Rapid petrification of wood

Petrified wood is highly prized for its beauty as well as its scientific significance. It is derived from normal wood that has turned into solid rock. AOI staff members are frequently asked: “Just how did that wood get turned into stone?”

No, it did not get scared or “petrified” with fright! The most common scenario is for a tree or a branch to get buried in an area that has a lot of ground water laden with minerals. The ground water saturates the wood and the organic material is replaced with these minerals resulting in petrification. Sometimes this process preserves so much detail that one can actually count the tree rings. (Such as in the petrified pine at Gingko Petrified Forest, WA.)

One common mineral that petrifies wood is silicon dioxide. The macro (large) crystal form of it is called quartz. In its purest configuration, it forms clear, six-sided crystals which are prized by collectors. It also occurs in a micro-crystalline form which is called agate, chalcedony, or chert. Frequently, other elements mixed with the silicon dioxide can give the agate many of its gorgeous colors. Wood replaced by this solution produces the beautifully colored petrified wood found across the world.

How long does it take to petrify wood? Most museums and books tell us that it takes millions of years to do so. However, time is not the hero of the plot. Conditions are much more important.

Dr. Andrew Snelling gives several examples of wood petrified in extremely short periods of time.1 He cites petrified fence posts with axe marks and drilled holes with wire still attached. His article also references a 1983 US patent #4,612,050 for a petrification chemical formula. Various commercial operations have begun to produce petrified wood products including fence posts and beautiful petrified wood flooring that is petrified to various depths. There are obvious benefits for these petrified wood products. They don’t burn or decay and their extreme hardness dissuades horses from chewing on the treated fence posts! Power line maintenance crews have reported rapid petrification of trees after being struck by lightning. Various reports made by individuals in different localities indicated their chain saws wouldn’t cut the branches. Instead, they merely sparked and ruined their chains. Evidently, mineral-rich water in the trees instantly petrified them due to the combination of heat and pressure from the lightning.

Snelling also reported that natural conditions at Yellowstone National Park’s famous hot springs have been shown to rapidly petrify wood to various degrees (1) He also referenced experimental petrification research conducted by five Japanese scientists at the Tateyama Hot Spring in the Toyama Prefecture of central Japan(2) Their research showed that petrification by silicon dioxide replacement was occurring rapidly, with the actual rate of petrification (silicification) greatly increasing with time between the 1 and 7-year experimental time period. The researchers also noted similar petrification environments throughout the volcanic deposits in their area. Personally, I find that interesting since much of the petrified wood I have found has been in similar, silica-rich volcanic deposits and associated mud flows. These conditions are also responsible for the vast amounts of stone trees found in the volcanic deposits of the famous Petrified National Forest as well as those found in Yellowstone National Park.

Sometimes, when wood is buried under very hot volcanic ash, it can be totally burned out leaving a cavity in the cooled and hardened volcanic debris. When silica-rich groundwater fills the cavity, it can result in a “petrified cast” made of agate and even crystals. Note: the agate rings are not tree rings in the sample.

The obvious conclusion is that millions of years are not necessary to petrify wood. Tens to hundreds of years are sufficient. Flood scenarios combined with volcanic activity can adequately explain many of the massive deposits containing petrified wood found worldwide.

-Dave Nutting

Research courtesy DiscoverCreation.org


1 https://creation.com/instant-petrified-wood

2 https://www.icr.org/article/rapid-petrification-woodunexpected-confirmation-c

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