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Creation 41(3):48–51, July 2019

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Submarine canyons bigger than Grand Canyon

Carved as Noah’s Floodwaters receded


Fig. 1. Shaded relief map of seven submarine canyons off New York. Notice that six of them start on the edge of the continental shelf, but one, the large Hudson Canyon to the left, indents the continental shelf.

Many have stood at the rim of Grand Canyon awed by its great depth and enormous size. Surprisingly, our Earth has other even larger canyons, but they are unseen since they lie underwater (fig. 1). These are submarine canyons that run away from the coast, sometimes starting close to shore. Submarine canyons are incredible landforms that point to the catastrophic impact of Noah’s Flood.

Submarine canyons differ from deep-sea trenches, like the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the oceans. Trenches generally run parallel to the shoreline in deep water. Submarine canyons, in contrast, start in shallow water, generally on the continental shelf, and run perpendicular to the continental margin down into deep water. They were eroded by the channelized flow of the receding floodwaters.1

Submarine canyons differ from slope canyons, which are common.2 Slope canyons have an average spacing of 33 km (20 miles),3 and there are around 6,000 deeper than 100 m (330 ft). Nearly all slope canyons sit along the steep continental slope and are relatively small. Slope canyons formed in the 4,500-year post-Flood era as loose sediment built up at the edge of the continental shelf and periodically avalanched down the slope.

By way of contrast, hundreds of larger submarine canyons are carved into the flat continental shelf. These are often but not always found seaward of rivers. And these are the canyons that were eroded late in Noah’s Flood as the floodwaters were receding in narrow channels.

Submarine canyons are enormous

Submarine canyons on the continental shelf begin at ocean depths ranging from about a metre to more than 300 m (1,000 ft). The average is 100 m (330 ft) near the edge of the continental shelf. The large Capbreton Canyon, perpendicular to the French coast but running roughly parallel to the northern coast of Spain, begins only 250 m (800 ft) from the shore at a water depth of only 30 m (100 ft)!4 The Scripps Canyon off La Jolla, California, USA (which joins the La Jolla Canyon further off-shore) also starts close to the beach, so close in fact that if it continued to grow toward the shore, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s pier would collapse into the canyon.

The average length of a submarine canyon is over 50 km (30 miles). Sometimes the submarine canyon continues out over its deposits and forms a canyon on its submarine fan. If these fan valleys were included, submarine canyons would be much longer. For instance, Africa’s Congo Canyon would be 800 km (500 miles) long rather than 190 km (120 miles). The longest submarine canyon is the Bering Canyon (near the Aleutian Islands) with a total length of about 500 km (310 miles, which is longer than Grand Canyon), including a fan valley 95 km (60 miles) long.5

The depths of submarine canyons have attracted much attention. Some are deeper and wider than Grand Canyon. The wall height varies down a canyon, and the sides are rarely at the same depth. On average, the maximum height of the walls is about 900 m (3,000 ft)—greater than the average height of land canyons. The highest submarine canyon walls are in the Capbreton Canyon with a maximum height of 3,000 m (10,000 feet).6

Monterey Canyon, California, is probably the most studied submarine canyon in the world (fig. 2). It starts in water 18 m (60 feet) deep near the pier at Moss Landing in Monterey Bay, and is 96 km (60 miles) long. Like so many other such canyons it continues onto its submarine fan fig. 3).

Including its fan valley, the total length of the canyon is about 470 km (300 miles). Its maximum wall height is 1,700 m (5,600 feet), and its maximum rim-to-rim width is 12 km (7.5 miles), similar to Grand Canyon.

Fig. 2. Monterey Canyon (arrow), California.

Submarine canyons and coastal rivers

Fig. 3. The Monterey Submarine Fan offshorefrom Monterey Canyon (drawn by MelanieRichard).

Interestingly, many continental shelf submarine canyons are found seaward of rivers, and many features of submarine canyons are similar to river valleys. Submarine canyons have tributaries, meanders, meander loops, and horseshoe-shaped meander cut-offs.7 So what caused these unique river-like features? Although the relationship between submarine canyons and rivers on land is significant, it does not support the idea that the canyons were formed directly by erosion by these rivers. There is no direct connection between the rivers and their nearby submarine canyons, either on the surface of the continental shelf or below the surface. The rivers end abruptly at the shoreline and the canyons start well offshore. And further, these features are usually found in deep water. In other words, the water level is too deep for the sea to have caused them. Whatever caused these features was the same process that carved the submarine canyons.

Long-age geologists have difficulties

Uniformitarian geologists generally say that the large submarine canyons were formed by repeated sliding of sediment down the continental slope, until it eventually reached up onto the continental shelf. But why would the sliding focus on one location, over and over again, greatly deepening one canyon instead of creating multiple mini-canyons? Lastras and others write:

“In spite of this large effort, a general world-wide accepted valid theoretical context of the location, evolution and activity of submarine canyons is not yet available.”8

Explained by Late Flood channelized erosion

The problem for uniformitarians/long-agers is they lack a process that would focus eroded sediment from the continents at one location on the continental shelf. The process would need to continually feed sediment to slide down into the deep ocean and progressively carve and enlarge a submarine canyon.

