Review of and comment on: Antonio Zamora “The Neglected Carolina Bays”, one of the best and smartest books ever written about meteorite impact cratering, – recommended to all impact researchers and geologists.
Under the title “The Neglected Carolina Bays”, Antonio Zamora has just published a book – a true gem of scientific endeavour – in which he sets out all the research that has been carried out to date on these amazing geological structures. The objective of the following commentary is to make known the main points of this research, its author and a small explanation of why they have been “forgotten”.
by Ferran Maria Claudin Botines. October 2020.
1 Who is Antonio Zamora?
Antonio Zamora (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Zamora ) is a scientist (chemist, hematology technician and computer scientist), currently retired, who among other things has specialized in impacts. Although he is not a geologist by training, he has a high level of knowledge of impact geology. He achieved this level by attending courses, conferences and field trips, as well as studying on his own and working on impact structures.
2 What does he set out in his book? :
In the book cited, “The neglected Carolina Bays”, Antonio Zamora explains that the “Carolina Bays” are the result of the impact of fragments of ice from a glacier cap (the Laurentian Ice Sheet; see https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capa_de_hielo_Laurentino and Fig. 1) that covered the area of the Great Lakes (located some 1500 km from the “Carolina Bays” area).
Figure 1. The Laurentian Ice Sheet in the Americas. The Great Lakes area has been circled in purple. Extracted and modified from http://cambioclimaticoenergia.blogspot.com/2011/09/la-fusion-del-manto-laurentino-y-su.html.
These fragments originated when a planetary body was impacted in the Great Lakes area, specifically around Saginaw Bay. The ice fragments, which constituted the ejecta (material fragmented and expelled from the crater originated by the impactor on the ice cap), gave rise to the “Carolina Bays” when they impacted on materials that were not very consolidated and had a certain water content, causing liquefaction and acoustic fluidization, giving rise to the generation of secondary craters. These secondary craters initially had an inclined cone shape, because they were originated by oblique impacts, morphology that by a viscous relaxation process would end up giving rise to the current elliptic shape that can be seen in the aerial and satellite photographs (see Fig. 2). The divergences from this main form are due to several factors that Zamora demonstrates through a series of experiments with analogical models.
Figure 2. Predominant morphology in the Carolina Bays (extracted from https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/the-atomic-comet-the-carolina-bays/carolina-bays-lidar/)
Thus, Carolina Bays can be defined as “shallow elliptical depressions with raised edges over unconsolidated terrain whose major axis is oriented towards the Great Lakes region. The prototypical Carolina Bays are elliptical in the mathematical sense and have an average width to length ratio of approximately 0.58. Carolina Bays are only found within a 1500 km radius of the Great Lakes” (Zamora, 2015).
The main characteristics are: a. their ellipticity, b. their NW-SE orientation (deviations from this direction seem to be systematic with latitude), c. their shallowness (maximum 15 m depth), d. the presence in some of them of elevated sandy edges (with maximum development on the SE edge) that vary between 0 and 7 m in height, e. the possibility that the bays overlap each other without destroying the morphology of any depression, f. the non-distortion of the stratigraphy downstream of the depression, g. they always occur in unconsolidated soils, h. they appear preserved on soils of different ages and formation processes, i. they may be filled or partially filled by silts of organic or inorganic origin.
Their origin cannot be due, according to the data so far, to any normal (1) geological process. The proposed “terrestrial” origins are: the action of water and wind currents, thermokarst, the action of groundwater-dissolution-installation of lake areas-wind action, and processes similar to those that formed the Australian salt lakes. Of all of these, the first and second are the ones that have the most followers among non-impactists (2). As for the first one, which is based mainly on a thesis not published in any peer-reviewed journal (Kaczorowski 1977), we can say that it has no experimental or observational basis to prove it. The second is that although it has been defended by one of the most important impact geologists in history (see Melosh, 2011), field and satellite observations clearly demonstrate its unfeasibility.
(1) When I speak of normal geological processes I do so in the sense of qualifying that they are those due to the Earth’s own dynamics (weathering and erosion, karstification, wind action, glacial action). Here, however, it could be said that impact cratering, i.e. that produced by the impact of planetary bodies (asteroids or comets) on the Earth’s surface, is also a normal geological process in the solar system. A process that not only affects the Earth but all the planets of the Solar System. Therefore, the word normal should also be applicable to the impact origin of the Carolina Bays.
