Thursday, November 17, 2011

The 7 Wonders Science Center!

We pulled off our first-ever attempt creating a museum at the Seven Wonders Science Center here in Ferguson this past October.

The city decided to do a temporary revitalization project, “temporary” as in “one day,” called the Better Block, to give residents a glimpse of what could be if more businesses opened up downtown. The public was given the opportunity to use vacant retail space for one day for free. We saw the ad and decided to volunteer an idea inspired by our limited experience in patronizing creationist museums.

We threw together a proposal, and it was quickly accepted!

Our shock at being accepted soon turned to immediate procrastination. Not intentionally, of course, but we did have a few oars in the water already, as usual. Those oars, along with some huge trials in the lives of dear friends, were on our minds and in our hearts as we put the finishing touches on our project.

The theme of Mount St Helens was chosen because it seemed to give us a limited scope that we were pretty familiar with, as we have listened countless times to the fascinating presentation by Lloyd Anderson of the original 7 Wonders Museum (the presentation is coincidentally available on our website). When we told the Andersons about our project, they wasted no time in sending us copious information and materials to help make our museum the success that it was (or the success it could have been if it were not us in charge). It was almost like a museum kit! We are very grateful for their enthusiasm!

NOTE: This is NOT a real volcano.

The heart and soul of our museum was this homemade volcano, constructed of chicken wire, twinkle lights, pieces of closet doors, batting from a worn out quilt, masking tape, craft paper and staples. Not visible is the cutaway “magma chamber” to the side, created with a red party tablecloth and a strobe light.

We wanted to make the volcano something that would be realistic, but not too scary, tangible, but not too scientific, and cheap, if not free. Free was the name of the game, and we only signed up because we felt that we could pull it off with very little cash outlay. So this thing was our highest cash expenditure (apart from Taco Bell). And we had never even built one of these things before.

(Can you tell?)

Actually, our inspiration for the volcano was that there was some ceiling damage to this large room which we were to occupy. The stipulation for the room's use was that no people could be under the hole in the ceiling during our event. So, we stretched our imagination to figure out a way to incorporate an off-limit area in our museum, and a volcano just seemed to be natural.

We shared the entrance with several other pop-up businesses. Abi made a stunning sign which we knew would attract crowds, but we also sent out emails to everyone we knew in the area.

We enticed the public to our museum through the use of newspaper clippings and photos of the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens in Washington State which we attached to the walls of the entrance with clear contact paper. Our entrance also had that volcanic motif (we wanted to use up the extra craft paper). It was whimsical, but not too scary (and biodegradable too).

So what, you ask, are the 7 wonders of Mount St Helens?

We are so glad you asked!

The seven wonders refer to seven geological changes which were plainly observed during and after the volcanic eruptions, all of which have been generally assumed to require long periods of time (e.g. millions of years). Most excitingly, they point us to a miniature example of some of the effects of the greatest catastrophe the world has yet known: Noah's worldwide flood.

As Dr. John Morris of ICR explains:

"The comparison between a recent volcanic eruption and the Flood may seem tenuous, until one realizes that the Flood, while dominantly a hydraulic cataclysm, was also triggered and energized by a tectonic convulsion of earth's surface. The first mechanism God used to judge the earth was when "all the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up" (Genesis 7:11), sending tsunamis and mudflows across the continents, no doubt accompanied by mega volcanic eruptions. This was followed by an upwarping of the ocean bottom, spilling its contents onto the continents. Then came the months-long downpour of rain.

"Consider that most of the damage done by the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption was water related, not volcanic. The glacier on the mountain's summit suddenly melted, sending avalanches of water and debris cascading down the mountainside, depositing thick, water-saturated sediments on the lower slopes and throughout the drainage basin."

Mount St Helens was the most observed and documented volcanic eruption perhaps of all time, a perfect living laboratory for scientists... and average folks like us!

Abi quickly cranked out some simple, yet elegant, signs depicting the title of each exhibit.

Obviously, the number one wonder was the actual eruption. Though average compared to volcanoes in history, it included the largest landslide ever known on earth, as much of the summit fell to the valley below, causing catastrophic destruction at and near the volcano.

We had a video showing some of the eruption and its effects, and a hand out sheet for kids with an overview of the 7 wonders. The video really was amazing!

