Minds in Ablation Part Five Addendum: Living in Imaginary Worlds


Copyright © 2000 by Sean Mewhinney (df736@freenet.carleton.ca).


Living in Imaginary Worlds:
More Denials

Note: The following is my reply to a letter from Charles Ginenthal, excerpted from an exchange in Aeon V:5. It dissects some additional arguments for the alleged existence of ancient maps of the polar regions not dealt with in "Charting Imaginary Worlds."

In "Charting Imaginary Worlds," I challenge some beliefs which seem to be chosen more for their entertainment value than their plausibility -- which for many people, alas, are inversely proportional. But when I accepted an invitation to reprint the piece in Aeon, it was not with any thought of waging a war for the hearts and minds of the readers. I merely wish to leave a rational alternative to the great and growing volume of misinformation about scientific evidence of the earth's recent past on public record. I don't want to have to keep going over the same old nonsense again and again. At the very least, I would like to go on to look at new nonsense. But the denials are still coming in. The latest, while completely misrepresenting what I said, combine high levels of emotional intensity, vacuity, and mischief, some of which falls into the category of pathology. A reply is called for.

With his phony "challenges," Charles Ginenthal likes to send other people on long wild goose chases, to ask the questions he should have asked, and do his work for him. I will oblige once more, but not always.

In an exercise of clinical projection, Ginenthal says I have presented what he "can only describe as a classic example of denial, evasion and subterfuge." What -- only denial, evasion, and subterfuge? Who is he kidding? He only stopped there because of his limited vocabulary -- certainly not because of any hesitation in perverting the truth. And in what do my misdemeanors consist? Well, Ginenthal says I referred to him in a misleading manner, and he quotes two sentences from the introduction, which was substantially rewritten by the editor without my knowledge. This is the way I actually referred to Ginenthal:

"Ginenthal says Hapgood convinced him that Greenland was ice-free only a few thousand years ago. But then, he was looking to be convinced of that, it wasn't a hard sell. He's not the only Velikovskian to give the book his unqualified endorsement."

Ginenthal says "this is quite misleading," not because he qualifies his endorsement with any reservation -- he does not -- but because the reference I offer for this is his paper, "Ice Core Evidence." And it is a bit misleading, because here is where I actually referred to this opus:

"This excursion is Part 5 of my ongoing response to Charles Ginenthal's so-called 'Ice Core Evidence,'-- 'Minds in Ablation,' being posted to an e-mail discussion list [ velikov@onelist.com -- it's also available on the web at http://www.pibburns.com/smmia.htm ]."

The editor deleted this sentence, and relocated my footnote. What Ginenthal finds misleading about this is that he only spent one paragraph on the subject in "Ice Core Evidence," while he devoted 11 pages to it in the doubly mistitled "Common Sense About Ancient Maps." I am supposed to have secretly read this paper, but found the evidence in it so devastating that I could not bring myself to discuss it, so I simply ignored it. How that must have hurt. Ginenthal sees himself as such an important figure that he cannot imagine that anyone, having read one of his productions, would not go on to read his complete works, seeing as how they are cross-referenced in his footnotes.

It's not enough merely to read one of these disquisitions. They're all systematically tendentious, and bristling with mostly out-of-context quotes. But to show how they mislead, you have to track down and read as many of his sources as you can, and then more often than not, track down their sources as well, because he favors pop science books, and then bring yourself up to date on the subject with supplementary reading, because the information in some of them is badly out of date.

And he turns out several hundred pages more of it every year. I set out to answer his ice-core travesty, and later widened my scope to include passages from his books Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky and Extinction of the Mammoth which also deal with paleoclimate -- with equal ineptitude. But if I read all this stuff, I wouldn't have time to read anything normal. The really hard part is bringing yourself to read it in the first place. The syntax is often as tortured as the logic. I'm not as obsessive as Ginenthal, and I need time off from this literary coprology for other pursuits. A representative sample will do. These productions are all pretty repetitious.

No, I did not secretly read the paper that Ginenthal pretends is so devastating, but after seeing Ginenthal's accusatory letter, I did read the thing, and I will "bring myself" to discuss it. Actually, there isn't much in it that wasn't in CS&IV, and it's all nonsense -- every bit of it.

