Random Tusks

Charlotte: Carolina Bays at GSA in November


Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!! — Wilbur Wright, June, 1903


No one has yet invented an explanation which will fully account for all the facts observed – Douglas Johnson, regarding Carolina bays, 1942


The Geological Society of America has invited Tusk friend Michael Davias to present at this year’s regional gathering in Charlotte, November 4 -7, 2012. The GSA should be faintly commended. As readers know, Mike is a relentless seeker of the truth behind Carolina bay formation and has concluded without prejudice using groundbreaking LiDAR that all bays have a simultaneously origin. That’s pretty radical stuff for the uniformatarian rockheads and academics of the Society. But fortunately, our pet theory has such a long and distinguished pedigree that it calls for periodic re-visitation by geological salons — even if assumed false. It seems GSA doesn’t mind lighting a little fire now and then so long as it is promptly stomped out.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot expect an equal opportunity for each thesis to be presented in the Queen City. The federal “Wind-Wave” scientists from the Savannah River Archeological Research Program are invited to speak — in the Big Hall — while Mike kicks sand in the poster room. This is a shame. Davias gives an excellent talk and was provided oral opportunities in the past by GSA. This time he got bumped — despite his new work.

That said, I was excited to see the wind-wave abstract and was hoping for a direct response to Davias’ previous appearances at GSA meetings. But (according to the abstract) not only is no new data being provided, the authors seem only to make an exclamatory and unelaborated reference to the ancient work of Ray Kaczorowski.

Bay geeks will recall that 1970’s Gamecock grad student Kaczorowski introduced a box of sand to a fan and blew faintly elliptical shapes onto the flat surface. No bays within bays, no bays interrupting and obliterating adjacent bays, no bays merging with other bays leaving no sign of a joined rim, no grand variation in scale as seen in nature —  just kicked up, ugly, non-bay, roughly ovoid shapes. (What did he expect, squares?)

The true marvel of the bays — their sublime symmetry and inexplicable interactions — is entirely unaddressed by Kaczorowski and his modern acolytes. As I have pointed out over the  last three decades, critics of a sudden and simultaneous formation do not admit what is obvious to the rest of us — these are not simply windblown ponds. There is clearly something else going on.

Lakes do not appear fully formed on narrow ridges; lakes blown into ellipses do not later appear oriented if formed in multiple generations intervened by countless eons — with no ability to distinguish the older generation from the younger; lakes do not endure millennia of windblown waves lapping at their shores with no lacustrine markers later in the sand.

No, windblown ponds on cold, flat, plains look like the aligned lakes of the Alaskan North Slope, and nobody confuses those features with bays — but Kacrowski and the wind-wave team.

I recognize the principle author of the abstract is Chris Moore, who will presumably be giving the talk in Charlotte. I have never met Chris in person but have corresponded with him through the years and know him as an open-minded investigator. In fact, I am certain he entertains the wider hypothesis of cataclysm at 10,000 BC. But Chris is clearly not compelled by evidence that bays were cosmically induced at that point.

Davias and Moore agree here. Mike’s analysis has yielded evidence that the bays must necessarily pre-date the 10,000 BC period — by >100K years.  Make sure to note that in your review of his abstract, and perhaps I will post some explanatory material from Mike in that regard.

UPDATE:  Here is Mike’s new work that dates the bays to >130KA. 

An earlier presentation from Mike:



MOORE, Christopher R., Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology,USC, PO Box 400, New Ellenton, SC 29809, [email protected], BROOKS, Mark J., Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, USC, PO Box 400, New Ellenton, SC 29809, IVESTER, Andrew, Department of Geosciences, University of West Georgia, 1601 Maple Street, Carrollton, GA 30118, FERGUSON, Terry A., Wofford College, 429 N Church St, Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663, and FEATHERS, James K., TL Dating Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195Carolina bays are oriented, shallow upland ponds occurring on the Atlantic Coastal Plain from New Jersey to North Florida. Historically, Carolina bays have received attention from those speculating on a catastrophic emplacement through cometary, meteoric, or airburst impacts. Recently, it has even been speculated that bays formed from steam outgassing within superheated distal ejecta from an impact over the Great Lakes region. In this scenario, Quaternary-aged cover sands along the eastern seaboard, including “enigmatic” sand ridge scarps (e.g., Goldsboro Scarp) and Carolina bays, are purported to be causally linked to a catastrophic impact. Carolina bay shape, orientation, and sand rims are all used as evidence for an alignment with an impact crater not observed and not known to exist. Other researchers have posited that bays are linked with the purported Younger Dryas comet impact/airburst at ca. 12.9 ka, whereby bay formation was through aerial air-bursts or through a rain of distal impact ejectato form oblique craters.While these claims persist, our data indicate that Carolina bay origin and evolution are much better explained through more mundane, uniformitarian processes. The evidence gathered from Carolina bays in South Carolina and beyond demonstrate bay genesis as oriented lakes and formation through lacustrine processes of wind on shallow ponded water. Ray Kaczorowski’s wind table modeling in 1977 revealed quite clearly how unidirectional winds on pondedwaterproduce subaqueous circulation cells that shape and orient the bays, while constructing their sand rims as high-energy shoreline features.More recent work, including GPR, granulometry, OSL dating, and evidence from examination of LiDAR data, reveals that bays reflect long-term, pervasive and evolving environmental and climatological factors over millennia, not sudden or catastrophic events. Thus, a catastrophic origin is neither supported by geological data, nor needed to explain features we attribute to Carolina bays; Carolina bays are neither enigmatic, nor mysterious, but rather are relatively well understood oriented lakes. While nuances of bay formation through lacustrineshoreprocesses remain to be resolved, the fundamental concepts are well understood and have been for some time. Kaczorowski was right!
2012 GSA Annual Meeting in Charlotte (4–7 November 2012)
General Information for this Meeting


This LiDARelevation image shows the progression left to right (west to East) of the Holocene floodplain and current channel of the Cape Fear River, the Wando Terrace, and the Socastee Terrace. The total lack of bays on the extensive sandy surface of the Wando documents that no bays were created over the past 130K+ years. — Mike Davias, August, 2012


2012 GSA Annual Meeting in Charlotte (4–7 November 2012)
Paper No. 28-14
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


DAVIAS, Michael, Stamford, CT 06907, [email protected] years after aerial photography revealed thousands of aligned oval depressions on the USA’s Atlantic Coastal Plain, the geomorphology and ages of these “Carolina bays” remain enigmatic. Here, high-resolution LiDAR-derived elevation maps are used to examine Carolina bay landform distribution on terraces in the Cape Fear River Valley of North Carolina, in an attempt to identify and constrain their temporal distribution, which is of import to the gradualist vs. cosmic impact debate. The gradualist theory holds that bayswerecreated episodically by katabatic winds during glacial periods, while an impact event would create all bays simultaneously.The southeast flowing Cape Fear River has been incising its southwestern channel wall for over 2 million years, migrating up to 35 km laterally as its bed was tilted by the persistent tectonic uplift of the Cape Fear Arch. When combined with general regional uplift, a series of expansive and distinct unpaired fluvial terraces have been preserved, each created in turn during interglacial high stands of the Atlantic. This tableau provides a unique temporal index to the evolution of the coastal plain. Adjacent to the current-era flood plain is the Wando Terrace, considered by others to have formed during marine isotope stage (MIS) 5 interglacial ~80ka–135ka, based on uranium-series and amino acid methods. Continuing towards the Arch, the Socastee Terrace is considered to represent MIS 7 ~186ka–245ka, the interglacialprecedingthe Illinoian glaciation.LiDAR elevation maps reveal a Socastee terrace populated with well-defined Carolina bays. Likewise, the successively older Penholoway, Waccamaw and Bear Bluff Terraces are rich in bays. In striking contrast, the LiDAR shows the Wando Terrace to be indisputably devoid of Carolina bay landforms. The absence of bays on the MIS 5 surface suggests a minimum date constraint for bay formation of ~135ka. Younger dates identified in the literature may depict reworking, not initial bay genesis. This finding is problematic for the gradualist theory, as the Wando surface should have offered a viable nursery during the last Glacial Maximum (MIS 2). The temporal data implies that if Carolina bays were created during a cataclysmic event, it must have occurred before MIS 5 and after MIS 7, thus during MIS 6, the Illinoian glaciation ~135ka–186ka.
2012 GSA Annual Meeting in Charlotte (4–7 November 2012)
General Information for this Meeting
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