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No. 76: Jul-Aug 1991

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Baby Oil

Geologists maintain that most of the oil they pump out of the ground was formed tens and hundreds of millions of years ago from biological debris. But in the Guaymas Basin, in the Gulf of California, the oil seeping out of the sediments is only 4240 years old! Actually, it could be even 500-3000 years younger than that for two reasons: (1) The organic debris that was C-14-dated may have taken many years to become incorporated in the sediments; and (2) The dating may be skewed by older material in the sediments. By subtraction, the oil might be as young as 1240 years!

The picture geologists draw of the Guaymas Basin is that of a spreading center covered by perhaps a half kilometer of sediments. Spewing up from the spreading center is hot water at 300-350C, which "cracks" the organic material in the sediments, converting it into petroleum only 10-30 meters below the sea floor. (Hecht, Jeff; "Youngest Oil Deposit Found below Gulf of California," New Scientist, p. 19, April 6, 1991.)

Comment. Since spreading centers are really cracks in the earth's crust, it is possible that some of the feed materials for this modern "petroleum factory" in the Guaymas Basin could consist of abiogenic, primordial methane and other organics seeping up from deep within the earth.

Reference. Many questions remain about the origin and migration of oil. Many of these are discussed in ESC13 in our catalog: Anomalies in Geology. Details here.

From Science Frontiers #76, JUL-AUG 1991. 1991-2000 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