Dramatic dinosaur footprints at Karoola station, Australia

Fleeing the rising waters of Noah’s Flood

by

Published: 9 May 2019 (GMT+10)
Australian Age of Dinosaur MuseumTrackway-excavation-complete-April-2018
Figure 1. Trackways exposed in the creek after sand and other debris was cleared away. The edges of the footprints stand proud of the sandstone, are pressed deep into the layer, and are well preserved. The large, round sauropod tracks are about one metre long.

In September 2018, a 20-strong team of palaeontologists and volunteers gathered near Karoola homestead in Central West Queensland to rescue a slew of dinosaur footprints (figure 1).1,2,3 Over 20 days, they excavated endangered tracks from a dry creek bed and moved them some 100 km to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum near Winton, founded by Executive Chairman, David Elliott. Australian vertebrate palaeontologist Dr Stephen Poropat of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne is leading the research work.

The tracks were first exposed 20 years before when floods altered the course of the creek. Although landowners often passed the impressions, they did not recognise their significance (figure 2). However, a couple of years ago, a visitor suggested the features were dinosaur footprints, an opinion later supported by palaeontologists.

Some 25 per cent of the total footprint area, which was about the size of two basketball courts, was relocated, including all the fragile prints. Relocation will continue to the end of winter 2019.

Australian Age of Dinosaur MuseumTrackway-before-excavation-March-2018
Figure 2. Trackways in the creek bed in March 2018 before sand and debris was cleared.

Significance of the tracks

These tracks vividly reveal the drama of Noah’s Flood as it deluged the earth. We catch a glimpse of how animals reacted, leaving footprints as they fled the floodwaters rising on what is now Australia. Before these prints were made, kilometres of sediment had already been deposited on the continent, burying terrestrial and marine creatures. More sediment was deposited afterwards.

Tracks of three major dinosaur groups were preserved—sauropods, ornithopods and theropods. A string of 20 prints from a large sauropod dinosaur extends for 40 metres. The hind footprints were nearly a metre across. They were well-preserved, including the impression of the thumb claw on most fore prints and the marks of individual toes. The stress of the sauropod’s step left mud cracks in the moist sediment around many of its footprints. The prints in the sandstone are so big that people could comfortably sit in them (figure 3). Obviously, the dinosaur had walked on the sand layer soon after it was deposited while it was still soft and wet. It all happened quickly.

Australian Age of Dinosaur MuseumSauropod-prints
Figure 3. Sauropod prints were so large and deep that people could comfortably sit in them.

Other dinosaurs left footprints too, including small ornithopods and chicken-sized theropods. In addition, tracks of other sauropod dinosaurs were present, including at least one sub-adult, but they had been trampled by other animals.

The ornithopod and theropod footprints were like those preserved at Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, at Lark Quarry some 100 km south of this site.4 At Lark Quarry the dinosaurs were shoulder deep in water, suggesting they were trying to escape being inundated. This indicates that the Flood not only engulfed many animals but covered a huge geographical area.

Great-artesian-basin
Figure 4. Geographical extent of sediments of Great Artesian Basin, which covers a large proportion of Eastern Australia. The cross section along line A–A’ (100x vertical exaggeration) indicate depths exceeding 3 km and considerable thickness of sediments having been eroded.

The extent of catastrophe

The dinosaur footprints are found in the uppermost sediments comprising the Great Artesian Basin, which even today still cover a large proportion of Eastern Australia (figures 4 and 5). Conventional geologists have assigned these deposits to the period from the Late Triassic to the Late Cretaceous (210 to 94 million years ago in their evolutionary thinking). These dates assume that Noah’s Flood never happened, and that all sediments were deposited slowly over millions of years, contradicting the obvious evidence for catastrophe.

The date assigned to the Karoola prints is 95 million years, but the geologic evidence and the biblical account indicate these sediments were deposited catastrophically, which did not take that much time. The evidence indicates they were the last major deposit as the floodwaters were rising during Noah’s Flood, which took place about 4,500 years ago (see Great Artesian Basin).5 More specifically, they would have been deposited around the fifth month of the year-long Flood (Genesis 8:3–5). After that, the floodwaters began to recede into the oceans.

Great-artesian-basin-section
Figure 5. Cross section of Great Artesian Basin (100x vertical exaggeration) looking north along line A–A’ in figure 4 indicate sediment depths of around 3 km. The dotted lines denoting various strata indicate considerable thickness of sediments have been eroded from above the present surface.

The uppermost sediments, called the Winton formation, are exposed over large portions of remote Central West Queensland, in addition to northern New South Wales, north-western South Australia and the south-western corner of the Northern Territory.6,7 The formation is composed of easily-broken sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, and minor coal. The average thickness of the formation is 500 metres, but it reaches a maximum of 1,200 metres.8 It contains abundant fossils of freshwater bivalves, sauropod dinosaurs, plants, wood, spores, and pollen.6 The size and extent of the formation together with its fossils provide an insight into the huge catastrophe that uprooted the pre-Flood vegetation, overwhelmed animals, and impacted the continent.

