Delicate Arch

| 39 Comments

Photograph by David Collins.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Collins.Delicate_Arch1.jpg

Delicate Arch – an Entrada Sandstone formation in Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

39 Comments

It’s irreducibly complex!

One of my favorite places.

This was obviously the result of a catastrophic global flooding event not thousands of years of erosion. Any fool can see that.

A Stargate encrusted in centuries of dirt.

Or the Guardian of Forever?

Made a trip to Utah to see it. Walked the mile and a half uphill to reach it. Took 200 photos of it, brought the memory chip home. Bad chip. No pictures.

But it’s really a wonderful thing to see.

JMurray said:

This was obviously the result of a catastrophic global flooding event not thousands of years of erosion. Any fool can see that.

What actually is the geological history of that area? I mean for real, not the “same evidence, different world view” explanation. ha.

As the park folks explained it, most of it was laid down as layers of sediments, but some of those layers are much harder than others. Then the accumulation of layers pressed everything into rock. Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical. Erosion then ate away the soft layers leaving the harder layers sticking up like so many parallel knife blades anwhere from 6 ro 50 feet thick, with gaps between them. And eventually, flowing water started to undercut the harder blades, knocking out chunks and leaving holes. The holes eroded and grew.

So delicate arch is the sole remaining portion of a harder layer, with the entire countryside eroded away around it.

Not that I trust Wikipedia completely, but I looked up the entry for the Entrada Sandstone and found out that this particular rock formation consisted of tidal flats and sand dunes, presumably at the edge of a desert, sometime late in the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era (Won’t give exact dates, you’ll have to look for that elsewhere.).

Haven’t been out that way in years, but I do regret that the photographer didn’t wait until sunset to photograph it, since I think the lighting would have been far more dramatic (Making the red sandstone look vividly red, perhaps as vivid as some of the desert wastes on the Planet Vulcan. Doesn’t quite look to me though that it could be the Guardian of Forever, however.).

Only problem with this explanation is that you can see the bedding planes in the arch (and in the rocks in the background, for that matter). They’re horizontal. So this part of the explanation: “Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical”, cannot be correct.

Flint said:

As the park folks explained it, most of it was laid down as layers of sediments, but some of those layers are much harder than others. Then the accumulation of layers pressed everything into rock. Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical. Erosion then ate away the soft layers leaving the harder layers sticking up like so many parallel knife blades anwhere from 6 ro 50 feet thick, with gaps between them. And eventually, flowing water started to undercut the harder blades, knocking out chunks and leaving holes. The holes eroded and grew.

So delicate arch is the sole remaining portion of a harder layer, with the entire countryside eroded away around it.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.


Henry J said:

Or the Guardian of Forever?

Rock on.

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

Only problem with this explanation is that you can see the bedding planes in the arch (and in the rocks in the background, for that matter). They’re horizontal. So this part of the explanation: “Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical”, cannot be correct.

I can see some vertical bands, though, level with the peak of the opening on both sides. Is it possible that these are the harder layers that didn’t erode so completely, leaving the top of the arch intact while the rest eroded? Mind you, that doesn’t explain how the “pillars” didn’t erode as fast as the opening between them. As you say, the legs of the arch are definitely horozontally stratified.

Sorry, spello. “Horizontally”.

So this part of the explanation: “Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical”, cannot be correct.

And yet there are places in the park with “knife blade” parallal vertical slabs of rock. In other places, it’s clearly a case of a harder horizontal layer overlaying a softer layer. So I wonder if different things have happened in different parts of the park.

Aaahhh. So that’s what it really looks like.

Well captured, David.

I hope everyone noticed that the arch is irreducibly complex! If you remove any layer of rock from the legs, the whole arch would collapse. Therefore the arch couldn’t possibly have been formed by natural processes and we have clear evidence for Intelligent Design.

