About Polystrate Fossils

I received an email asking some common questions about polystrate fossils. To my dismay, I realized I had never actually answered these questions in writing anywhere.

Polystrate fossils are fossils which are buried in the sedimentary record cutting through more than one sedimentary layer. The rock layers are called ‘strata’ and the fossil cuts through more than one, hence the name ‘poly’ for many and ‘strate’ for the strata the fossil cuts through. Polystrate fossils are found literally all over the world.

This fossil plant (a type of plant called a Lycopod) buried vertically cutting through layers of rock at Joggins, Nova Scotia is a classic example of a polystrate fossil.

Polystrate fossils create an impossible situation for advocates of deep time. Clearly the rock layers have not been laid down over millions of years as the top of the trunk would have rotted away long before the layers were deposited. Yet the father of deep time, Sir Charles Lyell, still advocated that these plants were buried where they grew (‘in situ’) in order to bolster his ‘new history’ of deep time he invented to replace the Biblical story of a global flood. A gentleman by the name of Paul wrote in some questions regarding polystrate fossils:

Dear Mr. Juby,

I am writing with a question about polystrate lycopod fossils. I was tipped off that I should ask you about these because I saw an image on creation.com of one such specimen which had been attributed to you. I have searched through a bit of creationist literature and have thus far not been able to find any decent scientific sources to refute the skeptic’s claim that these polystrate tree fossils must have been buried in situ because they have intact root structures that grew into the surrounding strata. I have seen a couple of creation articles claim otherwise, but I didn’t find any suitable references to back up this claim. On the contrary, I was provided by a skeptic with a reference to a very old book from the 19th century that purports to describe them thus: “One of the most remarkable peculiarities of the stigmaria-rooted trees was the very regular arrangement of their roots, which … divide at equal distances … giving off, on all sides, an immense number of rootlets, stretching into the beds around, in a manner which shows that these must have been soft sand and mud at the time when these roots and rootlets spread through them … the roots found in them were not drifted, but grew in their present positions;”

Do your own observations contradict this description? Is this description even referring to the same thing as what creationists are referring to when they talk about polystrate trees? Wading through this mess is proving difficult, so I would be glad to receive any clarification or help you might be able to provide.

Acadian Geology, John William Dawson, Third Edition, MacMillan and Co., London, 1878

Excellent questions that I hear fairly regularly. It is true that there is often intact roots found attached to these fossil stumps. I have photos of dozens of such cases. Lyell’s argument (as well as Dawson and the modern day deep time advocates) is that the intact roots are evidence that they were buried where they grew. The fact that in general, the stumps with intact roots tend to be found on the same clay bedding plane further bolstered the claim that the bedding plane was the original forest floor which was also buried in place along with the trunks.

In the photo below you can see a chunk of one of the roots (commonly called stigmaria) and you can see the pock marks around the outside, each of which radiates a rootlet. The rootlets are visible in the counter slab as black marks as the roots, rootlets and plants have all now turned into coal.

It should be noted that these plants are still around today as the Lepidodendron. Today those plants grow to maybe 16 inches tall, yet in the fossil record they are found up to 120 feet tall. The roots and the trunks are actually hollow, although the trunks had a pithy core which was displaced and infilled with sediments when the trunk was buried.

The stumps are sometimes found with the rootlets and/or roots stripped from the trunks. Clear signs that the trunks were ripped up by water, transported a distance and buried, refuting the idea of ‘in situ’ burial. But let us remember that polystrate fossils are a global phenomenon that includes far more than just the lowly Lycopods. For example, polystrate fossil coprolite (fossil poo!) has been reported at the public fossil dig sites in the Green River formation of Wyoming. Solid wood polystrate fossil tree trunks have been found in multiple places like Yellowstone National Park, or Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian arctic. Interestingly, the ‘fossil’ stumps of Axel Heiberg Island aren’t fossilized – you can cut them with a hand saw and burn them. I have samples of this wood in my museum collection and these samples were included in the Carbon 14 testing conducted by Thomas and Nelson(1) and low and behold, there was lots of C14 found in them. But I digress. In the entire, exhaustive report by the Geological Survey Of Canada(2) on the alleged ‘in situ’ fossil forests of Axel Heiberg, you are hard pressed to find any stumps with intact roots! You will find one stump with roots extending a whopping 3 feet to a root end which has clearly been broken off. Yet these stumps are referred to consistently as buried ‘in situ.’ This is what is typically found in these alleged ‘in situ fossil forests’ claimed by advocates of deep time, so clearly their definition of ‘in situ’ and ‘intact roots and root systems’ are quite a bit different from mine!

Furthermore, the claim that the trunks of Joggins are all rooted in clay horizons (as implied by Dawson in Acadian Geology and reiterated by many deep time advocates) is demonstrably false. At the Joggins fossil cliffs the roots will be found in just about any form of deposit: clays, sandstones, shales, even coal seams. The polystrate Lycopods at the Wartburg, Tennessee coal mine were ‘rooted’ in the same horizon which was a coal seam. The polystrate trunks found in the Grande Cache coal mine (which we’ll look at closely in just a moment) were also rooted in the same horizon, a coal seam.

But let’s give the skeptics the benefit of the doubt: let’s assume that all of the stumps have intact, complex root systems in the same horizons. The roots of multiple trunks sharing the same horizon is actually not good evidence for in situ burial. Especially when one takes a closer look at those roots and their alleged ‘forest floor.’

Clearly visible roots apparently ‘floating’ above what would have been the soil line. The ‘forest floor’ horizon is marked in green.

Taking a look at the dramatic Lycopod stump, I’ve highlighted the very long root attached to the stump, complete with rootlets. Notice that the root descends from the stump, then ascends, bending upwards as if floating, and even coming up above what is claimed to be the forest floor horizon! This particular specimen has all the qualifications to meet the definition of ‘in situ’ put forward by the deep time advocates: It has intact roots and rootlets, it shares the same horizon with other stumps and roots, and it was rooted in what is interpreted as a clay horizon. Yet it is unlikely that the roots would have grown in this way – the roots grow down, not up. However, if this stump had been dislodged and transported by water, the roots would have been buoyed up in the sediments and water, thus we have an excellent explanation for this bizarre phenomenon. But – it gets better. The roots of that stump are actually entangled with the roots of a second stump which is underneath the first. The second stump is buried upside-down!

I have marked the prominent roots from the upright and inverted stumps. The inverted stump has actually fallen out of the cliff, leaving behind its impression and its root with intact rootlets. The upper stump has a second root coming down (in behind the word “roots”) which was apparently entangled with the roots of the inverted stump.

This second, inverted stump, also has all of the qualifications for the ‘in situ’ definition: intact roots and rootlets, sharing the same horizon with other stumps and roots, and it was rooted in what is interpreted as a clay horizon. But last I checked, plants don’t grown very well upside-down.

While not common at Joggins, I’d probably estimate about 1 in 100 of the polystrate Lycopods are buried upside-down. I am not the first, nor the only one to report these inverted stumps. Geologist John Mackay(3) has found some as well as Harold Coffin who documented some and provided photos of in his excellent book “Origin by Design.”(4)

When I visited the Grande Cache coal mine in 2010 to investigate the copious numbers of fossil dinosaur tracks found there, the young geologist and I made an unexpected discovery. The stratigraphic horizons are tilted up now from tectonic upheaval, almost to the vertical. We kept seeing these strange, star-shaped depressions in the layers.

When we came across one at ground level, we were shocked to find that these were all coalified stumps buried upside-down with their roots coming up into the coal seam (which had been mined away) and the trunk itself going downwards, cutting polystrate through the layers containing the trails of dinosaur tracks.

Telephoto image of one of the inverted stumps. Notice the fossil wave ripples in the sediments.
Multiple, inverted, polystrate stumps had their roots in the same horizon, now a coal seam which had been excavated for the coal.
One of the inverted stumps at ground level. While I couldn’t identify the plant, it was hollow like the Lycopods.

These stumps (the numbers of which I didn’t count – but as you can see were more than just a few) again fit the stipulations of the deep time advocates for interpreting these stumps as buried in situ: there were intact roots (though they have been removed in the mining operations) attached to the stumps and shared the same horizon with many other stumps. The only problem being, the trunks are all buried upside-down. Clearly these trunks weren’t buried where they grew. It’s also pretty clear that the multiple levels of dinosaur trails were not seasonal migrations as the stumps would have been sticking up from the sediments, upside down, for at least years while the sediments deposited every year for the dinosaurs to walk on. But I digress.

There is another significant argument to be made against deep time and the idea that these multiple horizons of fossil trunks were years of forest growth and burial. Take a look at this lycopod root:

A Lycopod root protruding from the cliff face.

This particular root is interesting for a few reasons. You can see the darker, differentially coloured sediments surrounding the root, as if the rootlets had clumped some soil surrounding the root when it was ripped up by water, transported and buried here. But this root, like all the others here, also tells a story of incredible pressures. The Lycopod roots were hollow and originally round. Notice the root has been squished vertically. The roots were very strong, hollow tubes and almost invariably have been crushed to failure. Although it’s difficult to see in the photo, the roots have not only been flattened vertically, they are actually split from the pressure on the top and bottom.

The sedimentary layers of Joggins total almost 20,000 vertical feet. You can walk miles of beach and because the layers have been tectonically tilted to the south (and then planed off flat across the top – see my CRSQ paper on these Planation surfaces(5)), you can examine thousands of vertical feet of sediments from the comfort of a stroll down the beach.

You’ll find roots throughout the thousands of feet which have all been compressed vertically. You’ll also find fossil logs which have been compressed to incredible levels, such as this one:

One of thousands of compressed and petrified fossil trees. Interestingly, the hollow plants tend to be buried polystrate (unless they were flattened) while the solid wood trees tend to be buried prostrate. Notice the log has been flattened vertically from compression at about 4:1 thickness ratio.

The pressures required to do this are astonishing. We can draw several, simple conclusions: 1) the trees and roots were still green when they were compressed. 2) the trees and roots had not rotted (they are preserved in pristine condition). 3) The trees had not yet petrified when they were compressed because simply put, you can’t compress a rock! 4) The Lycopod trunks and roots all show bending and compression which had to have happened while they were not yet turned to coal – they bent, instead of fracturing and disintegrating as hard and fragile coal would do. 5) The sediments the trees and Lycopods were buried in had not yet lithified (turned to solid rock) as the sediments themselves show compression and deformation along with the plants.

Everyone agrees that the compression was caused by the weight of the enormous overburden of sediments piled on top of the plants. In experiments conducted separately by myself and Vance Nelson (Creation Truth Ministries, Alberta, Canada) we were unable to deliver sufficient hydraulic pressures to mimic the compression we see in the fossil record. In my own experiment, I had pressures equivalent to hundreds of feet of overburden. So let’s play it safe with an unrealistically conservative number and say it requires a mere 300 feet of sediments to crush the Lycopodium tubular roots and the tree trunks. Starting at the bottom of the Joggins formation, we find crushed fossil logs. So a minimum of 300 feet of sediments need to be rapidly piled on top of the log before it rots, while it is still green and compressible, before it turns to stone, and before the sediments turn to stone. But in that 300 feet of overburden you will find many more crushed, petrified and coalified tree trunks and Lycopod roots – all of which also had to have been rapidly buried under a minimum of hundreds of feet of soft sediments before the plants rotted, while they were still green, before the plants turned to coal or stone, and before the sediments turned to solid rock.

But in that 300 feet of overburden sediments required to do this, you will find more crushed logs and Lycopod roots. Ad infinitum. You can put the entire ~20,000 vertical feet of sedimentary layers of the Joggins Formation into one, rapid burial event that accumulated so fast that the plants buried within were still green, had not rotted, had not turned to stone or coal, and the sediments had not yet had a chance to turn to solid rock.

Oh, and did I mention this is consistent with every formation containing polystrate fossils you find around the world?

What kind of event would rapidly bury millions of plants in tens of thousands of feet of sediments over a provincially sized area? I can assure you of one thing: whatever event that would be, we would call it a catastrophe, and on a global scale – not long and slow geological processes. Interestingly, that planation surface at the top of the cliffs is also a pertinent part of the big picture: the layers were eroded by huge volumes of extremely fast moving water. Everything about the Joggins formation in particular (but also attributable to every other polystrate fossil formation you’ll find) speaks of a huge, watery catastrophe of global proportions. I would contend it was the flood of Noah’s day. Yes, there is evidence for Noah’s flood. It’s all around you, and it’s profound and overwhelming.

Further reading: Chapter 13 “The Joggins Polystrate Fossils” in Rock Solid Answers, edited by Reed and Oard, Master Books, 2009: https://www.masterbooks.com/mwdownloads/download/link/id/307/

  1. Thomas & Nelson, Radiocarbon in Dinosaur and Other Fossils, CRSQ, Volume 51, No. 4, Spring 2015, pg 299
  2. Tertiary fossil forests of the Geodetic Hills, Axel Heiberg Island, Arctic Archipelago / edited by R. L. Christie and N. J. McMillan. GSC Bulletin 403 http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/21087/publication.html
  3. Mackay, personal communication. Mackay has spent decades researching the Joggins Fossil Cliffs and polystrate fossils around the world.
  4. Coffin, Harold, Origin by Design, 1993, Hagerstown, Maryland Review and Herald Hagerstown, Maryland, pp. 117-133
  5. Juby, Ian, Massive Mountain Planation of the Eastern Canadian Seaboard, CRSQ, 2013. 49:287-295

Introduction to electronics/robotics program in Sioux Lookout

Back by popular demand!

November 19th in the thriving metropolis of Sioux Lookout, Ontario!

Program 1 in the Robotics: Learn by building series:

Introduction to Electricity and Electronics


I’ll be hosting the first program in the “Robotics: Learn by building” series of in-class courses. Learn electricity and electronics with no prior knowledge or skills needed!

Youth program November 19th, 9am-4pm

Suggested age 9-16: In this intensive, full day program you will learn the basics of electricity and electronics by building a number of electronic circuits using professional electronic engineering tools. No prior knowledge (except very basic math) or skills needed. Parent/guardian participation is encouraged (and they get in for free!), so drag a parent or guardian along with you! You will make your own electronic components, and use microchips to flash lights, make sound effects and control a DC motor and a servo motor, all with a focus on electronics for robotics. You can purchase all the needed parts in a kit to use in the program, or bring your own electronic parts if you have them.

There will be a treasure hunt with prizes during the breaks throughout the day.

Make sure to pack a lunch and some snacks – you’ll be using your brain extensively which consumes a lot of energy.


The Robotics: Learn by building series of programs walk you from zero knowledge in robotics to actually designing and building your own robots from scratch.  This present program is the first in the series of in-person programs with extensive hands-on learning.  While the program is geared for the 9-13 year old range, Ian has had 8 year olds to 40-somethings take the program and enjoy it.

The accompanying electronics kit is optional, as you may have the parts already.  You are welcome to bring your own parts, just make sure you bring all of the parts in the parts list (click the big blue button to download the list)

Really big button to download the parts list

Parent/Guardian participation with their child during the kids program is encouraged, but not necessary.  Please provide an email address or contact info or download the information form and fill out one for each child.

Really big button to download the parent/guardian information form

Student seating is limited to 10 seats per class, so sign up early!  A $40 deposit is required to reserve your seat.  The programs will be held in the meeting room at the Best Western, Sioux Lookout

You can pay right here online using the convenient paypal link down below, or sign up by contacting Ian through email: ianjuby@ianjuby.org or telephoning toll-free at 1-877-532-9160 and hit “1” when you get the menu.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”nov19-workshop”]
ian-e1427728396691Your instructor, Ian Juby, has taught science and technology for 32 years. A robotics engineer by trade with an ambition for life-long learning, he has taught thousands of people from ages 8 to 65 at a premiere summer science camp as well as the high school and collegiate level. 

Robot Gripper Project:

Suitable for pretty much any age group from about grade 7 up, depending on how much preparation work you do beforehand. It can be made from a variety of materials such as cardboard with round toothpicks, to wood, plastic even metal and bolts. The choice is yours. Simply cut out the following parts and assemble them as shown. For the drive mechanism, a two 3cc syringes connected by 1/8″ I.D. plastic tubing and filled with water to act as hydraulic cylinders works well. As a high-tech alternative, servo motors from remote controlled cars could be used controlled by a computer using the printer port. For information on that, visit the “projects” area of the Hila science camp and research center at http:\\\fox.nstn.ca/~hila.


Cut out four outer finger pieces, 2 cm X 13 cm. Mark out your hole centers approximately 1 cm in from each end. The important thing in all of the parts is not so much where you place the holes for the hinge points, but that the holes are spaced exactly apart from each other. On this piece, the two holes need to be exactly 11 cm apart. If you are making this out of cardboard and using toothpicks for your hinges, just mark the spots and poke your toothpicks through there. If you are making it out of other materials, drill the holes an appropriate size for the bolts you will be using.


Cut out 2 toggle fingers, again 2 cm X 13 cm. Mark out three holes, starting at one end approximately 1 cm in and the second hole spaced 5 cm from that one, the third spaced 11.5 cm from the first one.

Cut out two grippers, 5 cm by 7 cm. Mark out two holes, 1 cm in from one side and spaced exactly 2.5 cm apart. If you are using wood, plastic, or metal you can use a hacksaw to make hatch marks as shown. This adds grip to the gripper.

Cut out a wrist base, 13 cm X 5 cm. Mark out your first hole, 1 cm in from the front, 1.5 cm in from the left. Mark out your next three holes from that one at 2.5 cm, 7.5 cm and 10 cm.

Cut out 2 toggle members, 5.5 cm X 2 cm. Mark your first hole on the length wise centerline at 1 cm in, and your second hole 3.5 cm from that one.

Lastly, cut out your actuator piece, at least 3 or four cm long and drill a hole in the end, centered, 1 cm in.

Put together the whole assembly as shown. Each outside finger is a pair of fingers, one mounted on the top of the assembly, the other underneath. The two toggle fingers are on the inside top. Notice the two toggle members are stacked, on on top of one finger, the other on the bottom of the other finger, with your actuator sandwiched in between the two.


To operate, merely move the actuator forward and back! You can operate it with a pair of syringes and tubing or you can mount and use a remote control car servo motor and control it by your computer. Visit the Hila science camp web site to see how to control the servo via your computer. Hila also has a rather large bank of educational ideas you can do.
Hila home page

Fun family fossil dig!

Fossils are surprisingly common in the Ottawa Valley and often very easy to get, you just need to know where and how to look. Rock cuts are fabulous places to check, and especially along highway 17 right beside the Muskrat river at the bottom of Meath hill there are several fabulous limestone rock cuts that are just plastered with fossils. Check it out and see if you can find the fossilized Coral Reef in the rock cut – then ask yourself a question: “How did this Coral Reef get here?”
There is no ocean for quite a few many miles from this site, yet here is coral. Leftovers from a global flood perhaps?

The shoulder of a busy highway is a LOUSY place to do a fossil hunt with a family. I am looking for someone in the Pembroke area who might be willing to host a family fun-dig for fossils. All you need is a limestone shelf. If you have rock on your property that looks something the colour of concrete, you probably have limestone. A small cliff would be perfect, or a really secluded rock cut is by far the best.

For more information or to volunteer your limestone shelf, drop me an email at ianjuby[@]ianjuby.org (removest though the [ ]’s)

The effects of pink light on life…

Currently, we as human beings are stressed out (gee, it takes a genius to figure that one out). Here’s why: Looking at diagram #1, you see a schematic diagram of the synopses of our nerves. There is currently a gap in each synapse which must be jumped electrically for our nerve signals to reach the brain, or transmit within the brain.

When you look at pink, (specifically in the shade of magenta), your brain secretes a substance called norepineferin, a neurotransmitter. This substance travels down the nerve cells, crossing the gap in our synopses allowing for much freer neurotransmission. The end result is faster mental capabilities and relaxation. It also can have serious impact on depression, ADD, and a host of other disorders.

There are several experiments that can be conducted:

-the effects of pink on neurotransmission based on mathematical ability
-the effects of pink on ADD, depression, and other mental / emotional disorders
-the effects of pink on plant growth

The effects of pink on neurotransmission

A simple experiment to conduct, a specific age group (such as younger children) with a wide assortment of “guinea pigs” is tested with some simpler to slightly complex math questions. Several different types of math sheets with various forms and complexities of math questions should be used. Several subjects should be tested on the sheets to determine average results of how long it takes to complete the sheet and how accurate the average individual answers the questions. These results would be your comparison results.

The next phase of the experiment is conducted in much the same manner except the tested subjects are either wearing pink tinted glasses, working in a pink environment (such as a small room with pink tinted windows), or even possibly just using pink paper (the neon pink paper works best) to print the math questions on.
The results are compared with the non-pink environment results to determine any effect.
As you can imagine, the hardest part is merely coming up with math questions of similar complexity, the rest is just footwork and organisation. In one very crude form of this experiment I conducted a couple of years ago, I was nothing less than stunned by the results. I do recall one girl cutting her math time to one eighth her original time for complex math questions.
If you are interested in conducting this experiment or one like it, e-mail me and I’ll give more detailed suggestions or may even be able to provide some math question sheets for the experiment to save space on this web page.

To study the effects of pink on ADD, depression, and other mental or emotional disorders:

It would be preferred that a professional phsychologist perform this kind of study, but if you’re interested, e-mail me and can provide some suggestions.
I can’t divulge details and I’d certainly not encourage anyone to do what I did (You had to have been there, I was desperate and had almost no options), but I personally used a different technique of triggering norepineferin production by a change in diet, and wound up watching it correct extreme schizophrenic halucinations in a friend of mine – within 6 hours! I was so caught up in the stress at the time I didn’t realize it worked until two days later.
Anyways, if you are a researching psychologist or psychiatrist interested in doing studies in this area (or have already – let me know the results please!), or you suffer from things like ADD or dyslexia and wish to experiment with the effects of pink light, e-mail me and I can give you more details. I really wouldn’t recommend experimenting without professional guidance of some kind though.

To study the effects of pink light on plants

Apparently botanists have found that plants grow best under pink light. I’d like to verify that by experimentation on numerous types of plants. There are other methods of plant growth encouragement I’d like to incorporate as well.
The experiment is simple; using pink plexiglass or plastic, shield your plant from normal light and allow it to experience lots of or only pink light. Have a second plant in the exact same environment but in regular light. Watch them grow! E-mail me and let me know how your experiment went!