Ginenthal, who routinely omits or mangles crucial evidence, accuses me of "omitting evidence," a stock phrase in his rhetorical toolkit. Ginenthal calls any assertion which he believes supports the case he is arguing "evidence." If you dissect 9 out of 10 bogus arguments in detail, Ginenthal will ignore the refutation and accuse you of omitting the tenth. What was the "evidence" I omitted that was so devastating? Mostly it consists of claims about the subglacial topography of Greenland and Antarctica, claims I did not discuss because they are either obsolete and already known to be wrong, or so vague as to be worthless as evidence.

Ginenthal wants to dictate what I can write about. Apparently he expects me to reproduce long passages verbatim from Mallery's enthusiastic account of how one or another of his suppositions was brilliantly confirmed, with appended testimonials from various worthies, listing their credentials, and naively accept them at face value.

But no matter how often repeated, claims that the latitudes and longitudes of topographic features on these reconstructed maps are plotted "properly" and "correctly" "in their exact locations" "with astounding accuracy," that they "correspond strikingly" with their positions on modern maps and seismic surveys, that "there can no longer be any doubt" that the "agreement" has been "confirmed" or "proved," my eyes may glaze over, but they are not blinded by these subjective impressions. First of all, I can see with my own eyes just how crude some of these patchwork force-fits are, with their omissions and duplications. Secondly, Hapgood has quantified the residual errors on most of his reconstructions, and they tell a very different story from these self-confident pronouncements. As I've already pointed out, he finds residual errors of as much as 18.5 degrees latitude and 12 degrees longitude on the Piri Re'is map; 8.5 degrees latitude and 30 to 40 degrees longitude on the Orontius Finaeus map. These are not trivial errors, suggesting that the error lies in the identifications themselves. Recall his admission: "In some cases the identifications of geographical features in the following tables are merely suggestive. They are rendered probable by their positions on the grids rather than by strict physical resemblances." This is far more tangible evidence than all those impressive adjectives and adverbs in the testimonials excerpted by Ginenthal.

To leave himself some wiggle room, Ginenthal makes what he calls three "caveats" (really fudge factors). First:

"Precise latitudes and longitudes would be impossible to plat without fairly precise chronometers which were not invented until the last century. This would account for some small errors."

This fatuous remark only serves to show how hopelessly at sea he is. The chronometer was invented in the eighteenth century, not the nineteenth. It is irrelevant for determining latitude. The altitude of the pole star will tell you that. But because the earth rotates one degree every four minutes, to find longitude, you need to know the time very accurately. After six weeks' sail, a cumulative error of only three seconds a day will result in a positional error of half a degree in longitude -- the standard set by the British Admiralty. A central point in both Mallery's and Hapgood's claims of a fabulous origin for these old maps is that the longitudes were plotted with an accuracy attained in modern times only with the use of the chronometer, and therefore could not have relied on the navigators of the day, who had only dead reckoning to go on. The presumed ancient mapmakers, in their rather pompous words, must have had "an instrument for accurately determining longitudes" --in other words, a chronometer, which is just a fancy word for a very accurate clock. In his confusion, Ginenthal concedes this central point.

His second "caveat":

"A great catastrophe would change some of the topography. Some islands would sink beneath the sea, others would rise above it, including areas of Greenland and Antarctica."

And elsewhere, he says, "... a catastrophe as enormous as the ones Velikovsky suggested would have caused some mountains to rise higher while others... would have sank [sunk] or disappeared." Put more plainly, if catastrophes as drastic as Ginenthal supposes had taken place in the real world, the topography would be altered almost beyond recognition, so that we should not expect to find any real resemblance between modern maps and allegedly ancient ones, no matter how accurately plotted. A pole shift of the magnitude claimed by Velikovsky, for instance, would produce relative sea-level changes of up to plus or minus seven kilometers -- more than the average depth of the oceans -- rendering any claims of strikingly close correspondences absurd. But making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains is simply part of the process by which Ginenthal goes about redrawing his mental map of the world to make it conform to his psychological and ideological requirements.

The third "caveat":

"Because of their burden of ice, both Greenland and Antarctica are in places submerged below sea level. Additionally, Greenland constitutes an island in the shape of a large reversed letter C. In Antarctica's case, isostatic rebound would cause those regions below sea level to rise were the ice to be removed."