However, channelized erosion in the late Flood easily provides the large erosional energy required to form these underwater canyons. As the floodwater drained from the continents it channelized through the coastal areas forming valleys. The speed and erosion were so great that the sediment, rather than being dispersed along the coast, was deposited on the continental shelf seaward of the river valley. As the sediment accumulated here, it continually slid down the continental slope forming the submarine canyon. As sediment slides downslope it will accelerate to high speeds causing deep erosion.9

Figure 4 illustrates how this process formed submarine canyons on the continental shelf. It is important to appreciate that it is not the present-day river that is related to the submarine canyon, but the onshore valley. Today, the river flows through the valley only because it is convenient. Submarine canyons are one more example of the widespread body of evidence10,11that supports the reality of the biblical Flood.

Fig. 4. Origin of submarine canyons. 1–2Receding floodwaters deposit continental marginsediments while flowing in sheets. 3–4 As thewater level falls, channelized flow carvessubmarine canyons. 5 Present situation.

References and notes

  1. Walker, T., A Biblical geological model; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, technical symposium sessions, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581–592, 1994; biblicalgeology.net. Return to text.
  2. Pickering, K.T. et al., Deep-Marine Environments, Unwin Hyman, London, U.K., pp. 133–159, 1989. Return to text.
  3. Harris, P.T. and Whiteway, T., Global distribution of large submarine canyons: geomorphic differences between active and passive continental margins, Marine Geology 285:69–86, 2011. Return to text.
  4. Mulder, T. et al., Understanding continent-ocean sediment transfer, EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 85 (27):257, 261–262, 2004. Return to text.
  5. Karl, H.A. et al., Aleutian basin of the Bering Sea: styles of sedimentation and canyon development; in: Gardner, J.V. et al., (Eds), Geology of the United States’ Seafloor—The View from GLORIA, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, p. 305–332, 1996. Return to text.
  6. Green, H.G. et al., Physiography of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and implications about continental margin development, Marine Geology 181:55–82, 2002. Return to text.
  7. Perkins, S., Hidden canyons: vast seabed chasms carved by riverlike processes, Science News 167:9–11, 2005. Return to text.
  8. Lastras, G. et al., Geomorphology and sedimentary features in the Central Portuguese submarine canyons, Western Iberian margin, Geomorphology 103 (3):310–329, 1 February 2009; quote on p. 311. Return to text.
  9. Mulder, T. and Alexander, J., The physical character of subaqueous sedimentary density flows and their deposits, Sedimentology 48:269–299, 2001. Return to text.
  10. Oard, M.J., Geomorphology provides multiple evidences for the global Flood, Creation 37(1):47–49, 2015. Return to text.
  11. Further information and references related to the series of articles on landforms presented in Creation magazine can be accessed at creation.com/landform-links. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Landon H.
Since there are so many fossils wouldn’t there be too many animals before the flood?
Tas Walker
No, there wouldn't be. This article (the Karoo non-problem) addresses on example of that question, but there would be other articles that you should be able to find too.
Yvonne R.
In my holidays travelling parts of Australia, I have seen areas that have been flooded, where the trees have been submerged in mud and debris so that only the tops of trees can be seen, being only a flood for that area. The many towns that have been flooded by rising rivers and rushes of water through streets in suburban areas. These minor floods cause destruction and devastation, which is a visible understanding of the power water has in transforming the land for mankind to assess the flood of Noah's time. A tsunami is further evidence of the power of water on a minor scale.
Courtney K.
I'm a big fan of the work you guys do - been reading from your website ever since senior year of high school (2017). For the past couple months, after a long break, I'm pretty much a daily reader :) I had read somewhere that you guys appreciated constructive feedback, so I thought a little of encouragement toward focusing a little more on technical papers would be good, because I form pictures in my mind by collecting all the small details to form one big picture, and the geological and baraminological studies help me to see what the world looked like during and directly after the Flood. That is, I like the visual aspects. I like your article "Is the Evolutionary Tree Turning Into the Creationists Orchard?" especially because of the illustration, so I think that was another reason I mentioned models. Uluru also paints a neat picture. It would be cool to see more illustrations, based on previous Creationists models, like what the fossil record actually looks like visually.
Tas Walker
Thanks. I'll pass that onto the other researchers and writers.
Courtney K.
I didn't mean it in any demeaning way. I like your content, so much so that I look forward to more, so I would like to see more studies like this, like more baraminology and geological studies. Basically, I'm saying how frustrating it is that you have to debunk evolution when you could focus more on technical science papers, but that's not possible because evolutionists still need debunking. I was expressing (badly) an internal conflict I had. I am usually more precise with my wording - I haven't used the word "stuff" in a long time - but I didn't feel like being precise at the moment.
Ben S.
I am curious, as a former oilfield worker, the submarine fans of North Sea oilfields were always touted as former shorelines. Many contained conglomerates, which were cobbles imbedded in sandstone. I do not recall what the cobbles were made of, but unless those cobbles were basement rock, how would this fit in the creation model?
Tas Walker