(2) At this point I must refer, reluctantly, to the well-known confrontation between impactists and non-impactists. This confrontation has been going on for a long time and is still going on today. The cases of the lunar craters (confrontation between J.D. Dana and G.K. Gilbert (see Claudin and SanMIguel, 1983)), the Ries crater, the Vredefort impact structure, the Sudbury impact structure, etc., can be cited to illustrate this. In most of these cases, the confrontation is between regional geologists, who have carried out “normal geology” work in the area (on tectonics, on groundwater, on stratigraphy….etc) and those “impactists” who advocate the impact origin of some structure present in that area. This would also be the case of the “Carolina Bays”. I must also point out, without wishing to offend, that in the majority of cases the non-impactists have a very poor degree of knowledge of the impact processes. Scarce knowledge that possibly, not to say that in its totality, is related to the circumstance of the non-teaching of impact geology in the faculties of geology (being a “normal process” and fundamental in the evolution of all the planets and bodies of the Solar System).
Regarding its genesis by impact, it is worth mentioning that its attachment to an impact origin is not only due to the ideas of Antonio Zamora. Before him, as he tells us in the book, there were already proponents who defended its creation by impact (including among the most recent Firestone et al. (2007), and his proposal on the impact event to explain the cooling that occurred during the Younger Dryas).
Apart from citing all the authors in favor of the impact hypothesis (explaining their main arguments), it also does the same for the non-impact authors. In this way the book constitutes an interesting source of information about the history of the Carolina Bays.
But for me, the jewel in the crown is the whole argument about the evidence of the impact origin of the Carolina Bays. For this purpose, the author carries out a series of conclusive experiments (with analogical models) that show how conical craters are produced in unconsolidated terrains and with a certain fluid content from low velocity impacts (which is what happens when we have secondary cratering from ejecta impact on the ground), and how these become elliptical bays due to the viscous relaxation phenomenon. Likewise, in his experiments with analogical models it can be seen how overlaps between structures are produced that can give rise to curious shapes (which is common when we have a shower of ejecta impacting on an area), how the elliptical shape can be deformed by lateral slides, and how the original topography and lithology also affects the morphology of the bays. It also demonstrates mathematically, through statistical analysis of the bays, that the predominant shape is an ellipse (not an oval) and that the major axis shows an orientation towards the Great Lakes area that varies with latitude (which is what is expected when the ejecta blanket is ejected at a great distance from a certain area and extends from it). Another important point is the observation of possible inverted stratigraphy of the edge materials from the data that did not fit in a non-impact publication (3). Finally it shows how the stratigraphy of the impacted zone can be preserved under the crater – that is under the bay – by viscous relaxation, and how the use of the OSL method (optically stimulated luminescence) is not valid for dating the Carolina Bays. All of these observations serve to convincingly refute the objections raised by the non-impactists and provide a coherent explanation for the field and satellite observations.
(3) In this case it is the article by Bunch et al., 2012. In the article they mention – thankfully, because many authors eliminate the data that are not favorable to them – the results obtained when analyzing the age (by the optically stimulated luminescence method) of three samples taken from different depths of the edge of a bay located near Blackville (in South Carolina). The ages were younger for the shallower sample, older for the sample located in the middle and an intermediate age for the older sample. This is precisely what would be expected when there is a stratigraphic inversion at the edge of an impact structure. Nevertheless, Zamora proposes – as a good scientist – that more tests of this type be performed on various structures.
And since all these results lead to the conclusion that these are the structures created by the ejecta impact (as already proposed in his publication in Geomorphology (see Zamora 2017), then it can be inferred that in the Great Lakes zone there was an impact regardless of whether or not the structure generated by the impact is found (a structure hardly preserved if it is assumed that the impact occurred on an ice mass of more than 1 km in thickness). If we add to this the fact that structures similar to those of the Carolina Bays have been found in the Nebraska area (the Nebraska Rainwater Basins), whose major axes also point towards the Great Lakes, we can infer the point where the impact occurred and where the crater should be (see Fig. 3). This point is Saginaw Bay, where, although no crater is currently visible, Lake Huron is located (which would be the most favorable location for drilling to try to reveal the possible impact).