And why only in the case of Antarctica? Why does Ginenthal think Greenland is not subject to the same physical laws as Antarctica? Only one page after telling us that Greenland has the shape of a backwards letter "C," he tells us it is really "three islands bridged by an ocean." So which is it? Ginenthal has an uncanny capacity to embrace two or more mutually contradictory ideas simultaneously. It's almost as though there were some organic difference in the way his central nervous system processes information. Remember this contradiction. We will return to it.

Ginenthal says "What Mewhinney wants as proof is perfectly drawn maps that contain no errors." This is utter rubbish. Time for a reality check. Where does the burden of proof lie? If you want to convince me that several thousand years ago, a technically advanced civilization systematically explored, surveyed, and mapped every part of our planet precisely, implying metallurgy and a high population density, show me a single artifact from this unknown civilization, or explain why they vanished without a trace. Archeology has uncovered not only the cities of the great civilizations of the Near East, not only Neolithic villages and earthworks, but even the campsites and artwork of nomadic ice-age hunters and gatherers whose paltry toolkits consisted largely of perishable materials. Yet a much more sophisticated globe-spanning civilization has somehow escaped detection. If you deliberately set out to concoct as ridiculously silly a belief as possible, as some kind of parlour game or as a parody, you couldn't come up with anything much more absurd than this. It's not something an intelligent person would waste much time on. There is an in-your-face quality about it.

The cartographic "evidence" for this civilization should be consistent with the material evidence, which is exactly zero. But I impose no unreasonable standards. For the purposes of discussion, I set aside the complete absence of any material evidence to consider the cartographic arguments on their own merits. I simply want to see a higher level of accuracy than one could expect from chance, after all the manipulations performed on these maps by those making the claims. The bottom line is, in spite of all the extravagant claims repeated by dyed-in-the-wool believers, analysis shows that their results are abysmally poor.

It's incongruous that people who make a career out of attacking professional scientists as symbols of authority, denigrating them as "the experts" or "the uniformitarian establishment," milk it for all it's worth when they get hold of a supporting statement from persons with any kind of professional credentials. What most impresses Ginenthal about the vague endorsements collected by Mallery and Hapgood is that some of them come from "professional cartographers and seismologists," as though that was a guarantee of good judgement. -- This, from someone who wants to toss out the work of thousands of professional scientists as so much worthless garbage. I mentioned that Mallery influenced "several officers of the U. S. Navy Hydrographic Office." Ginenthal says I could not bring myself to inform my readers that they were professional cartographers. What does he think "hydrography" means, anyway? I'm less interested in appeals to authority than in claims that are specific enough to be verified.

Now to get down to cases. Aside from the perversely hypocritical slanders and some foolish general remarks, Ginenthal has three specific arguments to present. Two of these deal with maps and the subglacial topography of Greenland and Antarctica. The third is a radiocarbon date. First, the Zeno map.

This map was drawn to illustrate a fantastic narrative, and even allowing for the limited knowledge of the day, it shows a fantastic geography, filled with large nonexistent islands. (See Fig. 1.) Mallery's reconstruction of it is equally fantastic. According to Ginenthal, this reconstruction "has been confirmed as accurate by" seismologists "and prefessional cartographers." ("Common Sense About Ancient Maps," p.9.)

On the map, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland are at least recognizable, if greatly distorted, but several large islands are placed in the North Atlantic which have no counterparts in reality. Now examine Mallery's reproduction of the Zeno map (Fig. 2). Notice that the island named "Icaria" has been doubled in length, moved about ten degrees east, and rotated slightly clockwise. This, we are assured, is really Iceland. The still larger island to the northwest clearly labelled as Iceland ("Island"), Mallery tells us, is actually Gunnbjorn's Skerries, a landmark said to lie halfway along the Viking sailing route between iceland and Greenland. So a few rocks visible at low tide have been promoted to the status of an enormous island larger than Iceland itself.

Mallery does not reproduce the original map for comparison, and his caption merely reads: "The Zeno map of the North." It does not tell the reader it has been altered. Ginenthal says I used phrases like "his doctored versions of the Zeno map" to discredit Mallery. But this certainly fits the definition of "doctor" as "to tamper with and arrange for one's own purposes." And in view of the fact that the tinkering is not clearly identified, it fits the definition "to alter deceptively," as well.