;)

The rocks in this area are mostly horizontal. you are on the northeastern edge of the colorado uplift. And if you haven’t been to southern utah, northern arizona, you have missed one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Those vertical bands look to me like some kind of staining, very common with these sandstones. I can’t be sure of course without seeing these in the “flesh”, but often in sandstones the rock isn’t quite uniform and for some reason there are concentrations of iron minerals, which form these streaks.

You can still see horizontal bedding in the top of the arch, too. The place where the visible streaks occur looks like a somewhat thicker sandstone bed than above or below.

IANA Sedimentologist, but these features (except for the arches) are pretty common out west.

Dave Luckett said: I can see some vertical bands, though, level with the peak of the opening on both sides. Is it possible that these are the harder layers that didn’t erode so completely, leaving the top of the arch intact while the rest eroded? Mind you, that doesn’t explain how the “pillars” didn’t erode as fast as the opening between them. As you say, the legs of the arch are definitely horozontally stratified.

A feature common to most rocks are “joints” (stop your snickering!), which are fractures in rocks caused usually by unequal movement.

They are caused by expansion as overlying material is removed by erosion (which is why quarrymen often can take out huge rectangular rocks of limestone, marble, or granite without much cutting), contraction as (usually) an igneous rock cools (look up the Devil’s Postpile, Devil’s Tower, or the Giant’s Causeway) or by tectonic movement. Except in the case of the contraction (which results in roughly hexagonal joint patterns) the joint patterns usually have two parallel sets that cross at an angle (often near 90o).

Most likely, the “blades” seen here are due to joint patterns. The fact that the blades are found parallel to one another supports this.

Flint said:

So this part of the explanation: “Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical”, cannot be correct.

And yet there are places in the park with “knife blade” parallal vertical slabs of rock. In other places, it’s clearly a case of a harder horizontal layer overlaying a softer layer. So I wonder if different things have happened in different parts of the park.

GvlGeologist wrote

Most likely, the “blades” seen here are due to joint patterns. The fact that the blades are found parallel to one another supports this.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been through Moab, but if I recall correctly, this is the same basic explanation given in the visitor’s center.

(Again, working from memory, which has seen better days) the area was apparently an inland sea at one point, and there are substantial salt deposits under the sandstone layers. Salt is both pliable and not very dense, so it tends to get extruded and “bubble up” in a mechanism similar to the formation of salt domes.

For some reason, which I cannot remember, in this neck of the woods the uplift forms long ridges which lift the overlying rock in a big parallel rolls, stretching it across the ridge line and leaving long, parallel cracks which then erode.

The “quality” of the rock in the area is quite bad, in many places you can rub the stone of the canyon walls back into sand just by brushing it with your fingertips.

Sadly, I never got to see Delicate Arch up close like this. On the day we were passing through the weather was turning bad and by the time we hiked out to the arch, it was quite windy and rainy.

The arch itself sits on the rim of a big, steep bowl, and to get to it, you have to cross a hundred yards or so of the side of the bowl. A bowl which, at the time, was seriously slick with rain and seriously exposed to the driving wind. Oh, and the bottom of the bowl dumps out over a cliff.

It struck me as resembling a giant toilet bowl that was ready to flush me out should I be so foolish as to approach any closer.

I did get some funny pictures of my wife and I posing with the arch in the background while being violently buffeted by the storm.

The Entrada sandstone has horizontal beds; it has not been made vertical by uplift or other processes. “Fins” form in this sandstone from vertical joints and erosion; arches from from the fins by further erosion. See

http://w3.salemstate.edu/~lhanson/g[…]_Arches.html

for a lucid explanation.

I hope everyone noticed that the arch is irreducibly complex! If you remove any layer of rock from the legs, the whole arch would collapse. Therefore the arch couldn’t possibly have been formed by natural processes and we have clear evidence for Intelligent Design.

;)

But, designed to do what, exactly? Wait there until a bit more erodes, and then fall over? ;)

I think the best part of this shot is that there are no people in it.