North Sea petroleum reservoirs are contained in sedimentary rocks that were deposited as the waters of Noah's Flood were rising. The Food involved multiple tectonic episodes as the waters were rising. Each episode involved the following general sequence 1. sediment deposition, 2. crustal tectonics producing folding, metamorphism, uplift, etc., 3. generation of magma producing volcanic and plutonic units, 4. water erosion producing sediments, leading to the next sequence. This sequence occurred time and time again during the Flood. In other words, there were multiple times as the waters were rising when hard rocks would have been formed, by such processes as metamorphism causing the growth of new minerals, and precipitation causing deposition of significant quantities of cement between grains. All these processes would have occurred quickly under the catastrophic conditions that occurred during the Flood.
For the conglomerate you mentioned, the rock would have formed before the petroleum reservoir formed, likely in the Precambrian. The cobbles comprising the conglomerate may have formed early in the same crustal episode, or during an earlier crustal episode. It would be necessary to refer to geological maps and other reports to see the sequence of events that have been identified.
This brief article explains these ongoing, episodic catastrophes that occurred during the Flood (see Noah’s Flood—the big picture; Almost bigger than we can imagine).
Dan M.
Start with the scriptures, reason it out and you will come to a reasonable conclusion. Secular geologist's try to apply slow present day geologic process's to observed present day land forms to construct a forensic analysis, (interpretation of the past) but they don't make any sense to me. I don't see how the Uniformitarian processes, (present is the key to the past) they postulate can produce the majority of the land forms we observe today? It's just the opposite, it wears them away thereby erasing them from the surface of the planet.
For instance, arches collapsing in Utah's, Arches National Park. We don't see arches forming today. Something happened in the past that was atypical of today's processes, (no brainer for me). For instance, land forms like Devils tower in Wyoming. It is obvious to me that a free standing volcanic conduit must have been cast in place since magma would seek the lowest point to create a flow, not a column. Where did all the casting material go while the tower itself shows little erosion compared to what it would take to remove the casting material, (should be a pile of rocks but it still stands tall today)?
To me flood geology makes sense of all that I see while travelling North America. It would take incredible amounts of energy in the form of water erosion to produce the land forms we see today. Of course it happened on Mars, (a flood) where there is no liquid water and very little visible frozen water today? Secularist's are in denial and we need to pray for them because many of us were where they are today. In my case, I just got tired of fighting GOD, Mat 12:30 & like Paul Act 9:5.
Gilbert B.
I wish an integration of twice daily high tides with Flood effects would be effected. I enjoy Dr. Oard's work very much.
Scott M.
This was excellent. I agree with Tas Walker.
Bill P.
Mankind can be so hardheaded. Evidence covering the entire surface of the earth of formations one would expect to find as a result of a flood. I sometimes wonder what must have gone through the minds of people in Noah's Day the moment The Lord shut the door of the ARK and the flood waters came while the earth under their feet was being torn apart. Scripture tells us that Noah preached about what was coming as he built the Ark.
We are also told by The Lord that the last days will be just like the "Days of Noah". So people of Noah's day mocked his warnings just as they do today. There are no words for the terror they must have experienced as their mocking turned into horror w/no place to escape. Again today the warnings by The Lord and those who believe The Gospel of Jesus Christ are mocked. The trouble that is coming is going to be the worst that this world has ever experienced in history. Truly I would not wish that even on my enemy.
With so much evidence pointing to the truth of God's Word, WHY, do so many turn their back on HIS mercy. I know what pride is for I once was full of it. Having a ton of bricks fall on me to knock that pride out of my heart was the best thing anyone ever did for me. I say this because when that happened there was The Living God, Who, picked me up, cleaned me off, leading me to "The Truth" and teaching me His Ways. The Lord has freely and willingly given us a way out of what is coming. The price for the ticket is payed in full. HE is long suffering BUT all signs point to the fact that HE is about to shut the door of "THE ARK" once again. This time (because HE is merciful) I thank HIM forever that there will be more than 8 people saved. I pray HE allows you people to do the work you do until the very last possible moment.
Howard K.
Nothing to add except "Great Job!" A clear presentation of a fascinating subject. I first became interested in geomorphology through Michael Oard. Only a universal catastrophe can explain the surface phenomena of this broken earth. The Bible is the Word of God!
Elyanah S.
I believe you are helping support the bible God and everything I stand for! Thank you deeply for seeing the truth in dark times!
Mark T.
I can't believe these evolutionists believe we came from fish -mermaids-humans. Maybe this is a primordial memory like they think.
How did we invent fire if we lived underwater.?
Courtney K.
You should make more stuff like this. While it's good to refute evolutionary claims, it's also good to do models and make stuff. "Price's philosophy of science, for example, seems to be echoed in such things as the creationist tendency to present anti-evolutionary arguments rather than build models." From the website of International Creationist Conference, 2018 paper by K.P. Wise.
Tas Walker
We have been doing a lot of "stuff like this" for decades. Just check the incredible material that has been published in Journal of Creation since 1984. There is a need for both, for models and for refutations, and you will find both on this site.

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