This article is from
Creation 43(2):25–27, April 2021

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The firewalkers

Surrounded by fiery lava and floodwaters, animals left their mark



Some 4,500 years ago, in what is now southern Africa, a group of dinosaurs and mammals fled from rising waters. The ground trembled under their feet as rumbling sounds came from far off. Smoky, acrid fumes began permeating the air. The animals kept looking for whatever higher ground they could find.

A wide front of floodwater, laden with sediment, rushed towards them, and soon there was water everywhere.

Sea beginning to cover the land

Far from shore, some parts of the sea were calm, but on land there was mass confusion. God’s judgment had set in train a series of processes that resulted in the sea steadily overwhelming the land. This included the release of enormous quantities of water that had resided deep within the earth’s crust, increasing the sea’s volume.

As the surge passed, the water level temporarily abated, and wide expanses of newly-deposited sand came into view. As the surviving animals emerged from the water and moved about, often in panic, they left their tracks in the fresh sediment.1


Suddenly, glowing lava flowed into the area, with explosions of steam as it hit channels of water. The situation was desperate. Some animals managed to avoid the lava and could walk out onto hardened rock that had been sufficiently cooled by incoming streams of water. Soon after, the floodwaters came back, and flowed over the top of the new cooling rock. The water deposited sand and mud on top of the lava.

This sequence of flooding with sediment deposition, followed by lava flows, continued over and over. Dissolved minerals in the floodwaters began hardening the sand into sandstone.2 The molten lava solidified and cooled rapidly into a black volcanic rock called basalt.

Water and fire

These ‘firewalking’ animals survived for a time as best they could. However, eventually all of them drowned, or succumbed to the toxic volcanic fumes.

As the land surface gradually lowered in relation to the water level, new layers of sediment and volcanic rock filled the depressed area, which covered many thousands of square kilometres. The rock layers grew in number, one on top of the other.

Later, as the floodwaters drained off the new continental land masses, enormous quantities of rock and sediment were eroded away. This meant that some of the layers at an originally deeper level became exposed at the surface of the earth.

PLoS ONE 15(1): e0226847fig-1-karoo-basin-south-africa
Figure 1. Location and stratigraphy of the Highlands region in the main Karoo Basin of South Africa.

Tracks in the Karoo

We now know that the animals in this region survived several of these flood sediment/lava sequences. Emese Bordy, an associate professor of sedimentology at the University of Cape Town, found 25 tracks comprising five trackways on a sandstone bed on a farm in South Africa.3 The farm is within a geological province that extends across most of southern Africa, known as the Karoo Supergroup.

A geological supergroup is a grouping together of rock formations, and such formations often extend in area for hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Very large sections of continents, extending deep into the crust of the earth, can be composed of geological supergroups.

The Karoo Supergroup igneous rocks in southern Africa “represent one of the largest continental flood basalt events (by volume) on Earth.”3 ‘Flood basalt’ means that the lava was so widespread that it was like a very broad lava flood over huge areas of land. The lava flows covered entire regions in igneous rock, like a blanket. These lava flows contain abundant characteristic pillow-shaped formations that indicate underwater deposition. The Karoo tracks are associated with ripple marks said to imply they were deposited in “shallow, ephemeral water currents.” In short, evolutionary paleontologists also recognize that all this occurred in unison with water flooding and sedimentation.

The Great Flood involved massive outpourings of lava in some regions

PLoS ONE 15(1): e0226847fig-2-highlands-track-site-south-africa
Figure 2. Geological context of the Highlands track site. Labels and pointer arrows shows where the trackways were found.

The evidence indicates that the Great Flood was a massive geological event, involving huge volumes of water and lava. Some geologists say that the Karoo igneous rocks extend all the way to southern Australia.4 At this time, all over the world, other enormous formations were being deposited on the new continental land surfaces—though not all involved such volumes of lava. Some were almost entirely sedimentary deposits, laid down by water, and if volcanism was present in such areas it was minor.

However, far out on the deep ocean, Noah and his family were completely safe on the Ark. So too was their precious cargo of all the land vertebrate kinds.

Millions of years?

Secularist scientists say that the earth’s geological layers, including those in southern Africa, accumulated very, very slowly, over many millions of years. Such an interpretation for the Karoo Supergroup would mean the animals there had to live, eat, sleep, breed, and raise their young within an extremely dangerous, chaotic and toxic environment.

The scientists who discovered the tracks described the world of these animals during the formation of the entire Karoo basin. They called the region, comprising most of southern Africa, a “land of fire”. In the evolutionary timeline, the animals would have had to survive through these repeating disasters, of floods and lava flows, over untold generations, for long periods of time.

There are many repeating sequences of these rock types stacked above each other. So if the rocks really had taken millions of years to form, there would have been ongoing trauma for many generations of these animals. Under conditions of such unrelenting stress, this animal community would have soon died out, long before even a thousand years had passed. There is only so much stress an ecosystem or community can endure before collapsing utterly.

This was a regional effect of the biblical Flood

The Bible states that the global Flood lasted just over one year. This certainly makes sense of the rock formations in southern Africa, with the animal tracks appearing within the midst of the lava and sediment layers.

For long-age-believing scientists, these preserved tracks from when these huge rock deposits were forming are a strange and unusual discovery. Finding them within the layers of this geologically immense “event of global significance”5 is irrefutable evidence that something very strange, indeed bizarre, occurred. Animals were surviving, for a time, as the deep geological formation was being deposited.

Secular geology seeks explanations that avoid the possibility of a global flood having occurred in the earth’s past.

The evidence however suggests that all these rock layers were caused by a single, yet multi-staged event that occurred over a very short period. This entire formation appears to have been deposited in, at most, just a few months—not over millions of years.

Posted on homepage: 23 March 2022

References and notes

  1. Michael Oard explains how the Genesis Flood makes sense of animal tracks and other fossilized features in sedimentary rocks, in Oard, M.J., Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries, CBP, 2011; available from our webstore. Return to text.
  2. Sediments can quickly harden into rock. See O’Brien, J., Ancient Roman concrete, Creation 41(1):19, 2019. Return to text.
  3. Bordy, E. and four others, Tracking the Pliensbachian-Toarcian Karoo firewalkers: Trackways of quadruped and biped dinosaurs and mammaliaforms, PloS ONE 15(1):e0226847, 2020. The smaller tracks are described as likely having been made by ‘synapsids’—a group that includes mammals. One species tentatively identified, Brasilichnium, likely a rodent, is known as ‘mammal-like’. Return to text.
  4. The Karoo-Ferrar Large Igneous Province. See Bordy et al., ref. 3. Return to text.
  5. Bordy et al, ref. 3. Return to text.

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