My first two visits I was lucky and very few people were around. Third visit I had to wait a while for people to move out of the shot. Fourth visit I took my dad and people were swarming around the thing like ants on candy.

Still, a horde of patient photographers lined the ridge, cameras on tripod, waiting for their shot. As we left I wondered how long they’d be there before they managed to get their peopleless shot.

Incidentally, when I show my arch shot to people I then show them a second shot taken from the same angle just a minute or two later but this time a person has wandered up from the bottom and is standing next to the arch wall. It is only in that picture do you get a sense of the size of this arch, and people react the same way every time–“Wow, that’s bigger than I thought”.

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

A feature common to most rocks are “joints” (stop your snickering!), which are fractures in rocks caused usually by unequal movement.

They are caused by expansion as overlying material is removed by erosion (which is why quarrymen often can take out huge rectangular rocks of limestone, marble, or granite without much cutting), contraction as (usually) an igneous rock cools (look up the Devil’s Postpile, Devil’s Tower, or the Giant’s Causeway) or by tectonic movement. Except in the case of the contraction (which results in roughly hexagonal joint patterns) the joint patterns usually have two parallel sets that cross at an angle (often near 90o).

Most likely, the “blades” seen here are due to joint patterns. The fact that the blades are found parallel to one another supports this.

Flint said:

So this part of the explanation: “Over time, mountain building turned a whole region of layers vertical”, cannot be correct.

And yet there are places in the park with “knife blade” parallal vertical slabs of rock. In other places, it’s clearly a case of a harder horizontal layer overlaying a softer layer. So I wonder if different things have happened in different parts of the park.

the columnar joining you are referring to is mostly in igneous rocks where the columns form as the rocks cool. This sandy facies of the entrada was probably from non marine sand dunes. one of the fascinating things about this area is seeing ancient dunes eroded by the wind and seeing the new ones forming. donald baars wrote The colorado plateau, a geologic history which is good starting place to learn about this interesting area.

Biblical creationist here. A favourite subject of mine is the new and conquoring idea of how ice age mega floods within a few days are the true origin for much natural scenery in northern lands. Before it was the idea of slow processes that created features and forms in the landscape here in canada and so on. Now instead a revolution, led by a Canadian non-creationist geomorphologist John Shaw, is showing how great effects in bedrock can be done by instant pressure of vortices in water and general water flow. This formation in the picture is easily a common thing in mega-flood pathways. I say this feature is not likely from slow erosion but a clear relict of a instant event. Whether from the flood year or later there is no reason to see in it evidence of long time coming. First conclusion of shaped rock should be of fast shaping processes.

Got any evidence that it was sculpted by an “ice age mega flood” within a few days, or even an explanation on how this could only have formed within a few days, rather than decades or centuries?

Hmmm. I think someone saw someone’s work on ice-dam floods like Lake Missoula and the processes that formed the Channeled Scablands, and is attempting (badly) to re-apply them to southern Utah…

That dog won’t hunt.

Just for the record, I am aware of the columnar joint issue. I was not implying that these features (which are blade-like, not columnar) were caused by cooling of igneous rock. I did point out in an earlier comment that it is clear that these are sedimentary. I also pointed out in the comment you replied to that other causes of joints result in parallel joint patterns.

nmgirl said:

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

.…

the columnar joining you are referring to is mostly in igneous rocks where the columns form as the rocks cool. This sandy facies of the entrada was probably from non marine sand dunes. one of the fascinating things about this area is seeing ancient dunes eroded by the wind and seeing the new ones forming. donald baars wrote The colorado plateau, a geologic history which is good starting place to learn about this interesting area.

Exquisite picture!

I was unprepared for the incredible beauty of Arches NP when I first went there a few years ago. I’ve spent every summer vacation since then in southern Utah parks.

Beautiful shot, David.

