CHANNELS AND CANYONS
The model river channel combines the history of an earth fault, a catastrophic torrent, and an erosional runoff bed. Most large rivers, perhaps all of them, are children of Okeanos, whom the Greeks called "the Father of Rivers" who personified the sky waters before the first deluges, as we said in Chapter 13, and then came down to Earth. His children carried his waters into the new ocean beds.
Many myths appear to conjure rivers where none exist, and, of course, a great many dry river beds of once tremendous rivers are to be found around the world. During the Universal Flood of Deucalion, a small chasm was said to open in Athens into which the waters emptied. According to Lucian the people of Hieropolis (near Aleppo, Syria) "say that a great chasm opened in their country, and all the water of the flood ran away down it." Again, myths warrant hypotheses. In the Volta River Project (West Africa), a onetime shallow river bed was suggested by a deep river bed with a jagged bottom. Local legends spoke of upheavals in the now quiet area, and when the water was lowered prior to constructing a dam, several protuberances became islands, and at a depth of 35 feet revealed carvings whose age was estimated at 3000 years  .
The Po River is probably an extension of the African-Rift-Red Sea-Rhine rift valley that connects with a buried rift in the Adriatic Sea. It carried down the immense debris of the sudden uplift of the Alps. It may be the ancient sacred river, the Eridanus, of Greco-Roman legend, long-lost because later a sea. The Po serves in truncated form to water and drain the Po Valley. The Rhine River picks up the graben northwest of the Alps, and moves it far out into the North Sea; not long ago, it shared its burden with a westward flowing river that was then naturally dammed so as to reduce the Loire River of France to more modest proportions.
The Colorado River may be a ramification of the East Pacific Ridge, that runs up the Bay of Lower California and strikes through the desert into the raised platforms of the southwestern states, abetting the disintegration of the Rocky Mountain uplift; once its tectonic work was done, it began its present work of erosion.
The great rivers of China flow in the direction they do, says a Chinese myth, because the goddess Niu-Kwa made the waters of the great flood stream off towards the southeast; the whole Earth had tilted and sunk into the sea there  . Most great rivers of the world understandably conform to the processes set into motion by the lunarian outburst. Many hasten along courses conveniently provided them and their tributaries by fractures, the Rhine, the Colorado, the Susquehanna, the Indus, the Congo and others.
In decoding the natural history of river beds, geologists fighting the ghosts of catastrophism have refrained from extremes. M. G. Wolman and 3. P. Miller in 1960 essayed an analysis of the "Magnitude and Frequency of Forces in Geomorphic Processes."[2A] Using mainly four rivers as their cases, they conclude that "dwarf" gradualist forces operate steadily to perform most transport of sediments, that "man-sized" moderate forces of brimming "bankfull" waters supplement the "dwarf" work in carving banks and valleys, and depositing sediments, thus accounting for perhaps 90% of the changes effectuated. The rare work of "giants" make up the balance, including many switches off channels and movements of erratic boulders.
Unfortunately they lack respectable data over time even for these "giant" events, which they estimate at 50-year intervals; yet they call them catastrophes. Like the experts on seismism, their extremes are historically confined to what noone doubts have been uniformitarian times. Of course, then, they must pass over with the weakest of scenarios the grand metamorphism and concentrate upon pygmy processes playing out recent history. They realize that they are dealing with exponential, logarithmic processes, but excise the peak curves. In the only concession to longer history, they murmur at one place about "materials inherited from a period of greater stream competence which possibly existed during glacial times." As we have noted, "the end of the ice ages" is a cover-up fiction of all that has happened to the lately tortured Earth.
Not alone of river channels do they speak but also of beaches and winds. With regard to beaches they introduce the commonly accepted concept of an "equilibrium profile." It is "an average form around which rapid fluctuations occur. Waves from storms may periodically destroy the equilibrium form, but over a period of years there is an average equilibrium profile by which the beach may be characterized." The more meaningful question is where does this profile come from in the first place -these millions of profiles, we should add, unique in themselves but in distribution worldwide? Where is the "supergiant's" place, that smashed out the profile to begin with, in the analysis and theory. As for the effects of winds upon river and beach morphology, many analyses, they say, "indicate that a log-normal frequency distribution of wind velocities is a general rule." The log-normal winds, like log-normal river flows and sea waves are what recent experience and the authors give as "log-normal"-curves that rise scarcely enough to make their uniformitarian hearts skip a beat.
Their last paragraph is naive, but so unconsciously significant as to be worth quoting:
Perhaps the state of knowledge as well as the geomorphic effects of small and moderate versus extreme events may be best illustrated by the following analogy. A dwarf, a man, and a huge giant are having a wood-cutting contest. Because of the metabolic peculiarities, individual chopping rates are roughly inverse to their size. The dwarf works steadily and is rarely seen to rest. However, his progress is slow, for even little trees take a long time, and there are many big ones which he cannot dent with his axe. The man is a strong fellow and a hard worker, but he takes a day off now and then. His vigorous and persistent labors are highly effective, but there are some trees that defy his best efforts. The giant is tremendously strong, but he spends most of his time sleeping. Whenever he is on the job, his actions are frequently capricious. Sometimes he throws away his axe and dashes wildly into the woods, where he breaks the trees or pulls them up by the roots. On the rare occasions when he encounters a tree too big for him, he ominously mentions his family of brothers -all bigger, and stronger and sleepier.
In their last sentence, they suggest the truth as in a dream. This should be the extreme dimension of their theory, accounting for the largest facts before their eyes. Thus the larger catastrophic origins of the morphology under examination are excluded.
A century ago, geologist Clarence King was describing the river system of the Pacific coastal area of the United States  .
A most interesting comparison of the character and rate of stream erosion may be obtained by studying in the western Cordilleras, the river work of three distinct periods. The geologist there finds preserved and wonderfully well exposed, first, Pliocene Tertiary river valleys, with their boulders, gravels and sands still lying undisturbed in the ancient beds; secondly, the system of profound caZons, from 2000 to 5000 feet deep, which score the flanks of the great mountain chains, and form such a fascinating object of study, and not less of wonder, because the gorges were altogether carved out since the beginning of the glacial period; thirdly the modern rivers, mere echoes of their parent streams of the early Quaternary age. As between these three, the Early Quaternary rivers stand out vastly the most powerful and extensive. The… present rivers are utterly incapable, with infinite time, to perform the work of glacial torrents. So, too, the Pliocene streams, although of very great volume, were powerless to wear their way down into solid rock thousands of feet, at the rapid rate of the early Quaternary floods. Between these three systems of rivers is all the difference which separates a modern (uniformitarian) stream and a terrible catastrophic engine, the expression of a climate in which struggle for existence must have been something absolutely inconceivable when considered from the water precipitations, floods, torrents, and erosions of to-day.
Uniformitarians are fond of saying that give our present rivers time, plenty of time, and they can perform the feats of the past. It is mere nonsense in the case of the cañons of the Cordilleras. They could never have been carved by the pygmy rivers of this climate to the end of infinite time. And, as if the sections and profiles of the cañons were not enough to convince the most skeptical student, there are left hundreds of dry river-beds, within whose broad valleys, flanked by old steep banks and eloquent with proofs of once-powerful streams, there is not water enough to quench the thirst even of a uniformitarian. Those extinct rivers, dead from drought, in connection with the great cañon system, present perfectly overwhelming evidence that the general deposition of aerial water, the consequent floods and torrents, forming as they all do the distinct expression of a sharply-defined cycle of climate, as compared either with the water phenomena of the immediately preceding Pliocene age or with our own succeeding condition, constitute an age of water catastrophe whose destructive power we only now begin distantly to suspect.