Rising floodwaters, erosion, and time

After the waters of Noah’s Flood reached their peak, they began to flow off the continent into the oceans. This process took some seven months, eroded kilometres of sediment from the continent, and formed the distinctive shape of the present landscape.5 We can see this evidence in the Winton area in the flat landscape, which was formed by the floodwaters when they covered the whole continent. We can also see other distinctive features of the receding floodwaters in the area in the wide river valleys that have dissected the land surface, leaving distinctive mesas and plateaus, which are locally called breakaways or jump-ups (figure 6).

Drone-video-frame
Figure 6. Drone image overlooking part of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum near Winton. Along the walkway at the edge of the gully the thick sandstone strata are evidence of enormous water flows depositing abundant sediment over a wide area, characteristic of the waters of Noah’s Flood rising. The landscape is amazingly flat, characteristic of Central West Queensland and the result of the erosion of the sheet flow stage of Noah’s Flood, when water covered the whole continent. At the top left in the background near the horizon two breakaways are visible, indicating a higher previous plateau was eroded by sheet erosion. The wide gully in the foreground indicates more localized erosion but by significant flows of water, which could be due to the channelized flow phase at the end of the Flood.

The layer of sandstone was exceptionally soft when the animals walked on it, as we can see from the shape of the footprints (figure 3). The steps of the large sauropod made prints many inches deep with edges that stand up vertically. The softness of the sediment layer means that the whole deposit was deposited quickly, and the dinosaurs walked on the sandstone layer not long after. Moreover, the overlying layer of sediment needed to have been deposited on top of the prints very quickly afterwards, or the prints would have weathered away or been destroyed by other animals walking on them. All this evidence is consistent with the timeframe of Noah’s Flood.

The Bible tells us that everything that had the breath of life in it perished once the waters of Noah’s Flood reached their peak (Genesis 7:21–23). To make tracks the dinosaurs were still alive, which means the floodwaters were still rising and had not yet reached their peak. But it was not long after they made these tracks that the animals were overwhelmed by the rising water. The fossil remains of many of these animals have been found buried in the area.

Conclusion

The remarkable dinosaur footprints discovered at Karoola Station in outback Queensland, Australia, provide dramatic evidence of the reality of Noah’s Flood. Further, they provide insight into the nature of the catastrophe and its effect on the animal life at the time. Understanding the effects of Noah’s Flood changes the way we look at the world and how we understand our place in it.

References and notes

  1. Smith, B., Tracks across time: The race to rescue 95-million-year-old dinosaur footprints from the elements in the Queensland outback, ABC Science, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-14/the-race-to-save-wintons-dinosaur-footprints/10578212. Return to text.
  2. Giant dinosaur tracks discovery focuses global attention on Winton, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development and Minister for the Commonwealth Games, The Honourable Kate Jones, Queensland Government, 14 February 2019; http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2019/2/14/giant-dinosaur-tracks-discovery-focuses-global-attention-on-winton. Return to text.
  3. Sauropod trackway, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. http://www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/page/119/australian-age-of-dinosaurs-sauropod-trackway, Accessed 30 April 2019. Return to text.
  4. Michael J. Oard, A stampede of swimming dinosaurs, Creation 36(1):38–41, 2014; https://creation.com/dino-stampede Return to text.
  5. Walker, T., The Great Artesian Basin, Australia, Journal of Creation 10(3):379–390, 1996; https://creation.com/great-artesian-basin Return to text.
  6. Day, R.W., Whitaker, W.G., Murray, C.G., Wilson, I.H. and Grimes, K.D., Queensland Geology: A Companion Volume to the 1:2,500,000 Scale Geological Map (1975), Geological Survey of Queensland, Publication 383, Brisbane, p. 138, 1983. Return to text.
  7. Fletcher, T.L, Moss, P.T., and Salisbury, S.W., The palaeoenvironment of the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian–Turonian) portion of the Winton Formation, Queensland, Australia, PeerJ 6:e5513, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5513. Return to text.
  8. Winton Formation, Australian Stratigraphic Units Database, Geoscience Australia; https://asud.ga.gov.au/search-stratigraphic-units/results/20268, Accessed 1 May 2019. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Dinosaurs by Design
by Duane T Gish
US $16.00
Hard cover
Guide to Dinosaurs
by Brian Thomas and Tim Clarey
US $17.00
Hard cover
Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries
by Michael Oard
From
US $19.00
Exploring Dinosaurs with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck, Gary Bates
From
US $17.00
How Noah's Flood Shaped Our Earth
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
From
US $15.00