In his posthumously published The Rediscovery of Lost America, Mallery writes of the Zeno map: "The Greenland depicted differs radically from the Greenland known to the modern world. The land surface is shown free of ice, almost covered by mountains, and divided into three islands!" It patently does not. Greenland is shown as a peninsula connected to the European land mass north of Scandinavia. Ignoring this, Mallery continues: "A fiord marked Ollum Lengri on a version of the map and a flat surface, which I concluded was a strait, extending westward between the mountains, divide the land which, now hidden by ice, we know as Greenland, a single island."

This is a hallucinatory vision. You can get a clearer idea of what he had in mind by looking at the figures from his books, especially a map from his first book, Lost America, which I reproduce here as Figure 3. On the map, the dashed line to the east of Zeno's Greenland represents the present coastline of Greenland, drawn none too accurately in this example. The stippled area marked "Fiordr Ollum Lengri," formerly open water, according to Mallery, was covered by the advancing Greenland ice sheet sometime after the Viking settlement of Greenland, while the hatched area, formerly land, sank beneath the sea in a great cataclysm in the 13th or 14th century. The name "Ollum Lengri" is taken from the list of fjords in Ivar Bardasson's Description of Greenland. A fjord is a narrow, tortuous inlet. Mallery's "Fiordr Ollum Lengri" is an open strait over a hundred miles broad!

Another overlay map focuses on Islanda/"Gunnbiorn's Skerries," with a table comparing the coordinates of features on a modern map of Greenland with Mallery's identifications. (See Fig. 4.) The "agreements" between the two are meaningless, since the identifications simply ignore the mismatched coastlines. Mallery says "the southern Skerries... still form a plateau underseas. The original outline of the southern Skerries, now hidden from sight under the waters of Denmark Strait, can be made out from the soundings recorded on the latest U.S. Hydrographic Office and the British Admiralty maps." But this underwater "plateau" is simply an arbitrarily chosen chunk of the continental shelf.

Now let's take another look at Mallery's self-congratulatory account of how several months after the publication of Lost America, seismic soundings confirmed his free-wheeling reconstruction:

"Sooner than I would have thought possible, confirmation of my analysis of the map (at least the portion showing Greenland) came from an authority in the science of determining subgglacial topography by seismic soundings. The authority was Paul-Emile Victor, whose French Polar Expeditions explored Greenland from 1948 to 1951. An Associated Press news dispatch announced on October 26, 1951, months after I had published my analysis of the map, the following discovery of the Victor expedition: "A French expedition reported this week that Greenland is really three islands bridged by an ocean..." [The dispatch actually reads: "bridged by an icecap."]

"Victor's soundings revealed a passage westward across Greenland corresponding to the flat area between the mountains which I had pointed out as a strait dividing the land."

I do not know when or where Mallery first "pointed out" the flat area of Greenland on the Zeno map as a strait, but it wasn't in Lost America. Nor did he say anything there about Greenland being three islands. And if the flat area (really areas) are supposed to represent open sea, why are they crossed by those open rivers, running from the ice-free mountains to a coastline drawn through the middle of the sea?

Exactly what is it that is being confirmed by what here? By "islands," of course, unlike Mallery, the expedition members meant areas that are presently above sea level. If Greenland were free of ice, the areas now below sea level would rise, and the "islands" would no longer be islands. An ancient map accurately depicting the present bedrock contours would mean, not that Greenland was recently ice-free, but that they mapped it through the ice the same way it was done in modern times -- seismically. But as crazy as it is, whether he altered his interpretation after the fact or not, aside from the fact that the southern half of one of his three "islands" is underwater, do Mallery and the French expedition at least have their "islands"and "straits" in the same positions? They do not. And in any case, despite the fact that Victor wrote to Mallery in October, 1953 that "analysis of our soundings confrims the preliminary announcement that Greenland is really three islands," he was wrong. It's not, and this has been well known for a very long time.