Figure 3. Diagram of the point inferred from the extension of the major axes of the Carolina bays structures (to the right of the image) and the Nebraska Rainwater basins (equivalent to the Carolina Bays in the Nebraska areas). The point coincides with Saginaw bay. It is evident that finding a crater at this point, taking into account that the planetary body that produced it impacted on a mantle of ice more than 1Km thick (between 1 and 2 Km thick) is very difficult. First, because the mantle attenuated the impact and second, because the melting of the ice gave rise to a series of flows that dragged the materials generated and obliterated the crater. Image extracted from http://cintos.org/SaginawManifold/Distal_Ejecta/Nebraska_bays/index.html
Finally, Zamora relates the impact that occurred in the Great Lakes area, which led to the formation of the Carolina Bays and the Nebraska rainwater basins, to the impact event of the Younger Dryas (the recent Dryas, which occurred now between 12700 and 11500 years ago (4)). Although this impact event – as well as the relationship with the Carolina Bays (5) – was proposed as such by Firestone et al. in 2007, it was quickly dismissed by the non-impactors as invalid because no crater that could have produced it (the smoking gun), no evidence of shock metamorphism, and no geochemical anomalies indicative of material from space were found in sediments of that time. Regarding the fact that no crater has been found, it is to be expected when a planetary body impacts an ice layer of between 1 and 2 km thick. As there are no signs of shock metamorphism, we must first find materials that can preserve them (which is difficult since the crater and its proximal ejecta were obliterated by the flows generated by the melting of the ice; the only hope, for the moment, would be to drill in Lake Huron and in the bays to see if the ice fragments carried with them rocky materials from the impact zone). Regarding the fact that no geochemical anomalies have been found in sediments of the recent Dryas age, it is worth mentioning the article by Petaev et al. (2013), in which they talk about a clear platinum anomaly found in a survey in the Greenland area and which coincides with the recent Dryas period (which would argue for the impact of a siderite poor in Ir). At present, the non-impactists reject the impact hypothesis as a cause of the cooling produced during the recent Dryas (clinging mainly to the argument that there was no ice sheet in the Saginaw Bay area at the time of impact and that the ages of the Carolina Bays are diverse (dating them by means of the optically stimulated luminescence technique (6)) and advocate explaining the cooling of the recent Dryas by an entry of fresh water from the breakage of Lake Aggasiz (see https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lago_Agassiz) into the Gulf thermohaline current. This input caused the slowing down of the Gulf Stream, a current that redistributes the temperature from the equatorial zones towards the polar zones, causing the global cooling of the recent Dryas (see Leydet et al. (2018)). What the proponents of this hypothesis have not taken into account is that an impact on the Saginaw Bay area could have caused the lake to break up and thus cause global cooling.
(4) Should we talk about impact or impacts? It should be noted that there are also indications in South America (Pino et al., 2019), specifically in Chile, of an extinction of fauna associated with the layer that marks the boundary of the recent Dryas. In this case, some Cr-rich spherules were also associated (which had not been found in the other 50 localities of the 4 continents investigated, and which suggests a Cr-rich impactor). Similarly to the case of North America, no associated crater has been found either, although the possibility that it is the Iturralde crater in Bolivia has been suggested. In any case, what seems well established is that the extinctions of the recent Dryas were not due to the cold or the predatory action of the humans of the stone age.
(5) It should be noted that in the 2007 article, Firestone et al. only speak of the Carolina Bays but do not specify that these are craters produced during the impact event. On the contrary, in their 2006 book (The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes) they did mention that they were craters produced as a consequence of the impact event.
(6) The presence of ice in the recent Dryas period in the Saginaw Bays area is supported by the article by Blewett et al. (1993). These authors dated the moraine materials of Port Huron at 12960±350 years. The technique of optically stimulated luminescence is not applicable to the dating of the Carolina Bays because, since they are generated by impacts, the materials that are dated correspond to those of the original target and not to those corresponding to the formation of the Bay (for a more detailed explanation see pp 232-233 of the book).
Associated with the recent Dryas impact event, Zamora also cites an article on the likely decline in the “breeding male” population of hominids due to lower temperatures that caused a decline in hominid populations worldwide (Karmin et al. 2015, Catalano et al. 2008).
3 Why forgotten
The Carolina Bays have been silenced, that is, kept in a kind of limbo, when in fact they are the proof that there was an impact on the Great Lakes area. This has happened because of the failure to investigate in detail that Zamora has done. The fact that they are secondary craters produced by impact ejecta means that they can be used to demonstrate the impact site without the need to see the crater (see Fig. 4) and therefore a further reinforcement for the YD impact event (recent Dryas).
Figure 4. Image of the Mars surface where the rays (radial marking system) produced by the ejecta ejected by the crater located in the zone in question can be seen. We do not see the crater, but we can deduce its position. This is exactly what is done in figure 3, where the rays would be the trajectories that would mark the lines that join the major axes of the Carolina Bays and the Nebraska rainwater basins to their intersection at Saginaw Bay (Great Lakes area). Image extracted and modified from https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistema_de_marcas_radiales
But why the self-censorship? But why this leaving aside the investigation of the Carolina Bays? Why this reluctance to know more about those structures that Antonio Zamora has encountered and is encountering? One assumption is that since this research added one more problem – one more line of confrontation – to the impact event hypothesis proposed by Firestone et al. (2007). I suppose they preferred not to insist on the original idea that they were craters. Although I am afraid that as always it has to do with the process of advancing scientific ideas.