Readers’ comments

Aaron D.
Are all the footprints going in the same direction?
Tas Walker
Good question relevant to whether the dinosaurs were in grazing mode, or travelling to or from something. The pictures (e.g. fig 1 and 4 above) show the large prints in a straight line. Pictures of the smaller prints (such as those in ref. 1) reveal the smaller dinosaurs were also walking straight, and it seems they were parallel to the larger prints. But I have not looked at this in detail. There is a drawing of the footprints at Lark Quarry (100 km south) in figure 5 of the article about the Great Artesian Basin.
WR B.
"Five to six months into the Flood..." I assume you are using a proportion of "geologic time" to "Flood time" to determine that duration, but does this time make sense under the Flood conditions? The Winton Formation is a sand sea which fills a large basin. Like the Navajo Sandstone, USA, which I am much more familiar with, the ergs (long linear dunes several meters thick and up to several kilometers long, indicating very strong wind and poor supply of sediment) were separated by wadis (wet areas with very sparse indication of vegetation) which make much more sense picturing as hurricane deposited water saturated sand. Consider a juvenile dinosaur living 5-6 months on a very restricted diet, and still having the energy to keep up with the herd crossing a windblown sand sea just ahead of blowing mud (the mud could not be part of flood-waters or the wave action would obliterate the prints) that buries the footprints to preserve them, make good sense?
Tas Walker
The timing of the footprints was derived from the analysis in the referenced article about the Great Artesian Basin. According to the chronology of the Flood Account in Genesis, the floodwaters peaked somewhere around 5 months after its beginning. These deposits were some of the last one formed as the floodwaters were rising. The environmental interpretations you mention of these sand deposits being wind blown etc. are based on a host of assumptions, one main one being to avoid water processes of Biblical scale. All the questions you raise can only be touched on in these comments, but there are many articles on this site that already deal with these things.
Nichola W.
I've been to that museum near Winton. They've done a good job with the displays and if you want you can chip away at rock around fossil bones (couldn't think of anything more tedious when watching that). What was very disappointing was the made-up evolutionary story explaining how it all happened and as if it was fact. But of course, they know better.
Tas Walker
I think they are between a rock and a hard place (pardon the pun). They have to seen to support the millions-of-years evolution story if they are to continue to get government funding and favour with the scientists. Not everyone at those places believes what they are required to say. I've met many who don't.
Philip U.
Is there a regional model being built to correlate the prints with uplift and deposition? The prints could provide a useful correlation for a stratigraphic model and flood process model. It seems odd that these animals survived after considerable deposition had already taken place, which suggests that this region had been uplifted during the flood to a level that was higher than where the animals had previously survived, resulting in a large fault system. Also, if they were heading in one direction then they were also heading towards higher ground. Are all the regional prints heading in the same direction?
Tas Walker
Those are good ideas. The BEDS (Briefly Exposed Diluvial Sediments) model proposed by Mike Oard seems a good explanation for dinosaur prints, which are a global phenomena. This model is explained in this article about the Dinosaur stampede, but there are other articles that mention it, and it is touched on in the book Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries. The dinosaurs were likely carried out to sea and temporarily landed on exposed sediments. At Karoola the prints are in one direction, as they usually are at other trackway sites. But they are more random at the Lark Quarry site described in the cited article on the dinosaur stampede.
Robin B.
If the dinosaurs were running away from tsunami like waves and leaving footprints in soft sand, the encroaching torrential flood waters should have flushed those footprints away immediately. I would have thought that for footprints to be set hard in soft sand, then to harden off would require an extended period of hot dry weather after the footprints had been made.
Tas Walker
All that is needed is a source of suitable cement (such as silica, limestone, or iron) which can deposit in the sediment and harden it. This is how concrete hardens. The floodwaters were likely mineral rich by this stage in the Flood, and provided the minerals needed.
Dave P.
What's this got to do with Noah? We all know and accept that Australia is prone to inundation - it happens most years even today - but your Famous Flood has nowt to do with it. But while we're talking about Australia, the continent is renownd for its fearsomely poisonous creatures. Did he get all these in the Ark, all the way back to Mesopotamia or Palestine or wherever he's supposed to have lived? And not forgetting the penguins of course. Penguins would have made good friends with polar bears wouldn't they?
Tas Walker
If you are keen to learn I would recommend the Creation Answers Book, which is available free on line.
Howard B.
In Gen 10, it says that the land was divided in the days of Peleg. Isn't this the Biblical historical fact of what science says took billions of years to do? The initial land was one 'continent' -- dry land -- as it seems to say in Gen 1, and then following the global flood, sometime after the Tower of Babel, God carried out with great power what He had told the inhabitants of the world at that time: scatter over the face of the Earth, be fruitful and multiply. Doesn't this provide an answer to those who doubt a global flood?
Tas Walker
This article, In Peleg’s days, the earth was divided, deals with many of the issues you mention. You can find other articles on this topic by searching creation.com.
Brendan C.
The Biblical account of Noah is a nice story, but that is all. Noah’s ark, if it ever existed, was not located near Winton! The dinosaurs, as best modern science can determine, existed tens of millions of years ago, not 4,500 years ago. They don’t appear to have been passengers on the Ark. Creationists are better to focus on God’s creation of the universe, if that is what they believe, and leave the man made stories of the Bible where they are. The discovery of dinosaur footprints in Australia does not fit the Biblical narrative.
Tas Walker
Hi Brendan, Did you read the article? Did you look up the links? Many of the things you talk about are already covered in those places. I think you would find it helpful for you to do some independent investigation about how soundly based your statements are. See if you can determine what assumptions the secularists have made in order to come to the conclusion that the footprints formed millions of years ago? How do they know what happened in the past if they were not there to observe it? How do they know when it happened if the footprints did not have a date label on them? It will be an enjoyable exercise for you.

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