These passages, according to the model for which we are groping, refer to the three phases of recent quantavolution. The Pliocene river beds represent a period of increasing disorder and deluge in the world for about two thousand years prior to the climactic lunar fission. The awesome dead rivers of the Early Quaternary are relics of the phase of mountain thrusting, westward movement of the American continent and the deluges associated with it, which broke down and flushed away the elevated landscape onto the shelves and slopes along the Pacific scarp. The rivers of the American heartland do not exhibit so obviously the recent catastrophic forces. Still, in the late Pleistocene, both the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers changed their courses markedly along an east-west axis, provoked by great seismism [3A], and watched, most probably, by awestruck humans.
Today's third phase finds "pygmy" rivers, many in new channels, watering and draining the country. We group all three phases in the latest of holocene period of the past 14,000 years. "Nothing comparable" with the second phase river action, "ever now breaks the geologic calm," writes King. Then, with prescience of the concept of "collective amnesia," he adds that the idea of "catastrophism is therefore the survival of a terrible impression burned in upon the very substance of human memory."
Some rivers possess drowned deltas of enormous proportions. The collision of India with Asia produced, besides the Himalayas, two equally large-scale, if less visible, phenomena in the deltaic fans of the Indus and Ganges River. These stretch into the Indian Ocean, one to the west, the other to the east of the subcontinent, covering with detritus ocean basin areas together as large as India itself. Like the raging torrents of yesterday in North America, these great transporting systems are today inactive. Although the rivers still carry two of the largest flows among all of the world's rivers, they are, as King would say, "pygmies" compared with their ancestors, their "fathers," or "holy fathers" at that, because all of this work that conveyed the tumbling slurry from high places for hundreds and thousands of kilometers had to do with mountains and plateaus just created. There stand no millions of years behind these works of nature.
It would seem appropriate to pass from the subject of rivers to that of undersea canyons by way of the most famous of natural monuments, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Grand Canyon is a monument also to deceased uniformitarian geology. It is so well-studied and rationalized, with long-time-term reckoning, that every geologist is expected to recite its history liturgically. Not so Cook, nor Kelly and Dachille, nor the present writer.
Conventionally, following Woodbury, Shelton, and Redfern, we commence with an age approaching two billion years ago. Radiochronometry supports the great ages found in the canyon. The canyon proper is allowed an age which Derek Ager, for example, sets at ten million years, but, pursuing a negative exponential principle, gives one million years to the mere latest fifty feet of erosion  . (That is, a practically catastrophic rate is seen to have occurred at times.)
The floor of the Grand Canyon complex is an unknown material supporting what is called Vishnu schist, composed of mud, sand and lava. Thereupon the miles of sediments begin to pile up, most of them now missing, and probably eroded, but today some three miles can be accounted for: one in the bottom and main canyon itself, a second mile from the brink of Grand Canyon to the top of Zion Canyon, and a third up the face of the higher plateaus to the top of Bryce Canyon. Wind and water bring in the sedimentation layers. Many in variety, several distinctive deep beds of schists, sandstone, limestone and shale compose the great bulk of deposits. Discoverable in the series are ten major unconformities and many minor ones, where intervening layers existed and were worn away before being covered by new deposits.
The area was uplifted and submerged a number of times with relation to the seas around. Some lapses in the record are so prolonged that whole mountain ranges on site could be worn down and planed off by erosion, succeeded by new tall deposits. Fossils of algae, primitive and later vertebrates, fishes, and footprints of amphibians are discovered in ascending. Fossil trees, fishes and reptile tracks are found in higher Triassic rocks. The fossil record stops at the Eocene epoch of the early Cenozoic (recent) era. In the Cenozoic, the entire region was uplifted from near sea-level to the present elevation. During uplift periods the Colorado River system has washed away materials and cut the gorges. So goes the gradualist solution of the Grand Canyon scene.
The quantavolutionary view, as may be supposed, stresses high energy forces, fractures and quick deposition. "Many of the pools and rapids in the Grand Canyon are located where the river crosses regional and local fracture zones."  Cook points out that the Canyon is narrow at Supai Village and that the gorge appears to have ruptured open in a brittle fracture. The Grand Canyon, as was mentioned earlier, is perceived as a branch of the earth-girdling rift system; numerous other branches of the fracture system are observable north and south of Grand Canyon also. All of this occurred when the continent was thrust westward over the Pacific Ocean rift and the ocean rift fractured the continent. A number of orthogonal embayments of the Canyon are perpendicular to the main fracture or canyon, and these have been filled with debris from the outpouring of temporary great inland lakes known to have existed in the region.