Stanton said:

Got any evidence that it was sculpted by an “ice age mega flood” within a few days, or even an explanation on how this could only have formed within a few days, rather than decades or centuries?

not saying, it wasn’t, created by ice age mega floods. I’m saying that analogy shows this to be easily a result of sudden creation from water origins or like tool. In fact one sees these things in bedrock that is clearly the result of floods. my point is that there are other options that fit creationist models for geology. In fact i say its more likely that this arch is from a fast acting agent and not eons of slow erosion. it may be water of may be sediment itself but the point is a sudden speedy action fits better. They just can’t imagine how this could be and so say its slow methods.

GeorgiaGeol said:

Hmmm. I think someone saw someone’s work on ice-dam floods like Lake Missoula and the processes that formed the Channeled Scablands, and is attempting (badly) to re-apply them to southern Utah…

That dog won’t hunt.

Mega flood creations on bedrock is now a famous study and aggresive challenge to old ideas of slow erosion being the origin of these types of scenery. Missoula flood is just another one. Its been around almost two decades. Its a major correction to modern geomorphology just like Bretz’s work. There is no need to see these formations as anything but what they look like. Carved rock from carving agents acting quickly.

Robert Byers said:

it may be water of may be sediment itself but the point is a sudden speedy action fits better. They just can’t imagine how this could be and so say its slow methods.

No, moron, geologists examined the arch, and determined that it was carved by wind and water action over the course of centuries: there is no evidence that the area was affected by a flood like the Missoula area.

This very arch was actually climbed by a world-class climber a couple years ago. He did it free solo - no ropes or protection of any kind. But it caused a bit of a fuss with the National Park Service, and they have since revised their rules regarding climbing in the park. They don’t want anyone *else* trying that.

By the way, folks, please do not feed the troll. If he’s really a creationist then he must be immune to things like facts and evidence. Nothing can be gained by engaging him.

Photo is great. However I observe that quite strong “Unsharp mask” photo editing effect has been used. In scientific pics it is often necessary. It makes details of layers, halos and clouds(cirrus) etc easier for eye to detect. But there are also side effects of unsharp masking like here you can see light glowing halo aroung dark stony arc. Just for to know that it’s not “WYSIWYG”.

“A favourite subject of mine is the new and conquoring idea of how ice age mega floods within a few days are the true origin for much natural scenery in northern lands.”

The problem is that floods like the ones that produced the Channelled Scablands produce different features than do slower processes that also occurred.

For example, one of the signs that many of the valleys in that area of eastern Washington were carved out in quick, violent floods is that they are U shaped and the entrances of major tributaries into the valleys are ‘hanging’ tributaries. That is, that major tributaries to the rivers running along the valleys have a sharp drop off from high up the valley wall. The explanation is that the valley’s were rapidly gouged out by water and debris from upstream so that the floor of the tributary, down which the flood didn’t run, is left high up the wall of the canyon rather than descending to it gradually along the length of the tributary. In the Grand Canyon, major tributaries flow into the Colorado at the same level as the Colorado because both they and the Colorado have been eroding the stone away at the same slow rate so the Colorado and the point at which major (i.e. old) tributaries join have been descending at the same rate. The valleys there are V shaped because, being gradually carved out by a relatively smaller flow of water, the outer parts of the V form when the rock, its support undercut, falls (just like a pile of sugar is conical).

There are other features of the Channelled Scablands that aren’t found at sites of steady erosion like the Grand Canyon, such as the gigantic boulders that are unrelated to the surrounding rock and the numerous potholes produced as boulders swirled by Lake Missoula’s floodwaters ground down into the rock they rested on.

Creationists who don’t bother with broad study cherry pick particular items and fail to consider them in light of all the evidence while scientists do compare across a broad swath of evicence. When you take the scientific route, you find that some features are the product of slow processes and others fast. The problem for creationists is that they need to shoehorn the production of pretty much all major geological features into The Flood. So, yes, there are geological features that invoke catastrophic causes like the Lake Missoula floods that produced the Channelled Scablands but there are also geological features like the Grand Canyon produced by the Colorado River that invoke slow, gradual processes for their formation. Creationists cherry pick the first in the mistaken impression it supports their view and try to pretend the latter doesn’t exist.

