Where Did the Water Go?

Alan Feuerbacher

Like the question of where the water for the Noachian Flood came from, the problem of where it went has been discussed extensively. Concerning the disposition of the water, the Insight book says on page 610:

Evidently [the water] is right here on the earth. It is believed that there was a time when the oceans were smaller and the continents were larger than they are now, as is evidenced by river channels extending far out under the oceans. It should also be noted that scientists have stated that mountains in the past were much lower than at present, and some mountains have even been pushed up from under the seas. As to the present situation, it is said that 'there is ten times as much water by volume in the ocean as there is land above sea level. Dump all this land evenly into the sea, and water would cover the entire earth, one and one-half miles deep.'

This amount of water is equivalent to about 300 atmospheres (see previous section on where the Flood water came from).

So, after the floodwaters fell, but before the raising of mountains and the lowering of seabeds and before the buildup of polar ice caps, there was more than enough water to cover 'all the tall mountains,' as the inspired record says.

.... With the sudden opening of the 'springs of the watery deep' and 'the floodgates of the heavens,' untold billions of tons of water deluged the earth. This may have caused tremendous changes in earth's surface. The earth's crust is relatively thin (estimated at between 30 km [20 mi] and 160 km [100 mi] thick), stretched over a rather plastic mass thousands of kilometers in diameter. Hence, under the added weight of the water, there was likely a great shifting in the crust. In time new mountains evidently were thrust upward, old mountains rose to new heights, shallow sea basins were deepened, and new shorelines were established, with the result that now about 70 percent of the surface is covered with water. This shifting in the earth's crust may account for many geologic phenomena, such as the raising of old coastlines to new heights.

The Aid book says much the same on page 440, and adds:

.... With the canopy of water vapor a 'greenhouse effect' was created that provided even the polar regions with a tropical temperature, as geologists well know existed at one time. With the canopy, there was no need for it to rain, 'but a mist would go up from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground.'

.... This shifting in the earth's crust accounts for many geological phenomena, such as the raising of old coastlines to new heights. Mighty hydraulic forces were set on a rampage -- angry waves smashing mighty boulders together and drifting them great distances from their native setting, raging waters carving out valleys and canyons in all parts of the earth, tidal waves heaping up strange sedimentary deposits and burying beneath their thick layers the debris of animal and plant life.

.... With the removal of the insulating canopy the polar regions were suddenly plunged into a deep freeze and many forms of animal life were refrigerated for thousands of years. Glacial pressures were brought into play. However, the great gorges of the earth and the drifts of debris can be accounted for only by irresistible, incompressible water on the rampage, rather than by continental glaciers of so-called ice ages.

The God's Word or Man's book on pages 112-113 again says much the same, but is more specific on some points:

Since the mountains and sea basins rise and fall, it is apparent that at one time the mountains were not as high as they are now and the great sea basins were not as deep.... What happened to the floodwaters after the Flood? They must have drained into the sea basins. How? Scientists believe that the continents rest on huge plates. Movement of these plates can cause changes in the level of the earth's surface. In some places today, there are great underwater abysses more than six miles deep at the plate boundaries. It is quite likely that -- perhaps triggered by the Flood itself -- the plates moved, the sea bottom sank, and the great trenches opened, allowing the water to drain off the land.

It should be noted that the above accounts provide no quantitative information whatsoever, such as how long it took for the various geological phenomena to occur, in what manner the tectonic plates moved, how high the mountains rose, how low the seabeds descended, the volume of water ocean trenches could accommodate and how that would affect sea level, the order in which all these events occurred, or any phenomena on which it is possible to be pinned down. Few source references are provided, at least in the later publications. In the following discussion I will provide both quantitative information and complete source references.

The above cited references to the Flood make the following main points:

1. The present oceans are the remains of the floodwaters, which implies that the Flood would have been not more than about 8000 feet deep.

2. The mountains and deep sea basins formed during or shortly after the Flood.

3. The polar regions froze during or shortly after the Flood, forming the ice caps and burying tremendous numbers of animals and plants in mucky dumps.

4. Prior to the Flood there was a tropical climate earthwide because of the greenhouse effect of the water canopy, and rain was unknown.

5. The floodwaters were responsible for carving out valleys and canyons all over the earth, and leaving great drifts of debris.

To show whether the above points are in accord with observations of the world around us or not, I must discuss in detail a number of subjects including dating methods, plate tectonics, and the ice ages. Due to its length and application to issues beyond the question of where the water went, the discussion of ice ages is in a section by itself.

In researching this material I've noticed that many lines of argument the Society has used in the past, as evidence for the Flood, have been discarded. A large number of geological findings in the last thirty or so years has made many of these arguments untenable. This is especially true of arguments that were originally advanced, and are still used, by the so-called creationist movement. For example, the Society at one time endorsed, and the creationists still do, the idea that all the fossil bearing rock strata were laid down by the Flood. The Society seems to have changed its position on this. Some of the ideas mentioned above from the Aid book may also have been discarded, as they are not included in Insight, although I have not found any statements in Watchtower publications explicitly stating this.

It is also instructive to look at the Society's latest articles on the Flood, "The Unforgettable Flood" and "The Flood in the Legends of the World," in the January 15, 1992 Watchtower. These articles discuss no physical evidence whatsoever, so that the only evidence presented is the Bible itself and legends.