The coverage of these early surveys was limited to parts of the ice sheet below 74 degrees north latitude. The expedition found three sub-sea-level "channels" oriented more or less east-west, apparently converging on the region of Disko Bay on the west coast, where some of the most active outlet glaciers are found, and penetrating far into the interior. They speculated that the two northernmost of these channels might continue right across Greenland to other outlet glaciers on the east coast. However, a contour map based on their soundings and published in 1954 shows no bedrock below sea level east of longitude 37 degrees west (see Fig. 5.), and subsequent surveys have failed to find any similar such channels connecting with the east coast. In spite of Victor's confident assertion of 1953 that their announcement two years earlier had been proven correct, 1956 found him distancing himself from that claim: "Newspapers have reported that we had discovered that Greenland was not one island, but at least three islands, and possibly an archipelago. We are hardly able to say that." (Paul-Emile Victor, "Wringing Secrets from Greenland's Icecap," January, 1956 National Geographic, p. 147.)

Mallery says "Victor's soundings.... showed the presence of a large fiord corresponding to the location on one version of the map of a fiord marked Ollum Lengri-Lengri, longest of all." [Note the extra "Lengri" in this passage.] But just where Mallery puts his "Fiordr Ollum Lengri," the expedition's subglacial topographic map shows the highest elevations. The Zeno map shows mountains in the interior, and open areas on the coasts. But the lowest bedrock elevations are in the interior of Greenland, where the overlying ice is thickest. There is really no correspondence between the two at all.

The liberties Mallery took with the Zeno map were too far-fetched even for Charles Hapgood to swallow. He bent over backward to avoid saying anything negative about Mallery, but twice explicitly stated his disagreement with Mallery's reconstruction, particularly his identification of Iceland with Gunnbjorn's Skerries. Hapgood developed a completely different one of his own on a different projection, with four separate grids for east and west Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia. He calculates residual errors of as much as 25 degrees longitude and 3.5 degrees latitude for Greenland. Later, in the second edition of his book, he reproduced a map of the subglacial topography of Greenland, showing the sea-level outline of the land in the form of a backwards "C," with a central depression below sea level and an opening to Baffin Bay on the west. (See Fig. 6.) Hapgood asserted that the west coast of Greenland on the Zeno map only extends as far north as this opening.

So far I have not been able to trace the origin of this map. The coverage extends above 74 degrees north, where the Expéditions Polaires Francaises map stops. It shows no elevations above or below sea level. Like the EPF map, it shows an outlet to the west, but none running across Greenland to the east coast. Note that the opening lies between 74 and 75 degrees north, in the Thule region, not lower down at Disko Bay, as on the EPF map. There are other subglacial topographic maps of Greenland. What they all have in common is a central bowl below sea level, rimmed by mountain chains on the coasts -- higher in the east, lower in the west. They differ in details, which can be explained partly by the coarseness of resolution and partly by the method used. Airborne radar and acoustic sounding with explosive charges each have advantages and disadvantages.

Ginenthal asks his readers to consider: "Could Mallery and Hapgood, by the most extraordinary stroke of luck, place mountains and valleys, ice-covered bays, and plains in their correct positions? Any rational person would find this to be an impossibility, unless the ice were missing at the time the maps were drawn." Even more extraordinary, Mallery and Hapgood each place them in different positions -- something which Ginenthal has repressed from consciousness -- and yet both are "correct." Any rational person would find this to be an impossibility. Likewise, it is impossible that the topography would remain the same if the weight of an ice sheet up to two miles in thickness were removed. He follows this question with another, which sums up the crux of the matter: "...if the reconfigured maps give fairly accurate latitude and longitude positions as well as show accurately-placed physical topographic features, could the researchers' methodology be wrong?" At this point a rational person would ask himself: if Mallery and Hapgood, using the same methodology, arrive at drastically different reconstructions of the same map, how could their "methodology" be anything but an elaborate but completely subjective means of deluding themselves?

On to Antarctica. Mallery wrote that "seismic soundings show that islands placed off the coast on the Piri Re'is map and bays placed between the islands are there today under the ice," but he did not say which islands and bays he had in mind. This statement was too vague to evaluate, with or without the endorsement of "specialists in the science of seismology." The claim that Greenland is three "islands" was made based on a rather coarse-resolution grid with limited coverage, but at least more than one leg of the survey had been completed. The interpretation of "islands" and "bays" on the Queen Maud coast of Antarctica is much more speculative, since it is based on only a single line drawn inward from the coast.