BTW, rock arches often show a nice mix of slow and rapid processes, as the erosion slowly undercuts the arch, but every now and again this results in large chunks of rock falling off the underside of the arch. There is a combination of the slow and steady punctuated by the sudden, which is why standing under a stone arch is not necessarily a good idea. The next bit to fall might be a grain of sand or it might not.

Mike from Ottawa said:

“A favourite subject of mine is the new and conquoring idea of how ice age mega floods within a few days are the true origin for much natural scenery in northern lands.”

The problem is that floods like the ones that produced the Channelled Scablands produce different features than do slower processes that also occurred.

For example, one of the signs that many of the valleys in that area of eastern Washington were carved out in quick, violent floods is that they are U shaped and the entrances of major tributaries into the valleys are ‘hanging’ tributaries. That is, that major tributaries to the rivers running along the valleys have a sharp drop off from high up the valley wall. The explanation is that the valley’s were rapidly gouged out by water and debris from upstream so that the floor of the tributary, down which the flood didn’t run, is left high up the wall of the canyon rather than descending to it gradually along the length of the tributary. In the Grand Canyon, major tributaries flow into the Colorado at the same level as the Colorado because both they and the Colorado have been eroding the stone away at the same slow rate so the Colorado and the point at which major (i.e. old) tributaries join have been descending at the same rate. The valleys there are V shaped because, being gradually carved out by a relatively smaller flow of water, the outer parts of the V form when the rock, its support undercut, falls (just like a pile of sugar is conical).

There are other features of the Channelled Scablands that aren’t found at sites of steady erosion like the Grand Canyon, such as the gigantic boulders that are unrelated to the surrounding rock and the numerous potholes produced as boulders swirled by Lake Missoula’s floodwaters ground down into the rock they rested on.

Creationists who don’t bother with broad study cherry pick particular items and fail to consider them in light of all the evidence while scientists do compare across a broad swath of evicence. When you take the scientific route, you find that some features are the product of slow processes and others fast. The problem for creationists is that they need to shoehorn the production of pretty much all major geological features into The Flood. So, yes, there are geological features that invoke catastrophic causes like the Lake Missoula floods that produced the Channelled Scablands but there are also geological features like the Grand Canyon produced by the Colorado River that invoke slow, gradual processes for their formation. Creationists cherry pick the first in the mistaken impression it supports their view and try to pretend the latter doesn’t exist.

BTW, rock arches often show a nice mix of slow and rapid processes, as the erosion slowly undercuts the arch, but every now and again this results in large chunks of rock falling off the underside of the arch. There is a combination of the slow and steady punctuated by the sudden, which is why standing under a stone arch is not necessarily a good idea. The next bit to fall might be a grain of sand or it might not.

I wasn’t thinking of the grand canyon but yes by creations models it had to be cut quick. In fact ice age mega floods talk about channels of size being cut quick by vortices in the water. My point is that the new discovery, indeed still fought about, of the power of sudden floods by way of vortices in the flood. Its impressive about the great bedrock carvings that goes on.

If one sees the same features and knows fast processes are sometimes the origin then one never need invoke slow processes or must go a long way to prove it. Mega flood stidies is showing fast processes can explain a great deal more then has been admitted. Even after Bretz. i suspect it was never anticapated that great flowing water could carve out the landscape because the agent of the carving, vortices, was not recognized. Mega flood study is not about flowing water of great power but of great vortices/cavitation within great flowing water. This is a creationists dream come true.

I am just wondering what CMS your website uses? It looks fabulous and I like all the visitor functions that are available. I’m sorry if this is the incorrect place to ask this however I was not sure how to contact you - many thanks.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 16, 2009 12:00 PM.

Comfort/Cameron Darwin giveaway – all hat and no cattle? was the previous entry in this blog.

Seventh-Day Adventists split over evolution? is the next entry in this blog.

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