As Lloyd and Doris Anderson explain:

"MSH was acclaimed the most beautiful of the Cascade peaks. Cone-shaped and snow-covered, it towered over heavily-forested deep ravines with a crystal clear lake to its north. In March of 1980, magma began moving up into the mountain wedging it apart. A powerful earthquake at 8:32 a.m., on May 18, caused the north slope to plunge into the valleys below, releasing the pressure within with a lateral, northward, fan-shaped explosion. This initial eight minute blast destroyed 230 square miles of forest.

"The mountain continued to erupt until evening, expending the power of 20,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. In those nine hours, the top 1/4 and entire center of the mountain disappeared, leaving a vast, gaping, horseshoe-shaped crater. Deep ravines were filled, 250' of material was deposited on the bottom of the lake, and the river that drained the north and northwest sides of the mountain was buried under an average of 150' of deposit. In just nine hours the region had become a hideous, lifeless moonscape.

"For 150 years geological evolution minimized the role of catastrophic events. Yet the enormous geological change produced by this nine-hour eruption of a minor volcano would take a million years of gradual change."

After the eruption, dislodged hunks of snow and glacier from the summit were buried under hot ash. As a result, several huge pits were created (not in millions of years, either). The result was topography similar to the Badlands!

Lloyd and Doris explain:

"Badlands topography is found in the Southwest and in South Dakota. It occurs where loose material has been eroded in areas of rock structures, leaving a jagged but picturesque landscape. The standard explanation for such landforms is that water, over the centuries, washed away the loose materials, leaving free-standing towering rock patterns.

"At MSH the massive landslide carried huge amounts of ice and snow with it, burying them in the deep valley to the north. Throughout the day 30' of 550 degree F. ash was also deposited, which quickly melted that ice, causing it to "flash" to steam. This is the same energy process that caused the explosions up in the mountain throughout the day. Water expands 1700 times when it turns to steam. When this happens instantaneously, it is an explosion. Eventually through similar explosions all the water was used up.

"When the red hot ash covering the buried ice and snow in the valley caused that ice to melt and "flash" to steam, something called "steam explosion pits" (up to 125' deep) were formed. They had nearly vertical sides until gravity collapsed them to produce a "rill and gully" effect, one of the features of badlands topography. (Rills are small gullies). The great badlands features in the US could also have been produced by catastrophic forces and some by volcanic action."

A video for this exhibit included clips of some of the bubbling and boiling, and we set up a hot griddle so kids could sprinkle water and watch the eruption of water flashing to a boil, from a safe distance of course.

A very cool and widely observable effect was the fine layered ash deposits — several feet of them — which were laid down in hours after the eruption. The ash was sorted as it fell to earth! The same effect is seen when you mix sand, clay, gravel, etc. in a jar with water. (We set some of those up, but broke one jar, and decided to nix that activity.)

The girls were able to crank out some stunning display boards for each of the wonders (using their scrapbooking and card-making skills). They used the information and photos which the Andersons sent us. We also had some wonderful panoramic posters for the walls. It was fun seeing things come together!

There were mudflows after the initial eruption, and those flows were documented as they produced canyon systems which bear amazing (miniature) resemblances to Grand Canyon! These canyons were formed in very rapidly, not in many years (and not at all millions of years). They contain all the same inexplicable features seen at Grand Canyon, except now we can see a explanation.

The pumice that the Andersons sent us made a fun activity, coupled with regular rocks of various sizes.

The video shows the canyon features and includes details about the mudflows and canyons.

Lloyd and Doris Anderson explain:

"In the five months following the eruption two canyons were formed by mud and pyroclastic flows, establishing drainages for the 1.5 x 2.0 mile crater. The primary drainage, Step Canyon, is up to 700' deep. To its east is Loowit Canyon. Both canyons cut through 100' of solid rock. Creeks flow through each canyon. The typical evolutionary explanation is that a creek slowly forms a canyon over vast ages. In this case we know that the canyons were formed quickly; then a stream began to run through them. Textbooks say the most spectacular canyon in the world, the Grand Canyon, was formed by stream erosion over a hundred million years. Now scientists who specialize in geological erosion believe it was formed rapidly just like these canyons at MSH. "

As a result of the mudflows and canyons formed, a river system soon followed. Water seeks its level, so a natural drainage basin was left behind. Ever heard that the Colorado River formed Grand Canyon slowly, eroding grain by grain of sand and rock over millions of years? Well, this river certainly didn't create this canyon. It was a rapid, catastrophic event... the same type of event now considered to be the cause of Grand Canyon!