The three miles of sediments, all heavily fractured, were products of overthrusts from afar and of great slurries that brought in and laid down beds of fossiliferous sand and mud. Speaking of the sediments of hundreds of feet, "if all this was a very slow process requiring millions upon millions of years, how did it happen that the rivers carried nothing but clay for millions of years and then suddenly changed to sand?" And "nowhere today do we find rivers producing deposits of such uniform nature..."  The erosion was generally prompted by heavy seismism. The fossils found in the beds would have quickly disappeared if they had not been buried in sudden local and general disasters. The radiochronometry employed is of dubious validity, or, let us say, requires a specific set of challenges going far beyond these rudimentary paragraphs. All may agree that in the deep non-marine but water-deposited Eocene limestones of Bryce Canyon may be found some excellent carvings.
Grand Canyon would be a minor feature of the continental slopes of the ocean and a minor canyon among submarine canyons. Even the Hudson River possesses one as awesome; it proceeds underseas for hundreds of kilometers, first cutting into the continental shelf, and then extending down the continental slope to the abyssal plain of the ocean, 4.5 kilometers below sea level. The difference is not that the one has grown sub-aerially and the others aquatically; both types have been sub-aerial for all their active lives. The seas encroached as the lunarian period created the sea basins, slopes, and canyons. Grand Canyon and several other such remarkable sub-aerial features are of the ilk; a comparison of a profile of Monterey Submarine Canyon (California) and of Grand Canyon  reveals very close similarities and indicates strongly a common ancestry.
Scores of impressive submarine canyons extend the courses of rivers around the world. The idea that they were once active as rivers was resisted for a generation. In 1936, Francis P. Shepard could formulate the predicament, which still stands unresolved  :
Investigations of submarine canyons carried on for a number of years with the cooperation of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Geological Society of America, Scripps Institution and other organizations have revealed that these sea-floor canyons have all the characteristics of river canyons and are distinctly different from fault valleys. Also tests of the idea that the submarine canyons might be the product of currents have produced negative results so that they have evidently been cut by rivers. The significance of this sub-aerial erosion on the present sea-floor is particularly disturbing, since the submarine canyons extend out to depths of from 2,000 to as much as 10,000 feet and are found off practically every coast of the world. Also all available evidence favors a Pleistocene age for the canyons. Accordingly, there is the implication that the coasts of the world were greatly elevated above their present positions during the glacial period. That all the continental margins both off stable and unstable coasts could have been subjected to such movements in comparatively recent times is scarcely credible. The alternative that there have been sea-level changes connected with the cause seems much more reasonable. Such changes are indicated not only by the submarine canyons but also by many of the phenomena of coral reefs and by oceanographic data from various parts of the world. The only cause of sea-level change which does not meet with almost insurmountable objections is that of glacial control. It seems quite possible that the continental glaciers during some of the earlier glacial epochs may have been sufficiently thick and sufficiently extended to have allowed a lowering of 3,000 feet or more. While such a lowering was probably insufficient to account for the deeper canyons it is felt that it would have resulted in the development of a universal canyon system which, connecting with much older sunken canyons in some places and modified by subsequent sinking elsewhere, would account for the present situation.
The world would have to be a great ice mountain to provide such waters. The waters had to come from elsewhere, and be accompanied by great tectonism. We hold rivers to be based upon faults.
In the same year, geologists Harry H. Hess and Paul MacClintock presented a striking solution. They saw in the canyons evidence of recency, a late Pleistocene age, of suddenness of creation, and of worldwide simultaneity. Here are the three primary tests of quantavolution, all passed by the submarine valleys. Then they are compelled, with reluctance, apologies, and special consultation with H. N. Russell (who advised against it), to advance the quantavolutionary mechanism, exoterrestrial encounter. The passages deserve quotation  :
The valley-cutting conditions resulted from a sudden change in the shape of the hydrosphere, depressing sea-level in low latitudes, raising it in high latitudes; in other words, a change in the ellipticity of the sea surface. At present we can think of no orthodox cause for this change... However, a speculation comes to mind; if a sudden decrease in the rate of rotation of the earth took place, the hydrosphere would respond by being drawn into polar latitudes. The solid body of the earth would less rapidly adjust itself into a new spheroid in equilibrium with the slower rotation, which adjustment, when complete, probably would restore sea level to approximately its present position. But during the adjustment, it is postulated that there would have been time enough to allow rivers to cut valleys on continental slopes. While of course we do not know what could have caused the sudden change in rotation, it is conceivable that a collision with a small extra-terrestrial body would be competent to produce the effect.
The authors then sought for evidence that the depths of the canyons would decrease from the equator to the poles, and, second, that there would be found high marine terraces in the northern latitudes where the shores would have been temporarily flooded. Indications of both were deemed favorable.
The failure of theory to move along such lines is unaccountable, except in terms of the psycho-sociology of science of which we speak in the Velikovsky Affair and The Cosmic Heretics. Many years later one reads in a study by Landes approvingly  :
I claim that the finding of graded clastics and misplaced (shallow-water) faunas deep beneath the sea is not prima facie evidence that they were carried there by turbidity currents: that the finding of cobbles does not prove that they were transported by submarine landslides; and that photographs of ripple marks lying at a depth of 4,500 feet do not necessarily mean that they resulted from current action operating at depth... I likewise believe that deep-sea- floor current ripples, like the truncated seamounts, are relics of shallower water.
At this point, Landes should be looking into the ancestral skies. Instead he suggests that the deep ocean basins might once have been over 20,000 feet deeper. Even this idea might lead somewhere, but, instead, the ad hoc argumentation that so often passes for geological theory obtrudes; when in trouble, call upon isostasy, diastrophism, time, lifting, and, as here, sinking, and thus by name-calling the problem is solved and the matter ends; the data are not pushed to their ultimate meaning.
Landes writes: "What manner of logic allows us to accept evidence, such as marine strata, of a sea-level far above present datum of 25,000 feet, but causes us to run from evidence of a sea-level depression of 25,000 feet?... What is so sacrosanct about current sea level?" The trouble here is that the logic is not good enough. One ought not to have indulged in the notion of a sea-level 25,000 feet higher because of the marine fossils up there, especially while he was laughing over Noah's Ark. Furthermore, the present sea bottoms and therefore sea-levels can be depressed by another 25,000 feet, but again no mechanism is perceived.
He, and others, should be asking the deeper questions: "What are these deluges that humanity has been clamoring about since the dawn of history?" "Must every drop of water bear the holy stamp, 'Made on Earth'?" "How long does it take a pre-designed fracture trough to make a river channel, complete with fractured and non-fractured meanders? .... What is so sacrosanct about the ocean basins having always been filled with water?" I think that we have progressed far enough along in this book to dispose readily of the submarine canyon problem. The canyons were instantly created great river courses that rushed down, first, precipices, then, steep slopes, then gradual slopes, into the ocean basins that were only partly filled with water. Drainage of the water-logged continents and successive deluges filled the ocean basins to overflowing. As the seas encroached upon the rivers, the rivers were also receiving far less water to give to the sea. The underseas box-like, sluice-like channels ended their careers as turbulent rivers within perhaps two thousand years.
They have not filled with sediments. Gross, in his Oceanography, says that submarine canyons would soon fill up if they were not being emptied by turbidity currents. Geology has invented some bizarre mechanisms to circumvent catastrophism and here is one of them: turbidity currents. They have never been actually observed; they are "intermittent;" they are caused by earthquakes; they have speeds of 20 km/ hr; they account for anomalous continental sand and fossils found on the ocean floor. A rare study assigns them credit for having broken a trans-Atlantic bottom cable. (Still, no one denies seismism.) Would not such currents act as bulldozers instead of sweepers, and fill, rather than clean out the canyons? Our quantavolutionary theory is adequate for all that bespeaks turbidity currents, including the oceanic sands and fossils.