The first idea to keep in mind is that science, regardless of its definition (to date there is still no general consensus on its definition) is a social activity that seeks the development of a special kind of knowledge (Campanario 2004). Therefore, scientific work is generally a collective work that in principle should be open to scrutiny by other members of the research community (Campanario 1999). In order for this scrutiny – that critical observation of the ideas set forth in a scientific work – to take place, it is important that they be published. Through publication in specialized journals, researchers expose their work and conclusions to the rest of the scientific community so that it can value them. In general, the first community in charge of evaluating this work is that of scientists working on the same subject (what Crane (1972) called the “invisible school”). Obviously, within the community (since it is not usually very large), most of the members know each other, even if it is not in person. Sometimes, as in congresses and conferences, the bonds between members are closer. Thus, it is normal that apart from the members of their own working group, people relate to the members of other working groups. In this way, social networks appear between individuals. In these networks, as in those of any field of human activity (I would dare to say that of any group of primates and animals) there are nodes (individuals or groups of individuals) that stand out more than others. We would say that they are the stars that shine in the dark; those that have more influence and respect.
In science we have already commented that publication is very important. And it is so because not only does it aspire to the recognition of the personal ego, but the career of a scientist depends on the quality of the journals where he or she publishes and the quotes and references that he or she gets from others. Within the term career we talk about the status within a group, economic subsidies to continue research, the possibility of external advice to other groups, of becoming a reviewer in the judgment of the work of other members…etc.
This last aspect, that of reviewer in the trial and scrutiny of other members’ articles has its importance. Some researchers, and people in general, tend to think that “correct” scientific theories end up being imposed on “incorrect” ones on their own merits. That is, when one theory better satisfies the explanations of a certain phenomenon than another, the latter ends up imposing itself. In a just and neutral world it should be so. But the world of science is neither fair nor neutral (although it appears to be). Let us remember that it is the community that decides which works are accepted or not for publication. This “social” process, where the work of scientists is analyzed and validated, is known as “peer review” and plays a fundamental role in scientific life (Campanario 2004). This system consists of the editorial teams and the referees of the scientific journals evaluating the articles that are sent to them for publication or not.
And this is where the drama (or lack thereof) begins. The reviewers must be convinced in the first place so that it can be published and the scientific community in the second place once they have read the article. But in order to publish, it is necessary to pass the scrutiny of reviewers who are usually scientists with experience and reputation in the subject of the article in question (or should be, because there are cases in which this is not the case). Reviewers, let us remember, belong to the invisible college where there is a whole series of relationships between members. In turn, they also have their own interests since they work in certain areas together with the members of their groups. They also need to publish in order to maintain their prestige and reputation with which to continue to obtain merit (funding, respect, promotions within their centers…) in order to continue with their careers. This means that sometimes, either because of preconceived ideas (most of the time) or because of maintaining their ideas (and their power…), they do not look kindly on publications that expose ideas that are contrary to the “mainstream” (to the dominant current). And this happens even if the author/authors of the publication under scrutiny have a great reputation. In these cases the article is subject to stronger scrutiny than in the case of continuing articles with pro-mainstream ideas. This may result in the non-publication of the article(s) and therefore be to the detriment of the author(s) who advocated the idea different from the conventional one. These authors thus become dissidents and their ideas provoke controversy.
Controversies can end up leading to a fight for reputations (Campanario 2004), in which we should not deceive ourselves – and as any researcher knows – the opinion of some members is worth more (or is more respected) than that of others.
During the course of the controversies, there comes a time when most scientists (usually those on the mainstream side) “pass on” the work coming from the other side. Once most of the academic community considers a matter to be adjudicated, little attention is paid to the new evidence and arguments that are presented. Continuing to insist on the issue can only lead to a further loss of prestige for those who are reluctant to accept the guilty verdict of their colleagues (Campanario 2004).
