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The Aquanaut Research Vessel

In 1993, a team of Russian scientists at the P.P. Shirshav Institute of Oceanography in Moscow were planning an expedition to the Black Sea. They were to measure the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyll nuclear power plant to see whether it had reached the Black Sea region. They needed financial help, thus were looking for participants from the west.

Ryan and Pitman were invited because of their past experience. In 1980, Ryan had overseen the building of a geophysical instrument to take the first sonar pictures of the Titanic on the bottom of the North Atlantic. Now the Datasonics Corporation in Catamut, Massachusetts offered to lend a brand new portable sonar instrument that was well beyond the capabilities of Ryan’s original. Ryan and Pitman hired a summer intern, Candace Major, an undergraduate geology student at Wesleyan University to identify fossils and to give a knowledgeable interpretation of the ancient seabed environment of the Black Sea.

They set out for an oceanographic laboratory on the Black Sea’s eastern edge at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. It was here that they boarded the Russian research vessel, the Aquanaut. The Russians called their new sonar devise, the CHIRP.

Once the CHIRP was mobilized, signals of the seabed appeared on the computer screen. For the first time the scientists were looking at a dynamic color cat-scan of the seabed. The CHIRP displayed a 30 foot tall display of the sea bed. The upper 3 feet was remarkably homogenous and everywhere present. Its transparency to acoustic energy confirmed that it was water-saturated mud deposited far below the turbulence of surface waves. The strata beneath the mud contained highly reflective internal layering and many bright pockets of methane gas, which is a product of terrestrial plant decay. Ryan and Pitman reported, “Barely an hour into the run, the ship crossed the ancient streambed now buried beneath the homogenous mud. Looking into the sub-bottom the scientists could see that before being drowned and smothered by the mud cover, its banks had stood fifteen feet above its streambed and its width exceeded a quarter of a mile. With out the CHIRP no one would have known the ancient rivers whereabouts except through chance probing by expensive offshore drilling. Those onboard the Aquanaut had no doubt that the topmost homogenous sediment had settled on the seafloor only after the channel had been drowned by a rising sea.”(Ryan & Pitman, 1999;p125)

They were able to determine that this ancient river meandered southward in tightly curving loops across a terrestrial land floodplain before arriving at the Black Sea coastal delta. The branching delta began at the ancient edge of the Black Sea. Here the incoming sediments kept on infilling and building the offshore shelf in a seaward south direction. As the vessel sailed southward, they were able to trace the ancient land surface to a depth greater than 500 feet. There the bottom fell away at a rapid rate over the edge of the continental shelf. In a span of 12 hours, they were able to identify benches and terraces more than 450 feet deep. They were the relic shorelines of a continually shrinking Black Sea lake that were formed prior to the flood of marine ocean water. This verifies that the level of water was greater than 500 feet lower than the present level.

The first core from the seabed was in intermediate depths of 225 feet. The massive coring tube traveled down at about 5 miles per hour. It suddenly stopped as if it hit pavement. When retrieved, the top 4 feet consisted of glistening olive gray mud underlain by an inch of pale colored sand held together by hard dry clay. This dry clay revealed the abrupt change from marine to continental.

The next cores all experienced the same hard sub-bottom erosion surface. The eighth core was in 325 feet of water. It encountered 4 feet of the homogenous olive gray mud underlain by 2 feet of light gray dry clay with fine sand. This clay contained residue of freshwater mollusks, plant fragments and woody material. Algae growth covered some shells indicative of a shallow lagoon. Several tiny snails or gastropods were found. The fossil assemblage reflected that the sands were deposited in a coastal delta, a distributary channel or bayou lake or even a marsh. There were some vertical cracks infilled with sand. These cracks formed when the fine-grained sandy soil dried and shrunk in the sun. Thin wiry fibrous roots of plants were also found. Thin laminations of sand were indicative of windblown dunes along the rims of a shrinking lake.

The vessel, then, moved to deeper water of over 400 feet along the outer edge of the continental shelf. The results were very much the same.

The vessel moved to shallower water where the CHIRP discovered a ribbon of dunes following the 250 foot sea-bottom contour. Ryan and Pitman describe them, “They were linear ridges about one mile in length and eight to ten feet in height. Where sampled by coring, the dune were draped by a uniformly thick layer of olive gray homogenous mud overlying shelly debris abraded to sand sized particles.” Then they say, “If the sea had gradually drowned the terrestrial landscape, the dunes would have washed away or at least degraded their shapes as they moved from land through the dynamic surf zone to become a seabed. Loose windblown sand would readily submit to the beveling action of beach migration. And even if the dunes partly survived the submergence, they would have been leveled by the motion of sea waves.” Ryan and Pitman conclude, “The sonar imagery spoke for itself. The dunes were pristine. The mud that smothered them was no more abundant in the troughs than on the crests. Only a very abrupt drowning could have accounted for their remarkable preservation.”(Ryan & Pitman, 1999;p136-137)

The Black Sea is up to 6000 feet deep and is underlain by thin oceanic crust. The vessel crossed over the edge of the continental shelf revealing the deep sea bottom below. According to Ryan and Pitman the seabed contained no gravels, plant debris or dry soil, but only water saturated mud and clay. The vessel then returned to the edge of the continental shelf. The CHIRP recorded the lowest shoreline to be between 520 to 570 feet below the present sea level.

Dating the Abrupt Marine Invasion

Ryan and Major carefully picked from each core the mollusk shells they found in the base of the olive green mud lying directly on the dry soil, in order to determine their own carbon 14 dating measurements. They took four or five samples from each core, giving preference to those with their two valves still in-tack. These fossils were the first settlers of this new landscape. The timing of their arrival would document when the flooding of the land took place.

In the United States, Ryan contracted Bill Jones at the Woods Hole Observatory to date the age of the fossils. Jones had overseen the design of a multi-million dollar device that measured time by counting atoms instead of sediment layers. This new cryogenic vacuum devise was capable of dating more than thirteen thousand samples in a year. This was well over twice the production rate of any other facility in the world. Its precision had improved so that he could now obtain repeatable results to within 40 years for material that was within 10,000 years of age. This was a great improvement over the old way of listening to the ongoing slow beta decay of naturally radioactive carbon 14, a procedure that could take a week of continuous monitoring.

Jones analyzed the Black Sea fossils by the above method. The results were 7,580, 7,510, 7,510, and 7,470 years before the year 1950 AD. All the ages were the same. This pointed to a single event in the past, which Bill Ryan had predicted. However, Ryan did not expect such a young age. He had expected a date of about nine and ten thousand years which would have been closer to Petko Dimitrov’s date for the Black Sea beach. Ryan’s reaction was, “when all that salt water poured in during the big catastrophic flood, it just shut down the breathing of the Black Sea.”(Ryan & Pitman, 1999;p149-150) Pitmann’s reaction was, “that Dimitrov’s dates were with beach fossils that had been exposed to the sun for about 2,000 years. The young age is going to make things much more interesting.”(Ryan & Pitman, 1999;p149-150) The amazing evidence of these dates verified a sudden catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea with marine water about 7,500 years before the present.

This new revelation embarked Walter Pitman to inquire into the archaeological record of this region. Ryan and Pitman say, “Pitman knew that farming had been practiced in neighboring Anatola and Greece for more than a 1,000 years before the date he was given. A community dependent on the cultivation and the seasonal planting of its fields and storage of the harvested grains would have made a substantial investment in its homeland villages. Expulsion by a permanent flood would have been close to annihilation. An exodus would have had the power to build a myth. Foragers might have simply trekked to another stream, another forest, as if nothing major had happened. But farmers and herders would have had to take their seeds and animals with them for survival.”(Ryan & Pitman, 1999;Ch16)


William Ryan & Walter Pitman, “Noah’s Flood” with the caption, “The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History,” produced by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999. All references are to be found in Ryan & Pitman’s book, “Noah’s flood.” Ross and Degens survey aboard the Atlantis 11 in 1969 is also referenced in this book.

last updated: February 27, 2013
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