In my previous article, I referenced the experiments of Guy Bethault demonstrating that multiple layers of strata can be laid down simultaneously in the presence of a current. An additional proof of the rapid deposition of the layers of the Earth’s crust can be seen in the existence of fossils known as polystrate fossils. Polystrate fossils are fossils that cross two or more layers of strata. These fossils would be impossible if the layers had been laid down through the gradual accumulation of sediment that is proposed by old earth geologists. The fact that such fossils exist supports the creation model in which many layers of sediment were laid down quickly during the flood and its aftermath.
The polystrate trees in Joggins, Nova Scotia are probably the most well known of these polystrate fossils. These trees show signs of being buried rapidly during a catastrophic flood. They were apparently transported to the area along with a large amount of sediment and deposited quickly at the same time that the layers formed. Dozens of these trees have been uncovered by erosion, and they have been the focus of much dispute between young earth geologists and old earth geologists.
The geologist most often credited for the old earth explanation of the Joggins fossils is the nineteenth century geologist John William Dawson. In his book Acadian Geology, Dawson proposed that the fossils are from large trees that grew in the fertile soil of a dried up peat bog. He suggested that local flooding events would then have caused the area to become submerged for hundreds of years during which dead shellfish would have built up around the vertical stumps of the trees. Eventually the vegetation of the area would again form a peat bog, and after hundreds of years, that bog would dry up enough for another layer of forest with large trees growing again in the fertile soil. Thus, Dawson viewed the tree fossils as evidence of successive cycles of slow and gradual processes.
An illustration of the Joggins fossils from Dawson's book, Acadian Geology
The most thorough presentation of the young earth view of the Joggins fossils is presented by Harold G. Coffin in the 2005 book Origin by Design. Coffin explains that the successive cycles proposed by Dawson are not supported by actual observations of the site. According Dawson’s view, the fertile soil from the dried up peat bogs eventually became the coal layers of the Joggins sequence, but Coffin points out that most of the trees do not have roots reaching into the coal seams. Instead, the roots are usually extended behind the tree as if they had been drug along with it through a swift current. There are also several trees which are upside down showing that they had to have been moved into that position by a massive force. Coffin presents several additional observations such as the fact that many of the tree fossils extend through a layer of coal which, on Dawson’s view, would have required a large portion of a dead tree to have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of years without decomposition. The evidence that Coffin presents is devastating to the old earth explanation, but it is overwhelmingly supportive of the claims of young earth geologists.
Both Coffin's and Dawson's books can be read online by following the above links, and I would recommend that you read both views. They each devoted an entire chapter to the Joggins formation, and it shouldn't take more than an hour or two to read them. I'm convinced that Coffin is correct, but perhaps you disagree. If so, feel free to leave a comment below, but please do so only after you have read both views.
Another collection of polystrate trees in France which exhibits similar features to the Joggins formation
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)