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Creation 24(3):48–49, June 2002

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The Amazing Stone Bears of Yorkshire



When Vet author James Herriot wrote about life in Yorkshire last century, he probably had no idea that this area of England held a fascinating key to unlocking one of the myths of evolution’s long-age ideas.

An encrusted teddy bear from the Petrifying Well at Knaresborough, Yorkshire.

I was surprised to read recently that small teddy bears placed under a waterfall in Yorkshire ‘turned to stone’ in three to five months. After all, I had been told by my geology lecturers at university that stalactites and stalagmites take many thousands of years to form, so how could teddy bears petrify so quickly? So, I decided to investigate these claims and take a trip to Knaresborough, a town some 21 km (13 miles) west of York, England.

When I saw the stone teddy bears hanging under the waterfall, along with clothes, top hats, shoes, trainers and even an umbrella, I realized that I was observing an amazing geological spectacle. I couldn’t resist adding [one of our creationist] neckties to the line-up.

The so-called Petrifying Well at Knaresborough has been a tourist attraction since 1630. Its water originates underground and has a high mineral content. As the water splashes onto the hanging objects, the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate) is deposited along with small amounts of other minerals. Gradually, these deposits build up and coat the object with a crust of rock.

The time needed for petrification depends on the size and porosity of the object. Small teddy bears take between three and five months. Larger porous items (large teddy bears and clothing) take six to 12 months. Non-porous items such as a top hat or a fireman’s helmet can take up to 18 months to be encased in stone.

The most impressive petrified objects are now just two bulges sticking out of the flowstone. These are the remains of a Victorian top hat and a lady’s bonnet left at the waterfall in 1853—some 148 years ago! These hats are now completely covered in a thick layer of flowstone—so much for its taking thousands of years for such flowstone thicknesses to form!

As I surveyed the petrified teddy bears at Knaresborough, I thought about how often I had been fed the myth that petrification needs millions of years. The Creator asked Job 38:4, in effect, ‘Were you there when I laid the foundations of the Earth?’ Taking this as our cue, we need to challenge those who promote millions of years, ‘Were you there to observe these processes taking place?’ There, at the Petrifying Well, I observed first hand that objects can petrify in months and years. Those teddy bears demolish a powerful cultural myth that prevents people believing what the Bible says about the true age of the Earth.

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Readers’ comments

J. L.
I am curious- has anyone ever had one of these teddy bears or other items carbon dated, just to see what age they would show?
Tas Walker
I'm not aware that it has been done.
Martin K.
Enjoyed this article from CMI although I wish it was longer.
What I would like to see or find an explanation for is the role or the absolute necessity of water in the petrification of organic materials. If it is necessary then the idea of an asteroid killing off the dinosaurs loses credibility. For the number of beautifully preserved fossils worldwide to be feasible one must look at Noah's Flood.
Does this sound reasonable ?
Thanks for all your hard work on writing this and other articles.
Tas Walker
Thanks for your encouragement. I expect those promoting the asteroid idea would say the asteroid created huge water waves.
Martin J.
Petrification does indeed happen much faster if enough of the right minerals are dissolved in the water.

In Vryburg(South Africa), known for i'ts calcitec rock layers, two Boer soldiers were shot after being accused of being Cape Rebels during the Anglo Boer War (1899 -1902). Their bodies were laid to rest in graves near the old fort outside of Vryburg. About 20 years after the war their bodies were exhumed to be reburied on their farm in Louwna by family. When exhumed their bodies, and even the clothes they were buried in were petrified by the calcium of the vicinity dissolved in rainwater, that in an area with an annual rainfall of approximately 400 mm. Photo's of the exhumed bodies were published in a book on the history or the area.
Christian R.
This is certainly an intriguing phenomenon. I wonder how long it would take to fossilize a large dinosaur (obviously not millions of years, but perhaps hundreds or thousands of years).
Tas Walker
No, much faster than that. Search for "petrification" on creation.com to find information.
William H.
If people would like their own petrified Teddy they can obtain one from the shop at Mother Shipton's Cave. Google "mother shipton Petrified Teddy shop" to find it.

They do not have an online ordering facility, but they are working on it, so people must call or email them to place an order.

May the Lord richly bless all there at CMI

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