Hapgood reproduces a map of the route followed by the expedition above a vertical profile of the topography in his Figure 48. The caption invites us to "Compare with the islands and bays of the Antarctic sector of the Piri Re'is Map." So I did. Echoing Mallery, Hapgood says the agreement between the piri Re'is map and the seismic profile across Queen Maud Land is "striking": "The points of the profile below sea level coincide very well with the bays between the islands on the Piri Re'is Map." (p. 79 of the 1st ed.) If that is so, I wondered why he doesn't say which bays and which islands. So I tried to match them up myself with landmarks on the route of the survey, using Hapgood's identifications. He is very tentative about these identifications:

"If the southern part of the Piri Re'is Map represents this coast, then it shows terrain a considerable distance in both directions from this line. It shows the sea advanced to the base of the Neumeyer Escarpment, and the various mountains as islands. Toward the east a number of inland mountain ranges are shown, while to the west a peninsula may represent what is now Cape Norvegia or Maudheim (A in Fig. 48. [Cape Norvegia and Maudheim are two separate features about 40 miles apart; Maudheim is A in the figure.] If the inland mountain ranges are the Muhlig-Hofman and Wholthat Ranges, then the Piri Re'is Map shows the Antarctic coast from about 10° W. to 15° E. Longitude." [emphasis added]

In contrast to Hapgood's assurance that the coincidences are "striking," the use of all these qualifiers shows that he was quite uncertain of his identifications. How do we know that this is Queen Maud Land at all? If this is Queen Maud Land, the Weddell Sea should lie immediately to the west. But according to Hapgood there is "a large error in the total longitude covered by the Weddell Sea. On the modern map this amounts to 40°; on the Piri Re'is Map only to about 10°." (p. 259) I can see nothing on the Piri Re'is map that resembles the Weddell Sea. The Weddell Sea is deeply incised into Antarctica, and should stand out in sharp relief on an ice-free coast. But what Hapgood calls the Weddell Sea is actually further north than his supposed Queen Maud land, and what he calls the Palmer Peninsula is rotated 90° west of where it should be. So the general situation looks all wrong. Nevertheless, let's see how the local details compare with the seismic profile.

The survey followed a roughly NW-SE route about 620 kilometers (or 385 miles) long, with a few doglegs. So the object is to match the middle stretch of approximately 235 km, or 145 miles, between the base of the Neumayer Escarpment (it's spelled that way on the survey map) and the last point above sea level to the northwest, with the coastlines of the islands shown off what Hapgood calls the Queen Maud coast on the Piri Re'is map (see Figures 7 and 8) -- except that Hapgood wants to use a relative sea level about 200 meters higher than present, which would eliminate 2 or 3 tiny "islands" along the profile and split a longer one in two. If you raised it a full 200 meters, it would make an "island" of the Neumayer Escarpment. (Of course, they may not really be "islands" at all -- they could be "peninsulas," or the "water" between them could be "lakes." We cannot tell from a profile drawn along a single line.) But you can see that there would still be at least five "islands" left -- two small ones and two large ones, proceeding outward from the coast. And if you start at the point Hapgood identifies on the Piri Re'is map as the Neumayer Escarpment (no. 84 in his table), and draw a line in a generally northwest direction, there is just no way it can match. A northwest-southeast line drawn from anywhere on this part of the coast will not pass through more than three islands, unless it is drawn about twice as long as it should be, according to Hapgood's scale. And the line would pass over open water along most of its length, while this part of the seismic profile would still be dry land along most of its length, even if sea level rose 200 meters. (And this doesn't take into account isostatic rebound if the ice were removed, which would put much more of the profile above sea level.) So not only is the supposed correspondence not "striking," there is obviously no real correspondence at all.

I don't care whether the endorsements Mallery and Hapgood collected came from professional cartographers, seismologists, or hairdressers. The deeper you look into these things, the more levels of absurdity you see.

I noticed a few other things, too. Remember that Hapgood imposes four separate grids on different parts of the Piri Re'is map, with five different equators, and still finds numerous omissions, duplications, and gross positional errors. The part of the map we are concerned with is located in the lower right-hand corner, with geographical features numbered from 80 to 87. He has a double latitude scale along the right-hand side, with a lower number to the left and another higher one in brackets on the right. This is to make up for the omission of 25 degrees of latitude from the map, on his interpretation. Now if you take the higher number for the bottom edge of the map -- 70 degrees -- and compare it with the true latitude of the Neumayer Escarpment where the seismic survey line crosses it, at about 73.5 degrees south, you see that even Hapgood's correction of 25 degrees is not enough for this corner of the map. So the latitudes of all the identified landmarks in this corner have residual errors of several degrees. This would not matter if they all had a uniform error, because their relative positions would be unchanged. But in Hapgood's table of residual errors (on p. 259 of the 1st edition), the errors range from 3 to 7 degrees of latitude, a difference of 4 degrees, or about 270 miles -- an enormous discrepancy when you consider that the whole length of the seismic survey line extends only a little over 3 degrees of latitude. This is just another way of illustrating how bad a mismatch it is.

But there is worse to come. There are even errors in Hapgood's errors. Hapgood's tables have four columns of figures: the true position, the position on the Piri Re'is map, a constant correction term, which for latitudes is plus 25 degrees, and the calculated error. But when I checked the arithmetic in this part fo the table, I found that three out of eight of the errors in latitude are understated. The stated error for the Muhlig-Hofman Mountains, 4 degrees, should be 5, the error for Vorposten Peak should be 4 degrees, not 3, and the error for the Boreas and Passat Nunataks should be a whopping 9 degrees, not 4. Even the elementary arithmetic is wrong!

I dealt with Hapgood's strongest arguments. Mallery put together a much flimsier case. The very things that most impress Ginenthal are just those that would be least convincing to a rational person.

If the claim is that Antarctica was ice-free 6,000 years ago, then physical evidence ought to count more than games played with manipulating maps. Ginenthal says I "chided Hapgood for accepting Hough and for suggesting that the Ross Sea sediments indicate an ice-free Antarctica." When Mallery cited Hough's preliminary study in 1950, he could call it "recent". But when the first edition of Ancient Sea Kings came out in 1966, it was already seven years since Thomas had shown Hough's identification of warm and cold intervals to be wrong. By the time the second edition appeared 13 years later, Hapgood had apparently still not made any effort to acquaint himself with more recent work on Antarctic Ocean sediments. I fault him for that. More seriously, I fault him for going beyond anything Hough said, and speaking with an air of authority about matters of which he knew nothing.

Ginenthal dismisses the evidence I submitted as nothing more substantial than "probable suppositions." Hough had only the lithology to go on. Thomas had the organics -- the diatoms and foraminifers. Hough supposed that the absence of ice-rafted debris indicated that no icebergs were calving from glaciers on the coast. Thomas noted that the sediments with no ice rafting were organically sterile, and realized that it meant summer sea ice was preventing icebergs from reaching the area. He didn't just suppose -- he tested his hypothesis. The minimum amount of sunlight necessary to support photosynthesis in diatoms was already known from laboratory experiments. Thomas measured the amount of sunlight penetrating sea ice and found that even in summer, it was insufficient for photosynthesis, so phytoplankton could not survive beneath a perennial ice cover, and neither they nor the radiolarians and foraminifers that feed on them would be present in the sediments. (Charles W. Thomas, "Late Pleistocene and Recent Limits of the Ross Ice Shelf," Journal of Geophysical Research Vol. 65 (June, 1960), pp. 1789-1792.)

Against this, Ginenthal has a totally irrational misinterpretation of one radiocarbon date to present. If it's radiocarbon dates he wants, I've already cited the work of Licht et al., based on 26 AMS radiocarbon dates from marine sediment cores, which shows that the Ross Ice Shelf retreated 250 kilometers between 20,000 and 6500 years ago. A two-part study just published in the October GSA Bulletin arrives at a closely similar chronology of ice-shelf retreat, based on 86 radiocarbon dates. An absence of organic remains at any of the core sites between about 26,500 and 19,500 years ago indicates that the entire area surveyed was covered by the ice shelf during this interval. Another just published study by Conway et al. in October 8 Science uses radiocarbon dates from the adjacent west coast of the Ross Sea to establish a similar timetable. While the ice shelf was advanced hundreds of miles north of its present position, it dammed up seasonal meltwater in proglacial lakes in the dry valleys to the west: "Over 200 14C dates of lacustrine algae from proglacial lakes dammed in these valleys by grounded ice, show that the Ross Sea ice sheet was close to its LGM [Late Glacial Maximum] position from at least 27,820 to 12,880 calendar years B.P."

Also in the October GSA Bulletin, Wilch et al. describe a series of volcanic tephra layers exposed at the surface in a horizontal section of ice on the shoulder of Mt. Moulton in West Antarctica. Argon-argon dating of the tephras yielded a sequence of ages ranging from 15,000 to ~492,000 years, signifying that the area has been continuously glaciated for at least the last half million years.

But according to Ginenthal,

"Reginald Daly in Earth's Most Challenging Mysteries, (Nutley, NJ, 1975)... states that,

'Carbon-14 dating has shown that Antarctica's ice is less than 6,000 years old. [Arthur] Holmes writes: "Algal remains dated at 6,000 B.P. have been found on the latest terminal moraines." (Principles of Physical Geology, p. 718) This shows that Antarctica must have been sufficiently free from ice for green algae to grow 6,000 years ago'."

In the index to Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky, the author is cross-referenced as R. A. Daly. Ginenthal calls him a geologist. There are two minor mysteries here. Holmes mentioned this radiocarbon date only in the first revised edition of his textbook, published in 1965. How could Daly, who died in 1957, give a page reference to a book published eight years after his death, and how could he ever have made the incredibly naive remarks attributed to him?

An interlibrary loan soon cleared this up. The author is not the well-known geologist R. A. (Reginald Aldworth) Daly, but his nephew Reginald M. Daly, a creationist writer whose work is a pathetic travesty of the older man's intellectual legacy. He is a biblical fundamentalist for whom "The problem... is: How to get evolution out of geology, and also out of biology, and out of the school system entirely; also out of the pulpits if any clergymen are found promoting it." Nor is he a geologist. The cover blurb says he has a master's in basic science and has taught physics and freshman math at various institutions.

Ginenthal writes fatuously: "Daly and Holmes were not fooled by these algal remains." Holmes certainly was not. He was only concerned to show that glaciation in the north and south hemispheres was "at least roughly contemporaneous," concluding that "the Climatic Optimum of the north had its counterpart in the south."

Holmes didn't give his source, but it wasn't hard to find. The site is the west side of McMurdo Sound. The fieldwork was done during the I.G.Y. by Troy Péwé, who distinguishes at least four successive glacial advances in the area, each less extensive than the last. Two samples of algae collected from ice-cored moraines gave uncorrected radiocarbon dates of 2480 and 5900 years. [An ice-cored moraine has nothing to do with ice cores. It just means a moraine with blocks of ice at its core.] The higher date only set a provisional minimum age for the most recent of the four glacial advances. This tells us nothing about the age of the ice sheet itself, which could be thousands or millions of years older. Since then another sample from the same spot has been dated to 9490 years before present. (George H. Denton et al., "Late Cenozoic Glaciation in Antarctica: The Record in the McMurdo Sound Region," in Lewis & Smith, eds., Frozen Future (N.Y., 1974), p. 332.)

As for Daly's remark that Antarctica was "sufficiently free from ice for green algae to grow 6,000 years ago," it is "sufficiently free" for algae to grow in the same spot today. You can see a color picture of bright green algae growing on the slopes of one of these moraines around a small ephemeral pond on page 547 of the October, 1959 issue of National Geographic. Although the mean temperature is below freezing in every month of the year, meltwater running "from the surface of the lower ends of the glaciers... forms shallow streams for a few days a year," most of which "drain into landlocked lakes, as many of the ice-free valleys are blocked from the sea by glaciers or moraines." (Troy Péwé, "Multiple Glaciation in the McMurdo Sound Region, Antarctica -- A Progress Report," The Journal of Geology Vol. 68, no. 5 (1960), p. 500.) And that's all the encouragement algae need to burst into bloom. "Ice-free," indeed! That's religious propaganda, not geology. Not satisfied with what his sources had to say, in "Common Sense About Ancient Maps," Ginenthal fabricates an additional detail, calling it "a temperate species of algae."

This is the "evidence" I "decided to ignore," not because it was "just too difficult to face," but because having already plowed through several hundred pages of similar tripe, and knowing what to expect, I am not interested in chasing down every scrap of Ginenthal's nonsense, nor am I obligated to.

Ginenthal closes with this unconsciously ironic reminder that paranoia cripples minds:

"And he that does one fault at first,
And lies to hide it, makes it two."

The lies are not mine.


Back to Minds in Ablation index page.
Back to my catastrophism page.
Back to my interests.
Back to my home page.
Search my pages.

Last modified by pib on August 29, 2005.