Creation Factsheet No. 12: Frozen Mammoths
Factsheet No. 12
MANY people have heard of the frozen mammoths whose perfectly preserved remains have been discovered in the Arctic. It is often suggested that these hairy elephants grew their thick coats to protect them from the bitter cold during the great Ice Age. Is this true? And how did the mammoths die?
There is abundant evidence that the world once had a very different climatic regime than it has today. Coal seams in polar regions reveal that lush forests once flourished in areas which are now little more than icy wastes. Fossils show that palm trees grew in Alaska. Over a century ago, explorer Baron Edward Toll discovered a 27-metre (87 foot) high tree, with ripe fruit still on its branches, encased in ice in the New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean.1 Today, only 2.5 cm. (1 inch) high willows grow there. The mouths and stomachs of some of the frozen mammoths contained grasses, bluebells, buttercups and wild beans plants which do not grow on the arctic tundra today. So, far from having to scavenge for food in a hostile environment, the mammoths enjoyed an abundance of vegetation (modern elephants in captivity need about 200kg. of hay per day). Some have suggested that the mammoths regularly migrated to these northern regions during the summer, returning south before winter set in, but this theory is not consistent with the facts, since most mammoth remains are found near the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
Furthermore, even summer conditions as they are now would not have provided the vegetation necessary for the mammoths' survival. That millions of these animals once lived in those areas, is evidenced by the abundance of tusks and bones buried in Arctic soils. Ivory mining has been a major industry in Siberia for centuries, with tens of thousands of tusks having been excavated.
FREE OF ICE
Did the mammoths perish at the onset of the ice age or later? There is now general agreement among scientists that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free and relatively warm during the Ice Age, and that while most of Europe and North America were buried beneath vast sheets of ice, Alaska and Siberia were virtually ice free. This suggests that the mammoths lived through the Ice Age, possibly for several centuries, but were not directly affected by it.
However, as the ice sheets began to melt, the Arctic Ocean would have started to cool, and fresh water floating on top of denser salt water would rapidly have turned to sea ice. In turn, the climates of Alaska and Siberia would have quickly turned colder. The mammoths would have been used to moving closer to the shores of the (once warmer) Arctic Ocean with the onset of winter, but this time it was the wrong direction to go, and they quickly froze to death.
Many mammoths skeletons have been found, alongside numerous other species of animals such as woolly rhinoceros, camels, horses, tigers and antelopes, buried in frozen silt, together with tree roots and boulders. This suggests that flash floods followed the rapid melting of the ice sheets. A number of mammoths have been found frozen intact, and their preservation must have been due to some sudden, icy catastrophe. Meteorologist Michael Oard, who has done extensive research into the Ice Age and its causes, suggests that a cold front, with strong winds causing high wind-chill, could have been responsible for this sudden freezing.2 This severe climatic change was permanent, and the soils of much of Alaska and Siberia now consist of 'permafrost'. The mammoths which were frozen at that time remained preserved until some of them were discovered centuries later.
Although we may never know precisely what happened to the mammoths, or be able to explain the remarkable preservation of some of them, it is clear that the uniformitarian interpretation of earth history is deeply flawed; things do not change slowly, over millions of years, but earth's geological history is a story of catastrophism. Creation scientists reject the multi-ice-age theory. They believe that a single Ice Age occurred after the world-wide flood recorded in Genesis chapters 6-8, and was actually a consequence of that flood. Some have suggested that the mammoths perished at the beginning of the flood, and were frozen before being buried in flood sediments.3 While this is possible for those which are preserved only as skeletons, it seems unlikely that bodies could have remained frozen while submerged during the year of the flood, and opposed Ice Age catastrophe appears to be the most logical explanation when all the facts are assembled. However, there is no problem in fitting the demise of the mammoths into the time-frame of Biblical history.
- Charles Hobgood, “The Mystery of the Frozen Mammoths”, Coromet (September 1960), p. 74.
- Michael J. Oard, An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood Institute for Creation Research, 1990. p. 132.
- Joseph C. Dillon, The Waters Above, Moody Press, Chicago, 1981. pp. 418-419.
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