A question remains to perplex: if the continental blocks were meanwhile rafting over long distances, would they not have left behind their detrital slopes? The slopes would then be flat and spread over the abysses. A logical answer is available here, too. We have but to recall that the continents travelled because they were both pulled and pushed. If they had been only pulled they would have left their ocean moraines behind. But they were standing on a kind of conveyor belt, as has been said by Harry Hess and others, and their slopes moved right along behind them; the belt was being pushed by the lava currents issuing from the ridges, fissures, and volcanos. Anyhow, the canyons were working rivers after the continents ceased to move rapidly, and before new ocean waters drowned them.
In concluding the chapter, a few words may be in order on the more puzzling problem of the deep sea trenches. These deep, narrow and often long slits in the crust are found in various regions but are especially prominent around the Pacific. There they gash the sea floor off of South America, Central America, the Aleutians, Kuriles, Japan, the Philippines, Java, and various island fronts, including a long stretch north of New Zealand.
In a typical large trench, a depth of ten kilometers is precipitously achieved, with a slant toward the continental rock against which it is emplaced. Its sediments are shallow, its walls bare. Trenches were never rivers. A function for them was hard to discover until the tectonic plate theory of continental drift went shopping for its mechanism. Then it occurred that the ocean floor being made at the ridges had to be disposed of somewhere else, if the world was not expanding. For lack of better, the trenches became locations into which the sea floor plate crept upon encountering another plate, thus disposing of itself tidily. The next chapter will handle this theory, but we cannot leave the trenches without an explanation.
Trench walls are igneous for the most part, straight, and nearly vertical, like fault scarps, say Heezen and Hollister about the Puerto Rican Trench. They belong to the period of great disruption. Their oceanic sides abut continental walls that are much taller and deeper; the connection between the two may not be binding in many or any trenches. The continental wall is of varying chemical composition; the oceanic wall is purer basalt of the mantle. They heat and expand, cool and contract at different rates. The gap or trench may occur as a pull-back of the oceanic basalt or the continent, a drop fault where nothing drops. "The crustal block which forms the floor of the Puerto Rico Trench resembles the dropped keystone of a rising ramp, which once bridged the transition from the thin oceanic crust to the thick foundation of the island arc." 
Sediments of the trenches are scanty. The same writers say: "It is a general lack of sediment accumulation which is the most notable feature of all the deep-sea trenches. This lack... demands a recent origin of trench topography."  Recent must mean holocene or pleistocene, it appears. But now, the plate tectonicists chase in full cry after the trenches as fulfilments of the need of convection cells and subduction of continental and oceanic material. Are trenches barren because they appeared lately or are they barren because they have just digested hearty meals of sial?
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Notes (Chapter Twenty-three: Channels and Canyons)
1. Anon., 229 Nature (5 Feb. 1971), 371.
2. Bellamy, M. M. M., 261-2.
2a. 68 J. Geol. (1960), 54-74.
3. 11 American Naturalist (August 1877), 449-70.
3A. A. C. Johnston, "A Major Earthquake Zone on the Mississippi," 246 Sci. Amer. (Apr. 1982), 60-83.
4. Op. cit., 48.
5. R. Dolan, A. Howard and D. Trimble, "Structural Control of the Rapids and Pools of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon," 202 Science (10 Nov. 1978), 629-31.
6. Kelly and Dachille, op. cit., 113.
7. Ibid., 81.
8. 83 Science (May 22, 1936), 484.
9. 83 Science (1936), 332-4.
10. Reprinted in W. Corliss, compiler, Strange Planet (Glen Arm, Md: Sourcebook Project) vol. El, Doc. ETS-002).
11. Op. cit., 490, 467-9.
12. Ibid., 483-4.