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No. 51: May-Jun 1987

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Forests Frozen In Time

Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic is only 700 miles south of the present North Pole. Little grows there today, but there is on these icy shores the remnant of a forest that flourished 45 million years ago, according to conventional geological dating of the strata. A University of Saskatchewan scientist, J. Bassinger, has been studying the 15-20 layers of stumps, some with diameters of 3 feet, and logs up to 30 feet long. Even rather blackish leaves survive in the soil. This once lush forest boasted trees like dawn redwoods and water firs; being analogous to Florida's Cypress Swamp in the Everglades. So excellent is the preservation of the forest that its wood cuts as if it were recent lumber and burns readily. (Howse, John; "Forestry Frozen in Time," Maclean's Magazine, p. 55, September 8, 1986. Cr. B. Ickes)

Comment. Question 1: Even if the earth was warmer 45 million years ago, could a tropical-type forest survive the nearly six months of total darkness at Axel Heiberg Island? Question 2: Can wood be preserved so well for so long? In the postulated warmer climate, there must have been many chemical and biological agents to promote rotting. Also relevant is the discovery, reported below, that wood that floats and burns with ease has been found in Antarctica. This Antarctic wood has been dated at 3 million years.

From Science Frontiers #51, MAY-JUN 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987