In November of 2013, over 600 miles south of Tokyo, a volcanic eruption formed a new island. That new island continued to grow for over a year, eventually joining itself to the neighboring island of Nishino-shima, a volcanic island formed long ago. Today, volcanic activity continues to cause this new ocean-island to expand bringing it to its current size of about one square-mile in area and rising up over 300 feet above sea level. Volcanic material has now covered the entire extent of the island of Nishino-shima, destroying all of the vegetation and animal life on that island.
Once the volcano falls dormant, the long process of reclamation of the island by plant and animal life will begin again.
What we have witnessed over the past year is a microcosm of the events that have produced dozens of other volcanic islands in the region. This same processes have also produced much more massive volcanic islands, such as the Hawaiian Islands and even the main Japanese islands themselves.
Young Earth Creationists (YECs) will soon be claiming that the quick formation of this new island is evidence that even larger islands like the Hawaiian Islands could have been formed in only a few years. The recent origin of Hawaii is already part of the YECs’ mantra. Answers in Genesis’ primary scientist, Andrew Snelling, has stated:
If the volcanoes that formed Hawaii’s eight major islands had been formed before or during Noah’s Flood, the Flood would have deposited sediments on their flanks. But they have none. So we know the volcanoes must have erupted following the Flood. From: Hawaii’s Volcanic Origins – Instant Paradise
Snelling goes on to suggest that, just after the global flood, enormous volumes of magma flowed, creating the islands quickly and making them look as if they are ancient. Hence, the Hawaiian Islands are less than 4500 years old, having formed in a geological “instant.”
Snelling’s logic, however, is shortsighted and in complete denial of the clear evidence.
In fact, the growth of this new island near Japan provides evidence of an ancient earth, not of a young earth. It shows that even geological formations produced by catastrophic events can take long periods of time to take their mature form.
Notice that, in the images above, the new volcanic material is covering the former island. That former island has some vegetation. This vegetation will be scorched and turned to charcoal underneath the onslaught of magma. In a few years, geologists will be able to take a sample core from this island and will find that in the core there will be layers of organic material and soils that represent were plants grew on a previous surface of the island. Decades from now there will likely be new plants on this island, and they may themselves be preserved by the next iteration of volcanism.
Looking back it will be apparent that, although the island experienced a radical makeover in just a single year, the island itself is a product of short bursts of change, followed by longer periods of stasis. The presence of a soil layer with charred plant remains will be a testimony to one of those past periods of stasis when plants grew on the island.
The older island that has been altered by this latest volcanic event was itself changed by volcanism in 1973, after what seems to have been thousands of years of no volcanic activity. Since that time, it has taken another 40 years for the volcano to become active again.
The growth of most volcanic islands follows this type of pattern. Below the sea is a massive mountain, thousands of feet tall, which has likely taken hundreds of thousands of years of intermittent volcanism to reach its current size and appear above sea level.
This and other small islands in the region are like miniature Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii, massive as it is compared to Nishino-shima, would have taken far longer to produce from similar volcanic behavior.
But the YECs might counter with a question. Could it be that past volcanism was simply thousands of times more powerful, producing lava continuously and therefore creating the Hawaiian Islands quickly? Could they not have formed in a few decades, rather than millions of years as Snelling suggests?
The preponderance of evidence says NO.
There is no reason to believe that geologic mechanisms that produced these islands were significantly different from those we are witnessing today. The Hawaiian Islands are all volcanic in origin. You could describe their origins as catastrophic in some sense, but that doesn’t mean they were produced in a few decades or centuries.
If the main island of Hawaii was formed in just a few hundred years, right after a catastrophic global flood, then one would expect evidence on those islands of near-continuous volcanic activity. This continuous activity had to have produced mountains larger than Mt. Everest in volume and height (when measuring that height from the ocean floor).
However, you only need to look at a vertical core taken on the Island of Hawaii to realize that the Hawaiian Islands had been formed from periodic volcanism. This is the kind of volcanism that we witness today on Nishino-shima or even on the southeastern end of Hawaii itself, where the Kilauea volcano intermittently comes to life.
A core—thousands of feet into the volcanic rock of the island of Hawaii—clearly shows a long history of unique volcanic events. These are interspersed with periods of no volcanic activity, in which soils formed, plants grew, and erosion occurred. Evidence of vegetation between layers of volcanic rock is clear evidence of periodic, or non-continuous, volcanism. To go from a fresh lava field to forest-cover takes time. To do it over and over again which is what the cores samples suggest, take a lot of time.
It takes time to build a volcano
The current eruption near Nishino-shima is quite impressive. Large volumes of magma have been produced nearly continuously for over a year. In that time about one square mile of new island surface area has been produced.
By comparison, the main Island of Hawaii is 4028 square-miles in size. It would take a minimum of 4000 years of continuous volcanism for Nishino-shima to grow into anything close to the size of the island of Hawaii.
This estimation doesn’t even consider that 99% of the volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Islands are below the sea. If the YEC hypothesis is correct, the entire volume of those volcanoes also would have to have been produced in the past 4000 years as well.
So even if continuous volcanism had occurred, these islands would still take a long time to produce. YECs therefore must simply assert that volcanism in the past occurred at 1000 times the present rate observed, despite no evidence of that increased rate and in the face of evidence that the rates in the past have been similar to those observed in the present.
In my next post, we will see that the organisms that used to live on this small island of Nishino-shima are also a testimony to the long period of time that it takes for a volcanic island to form.