“Did the river create the canyon, or did the canyon create the river?”

One of the awesome events happening with the initial eruption was that the landslide from off the mountain (the largest in recorded history) slid into Spirit Lake, which is at the foot of the mountain. This created a HUGE tsunami which blasted the nearby shore and snapped something like a million evergreens. They were washed back into the lake, and many are continuing to float on the surface of the lake after more than 20 years!

Quite a few, over time, have become waterlogged and sank... many in upright positions.... many at various levels, buried in the sediment. The sediment is peat...and the chain of events leading to its formation gives scientists a present-day example of coal formation!

After much study, many geologists are seeing this as the type of event that could have created the Petrified Forests, such as in Yellowstone National Park. Previously, it was thought that these petrified trees at Yellowstone were different fossil forests, which grew at different times and thus different levels.

In an effort to have more hands-on activities, we put this together: you weigh down one end of a straw with modeling clay and drop it in the water to simulate the logs at Spirit Lake getting waterlogged on the denser bottom end and sinking in a vertical position. (This was a very popular activity for guests as well as smaller Kleins.)

However, the logs at Spirit Lake are also being buried, missing root balls (just like at Yellowstone). The tree rings of many petrified logs at Yellowstone were later tested and it was found that they were indeed all trees that grew at the same time, were uprooted, and later deposited as we now see. This discovery was largely due to what was observed at Spirit Lake after the eruption.

Oooh, real petrified wood! Stuff like this really added a museum-like quality to our science center.

Lloyd and Doris Anderson explain more about this wonder:

"A million trees were washed into Spirit Lake the day of the main eruption. As the years go by one by one they become waterlogged and sink to the bottom. Dense root wood is still a part of 10% of the logs. Those logs sink to the bottom in an upright position and their roots quickly become covered by the continuing sedimentation washing into the lake. They give the appearance they grew and died where they are deposited, one forest on top of another over long periods of time.

"Such formations are found in other places, including Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park. There, geologists found forests "rooted" in 27 different layers in the ridge and concluded they were observing 27 successive forests. The interpretive sign at Specimen Ridge expressed their error. It read: "Buried within the volcanic rocks that compose the mountain are twenty-seven distinct layers of fossil forest that flourished 50 million years ago."

"Today the truth is out and the sign is gone. Scientists realized that the Spirit Lake phenomena explains Specimen Ridge. The trees floated on a lake, became waterlogged and sank to the bottom over a period of time, giving the appearance of multiple forests that grew one on top of another. The 50 million year formation could have formed in just a few years plus the time necessary for petrifying the logs (100 to 1000 years)."

Here we just included some of the signs of life that have been returning to the area of the devastation. You can read more here.

We enjoyed seeing familiar friends pop in and check things out.


The Build Your Own Volcano table was a hit!

Our friends at Missouri Association for Creation provided materials for a book table. We appreciated seeing several members!

Joanna surprised us all with her heretofore unknown volcanic building skills! We re-purposed some of our CocoaConf name tags to lend some respectability to our staff.

Well, it seemed like it took millions of years to set up for this event (which only took about 7 literal hours), but we found that after it was all over, we were really tired.

It was a great opportunity to work hard, meet the movers and shakers in Ferguson, spend time and have fun with lots of families, and share the things we have learned. It doesn't take a PhD to look at what happened at Mount St Helens and see that it didn’t take millions of years.

We are so thankful for our friends the Andersons, and their tremendous help and continued work at Mount St Helens.


Anonymous said...

so thankful for you all and this museum and all the information of facts never known before... God is so amazing,, His love is so amazing... so divine...

Kim said...

Wow! The Andersons shared this link with me! I love it! What a fantastic job and ministry! Woo Hoo! So excited to see this! (: Way to go! Keep up the great work for Christ!

In Christ,
Kim Jones

P.S. My husband & I gathered that pumice in August. We got trapped in quick sand during that adventure, but God allowed us to escape! So glad to see it put to such wonderful use! (: