood must have left some incontrovertible evidence. If not, then why are these scoffers condemned because they “deliberately ignore this fact”? A tranquil Flood that left no trace would surely give them an excuse for being unaware of this event.

And on scientific grounds, the idea of a tranquil flood is as absurd as a tranquil explosion. One cubic metre of water has a mass of one tonne. Creation magazine has repeatedly documented the enormous amount of deposition as the Flood engulfed the land, and the immense erosional damage as the floodwaters ran off the land.4

In fact, keeping the Flood tranquil would require a great miracle, and the biblical text lacks even the slightest hint of this. Rather, the biblical evidence suggests that God used natural means for much of the Flood. E.g. God commanded Noah to build an Ark, rather than levitate them all or recreate all kinds. For the Flood itself, God named water sources that already existed. And as will be seen, God used natural means to abate the Flood, and Noah had to use natural means to decide when it was safe to leave the Ark.

Fully flooded earth?

The above is enough to show that a tranquil Flood is impossible in both the ascending and recessive phases of the Flood. But is there room for a period of tranquillity when the earth was totally covered by water?

Certainly not! The earth’s rotation alone would generate large-scale circulating oceanic currents, called gyres, above the flooded continents. Tidal effects would be another generator of water currents.

Calculations show that these gyres could have flowed at 40–80 m/s (90–180 mph), over a diameter of about 2,500 km.5 This could be very destructive, because of a process called cavitation in water flowing above about 30 m/s, as long as it’s relatively shallow.6 Tiny bubbles form, as seen in the bubbles formed by ship and torpedo propellers. These then burst supersonically, producing temperatures as high as 15,000 Kelvin (~15,000ºC; 27,000ºF), about 2.5 times hotter than the sun’s surface.7,8

In modern times, dangerously high water at Glen Canyon Dam demonstrated the destructive power of cavitation. After a heavy discharge from the spillway tunnels, cavitation tore away “chunks of concrete, sections of rebar, and most disturbingly, what looked like pieces of sandstone, [which] arced high above the river.” 9,10 Similarly, when heavy rainfall in California caused flooding in Lake Oroville, the spillway at the Oroville Dam was eroded so badly that concrete and hard rock were broken.11 So not surprisingly, speaking of the gyres produced while the earth was flooded, the researchers state:

The ability of such currents, combined with cavitation, to erode huge volumes of rock and also to transport the resulting sediment and distribute it over extensive areas in a short span of time not only helps to satisfy the Biblical time constraints for the Flood but also appears to be able, in a general sense, to account for the continent-scale extent of many Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary formations as well as evidence in many of these rocks for high energy water transport.5

Noah and the Ark were safe

While the Flood would have been immensely destructive over the earth itself, the Ark was designed to protect its cargo. Deeper water would not have permitted the destructive effects of the high-speed gyres, and overall, the Flood was very deep—if all the mountains were flattened down and ocean bottoms raised so the solid surface was completely even, water would cover the whole surface to 3 km deep. So the Ark could have mostly floated in deep water away from the damaging effects of gyres—and of tsunamis. A tsunami today can travel at typical speeds of around 700 km/h in deep ocean water, yet be barely noticeable to ships as it passes. As it approaches shallow water, the wave slows down and concomitantly gains rapidly in height before unleashing its fury on the land.12

This safety element could be an aspect of the central point of the Flood narrative: “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). It’s not that God ever forgot Noah. Rather, God ‘remembering’ Noah is a Hebrew idiom meaning that God began to act again on his behalf. Fellow Messianic Jewish commentator Arnold Fruchtenbaum provides other biblical examples:

In Genesis 19:29, God remembered Abraham with a view to saving Lot; in Exodus 2:24, God remembered his covenant with the patriarchs with a view to rescuing Israel; in Jeremiah 2:2, God remembered Israel with a view toward her restoration; in Jeremiah 31:20, God remembered Ephraim with a view toward extending mercy to him; and in Luke 1:54–55, God remembered Israel with a view toward sending the Messiah to Israel. Furthermore, the sense here in Genesis is that of God remembering a covenant; though in this case the covenant itself had not yet been made. (God said earlier in Genesis 6 that He would establish His covenant with Noah.) Furthermore, in 7:4 God remembered that the rain would last only forty days. All these usages fit into the word ‘remember’.13

So the traditional understanding of the global Flood fits the biblical teaching better—and makes better sense of real science. It is unnecessary and unscientific to add unbiblical accommodations for uniformitarian geology.

References and notes

  1. Available at creation.com/s/10-2-606. Return to text.
  2. Johnson, J.J.S., Biblical devastation in the wake of a ‘tranquil flood’, Acts & Facts 40(9): 8–10, 2011; icr.org. Return to text.
  3. Fleming, John, The Geological Deluge, as Interpreted by Baron Cuvier and Professor Buckland, Inconsistent with the Testimony of Moses and the Phenomena of Nature, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal 14(28):205–239, April 1826; quote pp. 213–214. Return to text.
  4. For a summary, see Walker, T., A biblical geologic model, 3rd ICC, pp. 581–592, 1994; biblicalgeology.net. Return to text.
  5. Barnette, D.W. and Baumgardner, J.R., Patterns of ocean circulation over the continents during Noah’s Flood, 3rd ICC, pp. 77–86, 1994. Return to text.
  6. Holroyd, E.W., Cavitation processes during catastrophic floods, 2nd ICC 2:101–113, 1991. Return to text.
  7. Flannigan, D.J., and Suslick, K.S., Plasma formation and temperature measurement during single-bubble cavitation, Nature 434(7029):52–55, 3 March 2005. Return to text.
  8. Lohse, D., Sonoluminescence: Cavitation hots up, Nature 434(7029):33–34, 2005. Return to text.
  9. Hannon, S., The 1983 Flood at Glen Canyon, Glen Canyon Institute, glencanyon.org, accessed 17 October 2007. Return to text.
  10. Catchpoole, D., Beware the bubble’s burst: Increased knowledge about cavitation highlights the destructive power of fast-flowing water, Creation 31(2):50–51, 2009; creation.com/bubble. Return to text.
  11. Walker, T., Massive erosion on California’s Oroville Dam: Spillway canyon demonstrates power of flowing water, creation.com/oroville, 23 March 2017. Return to text.
  12. Tsunami Facts and Information, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, bom.gov.au/tsunami/info, accessed 1 July 2016. Return to text.
  13. Fruchtenbaum, A.G., The Book of Genesis, p. 175, 2009; emphasis in original. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Egil W.
I would like to add something about how the Flood is described to actually have happened, and a word used, which often translates ‘prevail’, but in another translation is ‘surge’.This about the waters’ actions of flooding. First the description in 2 translations, HCSB and NKJV respectively:«The flood continued for 40 days on the earth; the waters increased and lifted up the ark so that it rose above the earth. The waters surged and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. Then the waters surged even higher on the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered. The mountains were covered as the waters surged above them more than 20 feet.»Genesis‬ ‭(7:17-20‬ ‭HCSB‬‬)— «Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.»(Genesis‬ ‭7:17-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Then a definition of word used, which is translated either as surge or prevail:
«H1396. גָּבַר gāḇar: A verb meaning to be strong, to prevail. It may refer to human effort or physical strength(Eccl. 10:10).It is used to indicate superior strength or success over someone else or something, as when Israel prevailed over Amalek(Ex. 17:11).It indicates something is more abundant or superior to something else (Gen. 49:26); it swells and becomes dominant (Gen. 7:18-20).» The description of how the Flood actually happened says the waters surged as with superior strength, swelling to dominate the terrain. Violent!
Charles H.
I have to wonder also. I am guessing that a Tranquil flood would be like when we build a dam and the water slowly rises, sometimes even covering a town intact, I'd have to ask if that was the case wouldn't we see a whole lot of pre-flood ruins that would be still somewhat intact since the water just tranquilly rose and fell.

Even today you can go to some artificial lakes that had towns flooded in them and at low levels parts of the towns emerge intact.
Dale S.
Excellent article! I believe 100 percent that the Genesis Flood was a worldwide Flood that covered the whole earth. The Word of God (Holy Bible) tells us this and God who wrote the Scriptures cannot not lie, like men who tell lies to give their self glory for their agenda. 2 Peter 3:3–6 talks of “scoffers” in last days who scoff at the global flood of Noah’s day. They believe in the millions upon millions of years to fit their theory of uniformitarianism (evolution). The Word of God gives us who believe the truth through the Scriptures. Amen! Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for saving me and giving me your written Word!
Sincerely in Christ,
Dale Stuckwish
Richard H.
Beckie and I met Dr Sarfati about 4 years ago in a small country church in El Dorado Springs, Missouri, on Jan. 12th as he spoke there! I pray God’s best to you and yours and hope to see you again! CMI has been and still is a powerful tool for reaching the lost!
Tony F.
Thank you Dr Sarfati. Not only am I impressed by the quality and tenor of the content of this fine article but I am also impressed by the quality and tenor of the comments. Oh! that our parliaments/senates and social media would be the same. I do appreciate the nuggets revealed. I pray God’s blessing upon you.
Bill P.
Why do these so-called learned people deny what is fact? There have been many floods in history (even today) that are nowhere near as violent as the Flood of Noah’s Day, and I don’t remember one in real life or on T.V. that looked tranquil. On top of that, it wasn’t just the waters from the “Great Deep” or the “Windows of heaven”, it was also the earth itself being torn apart leaving nothing solid to even stand on if one was outside the Ark. How foolish men look when they either deny or underestimate the power of The Living God who created the heavens and the earth, and all in it.

Even a little child understands that any flood is not a tranquil event, and so do the people who were standing on the shores in those countries that were hit by the waves caused by the earthquake in the Pacific Ocean some 14–15 yrs ago. Some 250,000 people if I remember were buried in rubble or swept away, let alone the at least a couple of million that were lucky enough to live through it. Ask them how tranquil it was. That event in S.E. Asia was caused by a quake from a small area in the ocean. We can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like as “the whole world” was being torn apart, except utter horror as the people of Noah’s Day were one minute having a good time with their lives and the next minute being swept away or buried.

Love the work you guys do.
Norman P.
You would have to be willfully blind to say there’s no evidence of a violent flood.
Fascinating to learn that Tsunamis can be so fast moving, yet do not cause harm to shipping until reaching the shallows.
The ‘God remembered’ theme—I had never seen that before—wonderful. Thank you Lord!
Neil O.
Excellent article. I was struck by the quality of the language and the clarity with which Dr Sarfati articulated his message. I was similarly impressed by the quality of the article by Dr Adamthwaite to which you provided a hyperlink in the footnotes, and with the temperance with which both gentlemen dispose of specious objections.
Congratulations again CMI for the astoundingly high standard of material you provide selflessly for the “equipping of the Body”.
John P.
I would wonder is Norman Geisler serious? He does not see because he does not want to as it would disturb his worldview if he approached this with an open mind. Evidence of the Flood is everywhere in the countryside. In Australia where I live, the rolling hills etc are evidence of the Flood’s actions as are inselbergs like Uluru/Ayers Rock and the Olgas in the Northern Territory, for example. As is pointed out in this great article, there is no ‘tranquil flood’ which covered the earth in Noah’s day.

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