In this case, what can dissidents do? Basically 3 things (Campanario & Martin 2004): a. Obtain funds to continue their research from other sources (private, lobbying, agencies not concerned with innovative aspects, donations) ; b. Publish (send their articles to various magazines, conferences, do their own printing, publish books, seek coverage by the mass media); Survive the attack (continue without being distracted or losing courage, seek help from others who have suffered attacks, make the attack explicit by emphasizing the non-scientific aspects, expose the non-scientific interests of the attackers, counterattack using similar methods, take legal action)
Well, in the case of the proposal on the recent Dryas impact event, everything points to the fact that this situation of controversy has been reached. And in the concrete case of the Carolina Bays as well. The self-censorship applied by Firestone et al. in the case of the Carolina Bays, in the form of forgetting its original proposal, I would like to assume that it is an attempt to soften the controversy in the hope that it will be easier for the invisible school to accept the recent Dryas impact event.
If one analyzes all the evidence provided by Antonio Zamora in an unbiased manner, one will see that it is the simplest explanation and that it explains a greater number of field observations. Explanations such as the one proposed by Kaczorowski (1977), which were not even published in a journal for verification by referees, apart from not having any experimental basis (applying their methods, bays are obtained with a morphology similar to that of a rugby ball, among other things) and which do not explain most of the observations, can only prevail because they favor a certain collective predetermined opinion. In this case it is the action of wind and water over thousands of years (a situation that is clearly unlikely to produce the Carolina Bays). It doesn’t matter if the proposal is absurd and doesn’t serve to explain the observations: it is what the invisible school accepts.
In the case of the thermokarst, it is based – also without serving to explain the morphology of the Bays, or their distribution in specific areas of the land with certain characteristics (unconsolidated material with a certain water content) – on the opinion of one of the best impact researcher who has ever existed (Melosh 2011). In this case, we would be faced with a clear example that not all opinions are the same and that those of some members – the so-called star nodes – are so strong that they serve as a guide without the need to question anything else.
The book analyzed here is one of those small scientific jewels written in a simple but at the same time precise language, in which each field observation is explained and tested. It is useful for both neophytes and researchers. From its reading, and above all from its analysis, it seems that in the near future the Carolina Bays – secondary craters produced by the impact of ice fragments coming from the Great Lakes area – are called to be one of the strongest proofs in favor of the recent Dryas impact event in the North American area.
4 Bibliographic references:
– Blewet, W.L., Winters, H.A., Rieck, R.L. (1993): New age control on the Port Huron morraine in Northern Michigan, Physical Geography, 14:2, 131-138.
– Bunch, T. E. et al. (2012): Very high-temperature impact melt products as evidence for cosmic airbusts and impacts 12,900 years ago. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 109 (28): E1903-E1912.
– Campanario, J.M. (1999): The science we don’t teach. Teaching the Sciences, 17 (3): 397-410.
– Campanario, J.M. (2004): Scientists who question the dominant paradigms, some implications for science education. Revista electrónica de Enseñanza de las Ciencias, vol 3, nº3, 257-286.
– Campanario, J. M. and Martin, Brian, Challenging dominant physics paradigms 2004. https://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/12
– Catalano, R., et al. (2008): Ambient temperature predicts sex ratios and male longevity, PNAS February 12, 105 (6), 2244-2247.
– Claudin, F. and San Miguel, A. (1983): Importance of the cratering phase in the evolution of the planetary bodies of the Solar System. Inv. Geol. 37: 81-121.
– Crane, D. (1972): Invisible colleges: Diffusion of knowledge in scientific communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
– Firestone, R., West, A & Warwick-Smith, S. (2006): The Cycle of cosmic catastrophes. Vermont: Edit Bear & Company. 392 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-59143-061-2
– Firestone, R.B. et al. (2007): Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 16016-16021.
– Kaczorowski, R.T. (1977): The Carolina Bays: A comparison with modern oriented lakes. Technical report No 13-CRD, Coastal Research Division, Department of Geology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
– Karmin, M., (+100) et al. (2015): A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture, Genome Research, 2015 Apr; 25(4): 459-466, DOI: 10.1101/gr.186684.114
– Melosh, H.J. (2011): Planetary Surface processes, Cambridge University Press
– Petaev, M.I.; Huang, S.; Jacobsen, S.B. & Zindler,A. (2013): Large Pt anomaly in the Greenland ice core points to a cataclysm at the onset of Younger Dryas, PNAS July 22.
– Zamora, A. (2015): Solving the mistery of the Carolina Bays, Kindle eBook (ISBN: 978-0-9836523-8-0, June 12, 2015). Paperback edition (ISBN: 978-=-9836523-9-7, July 15, 2015).
– Zamora, A. (2017): A model for the geomorphology of the Carolina Bays. Geomorphology 282: 209-216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.01.019
5 Websites used: