Water, Water, Everywhere

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Noah’s Ark, and most of us are aware of the countless number of other cultures with similar myths of great floods. However, when a closer look is taken at some of the legends and myths the story gets just a little bit stranger. Different texts and legends range the Great Flood anywhere from six thousand up to one hundred thousand years ago, but one thing they all have in common, is that at one time in mankind’s remote past, the seas rose immensely.

Well most of these stories must certainly be variations from the same ancient beginnings, it’s possible the flood really happened far before the ancient Sumerians first chiseled it into stone. Surely it must take more than six thousand years for a story to reach every corner of the earth? Lets not forget this is in a time when long distance travel is very limited… no twitter…
superstition_mountains
Photo courtesy gemland.com Elevation 1541 Meters (5085 ft) above sea level
Note the Stone Soldiers standing guard

The Superstition Mountains and Toppenish Ridge

The Jicarilla Apache people of north-eastern New Mexico have several differing myths regarding a Great Flood. In most of them, even when the people escape to the tops of the tallest mountains, the water keeps coming leaving only the people with canoes to survive. In one tale that is particularly intriguing, the chief turns his warriors to stone instead of letting them drown. Legend has it the stone warriors can still be seen today high in the superstition mountains. The Yakima Natives have a similar tale, but much farther north in Washington. Again all of the people flock to the top of Toppenish Ridge, only to be overtaken by water. Now in this story there is no stone warriors but that’s not important.

What’s important about these two versions, is 1)They name specific mountain ranges that sunk beneath the waves, and 2)Neighbouring tribes have corroborating tales, just less specific. Now, this is where it starts to get interesting. The peaks of the Toppenish Ridge mountain range has an average peak height of 543 meters above sea level, with 659 meters (2174 ft)being the highest. That’s a lot of water! The Superstition Mountains make Toppenish Ridge look like nothing, they’re a whopping 1541 meters (5085 ft)above sea level at their highest! Now that’s tiny in the scale of mountains, until you take into consideration that all the legends say they succumb to the water, only the people in canoes survived…
tooppenish_ridge
Photo courtesy flickr.com The Yakima say Toppenish Ridge was overtaken with seawater

The Surviving Peaks

Now on to some, well not good, but better news. The Native Kwakiutl people of British Columbia, Canada have a flood myth in which there is no mention of why the floods came, in fact many of the aboriginal flood myths don’t mention why the floods came, however some did. Their myths simply states that very long ago a flood covered all the land, except for the mountain peaks to the north east of Bella Bella. Bella Bella is still a native reservation today, and roughly 80-100 kilometers (50-60 miles) north east the coastal mountains have peaks over 2000 meters (6600 ft) above sea level. The people were able to survive here until the waters receded (although no one knows how long) and went through great pains to rebuild the human race.

The Warm Springs Tribes of Oregon have their own version of the flood, except in this one the escape to Mount Jefferson, which happens to peak at 2700 meters (8900 ft) above sea. They believe their ancient ancestors canoe turned to stone and can still be seen today, one slight difference is they believe it was the third flood, which isn’t unique but is definitely less common. In northern India the Assam people say only one couple survived by climbing to the top of Leng Hill. Leng Hill is part of the Aravalli Mountains which peak at 1722 meters (5680 ft), barely high enough.

In Japan it was Mount Niitakayama that the Tsuwo people escaped to. In Papua New Guinea they called in Mount Tauga, which I couldn’t find any information on, however , in the tiny country there are over ten mountain ranges with peaks over our working flood line of 1550-1700 meters (5100-5600 ft), perhaps that’s why life is so diverse there. The Hawaiians fled to Mauna Kea, with summits of up to 4200 meters (13,860 ft), well the Papago survived atop Monte Rosa, which would have had plenty of land out of the water. Mount Baker, 3280 meters (10,080 ft), Sikkim 2640 meters (8700 ft), Southwest Timor 2960 meters (9760 ft), plus several peaks in Venezuela, All with flood myths surrounding them.

The Southern Sonoran Desert in the Sonora state of Mexico has elevations up to 2600 meters (8600 ft), said to have remained dry. In South America there are even elaborate ancient sites built at these high altitudes. I’ll finish with the legend of the Yamana, from what is now considered Tierra Del Fuego. Their mythology reveals that when the waters rose they escaped to five separate mountains, these mountains where Uslaka, Wemarwaia, Auwaratlera, Welanux. And Piatlera.

Today there are no mountains in that region with those names, however there is a curious mountain range called Paine Grande. The interesting thing about Paine Grande is that it has five separate peaks the breach 2100 meters (6900 ft) above sea level. Cuerno Principe 2100 meters (6900 ft), Cerro Paine 2650 meters (8745 ft), and the three towers of Paine coming in at 2260 meters (7450 ft), 2460 meters (8100 ft), and 2500 meters (8250 ft). Interestingly enough, the supposed “Noah’s Ark” was found at 3960 meters (13,068 ft) above sea level, which doesn’t fit with the other flood heights but we’ll come to see that’s the least of the problems.

noah's_ark
Photo courtesy geeksofdoom.com

There are a few other curious similarities between many of the myths that don’t relate directly to the flood levels. Most of the myths have a raven or a crow, although in some it substituted with a duck or a hawk, and of course the famous dove. Also a surprising amount of the myths contain a coyote, wolf or dog, and sometimes a muskrat. In a couple it was a rat or a jackal. The curious thing about the coyote myths is that the coyote often ended up marrying the male or female it was stranded with to repopulate the planet. What? Other instances included a brother and sister, a son and mother and a father and daughter, which must mean numbers were so low they had to resort to inbreeding.
speedboat
Photo courtesy community.evinrude.com

Okay, now the game changer. So assuming that these myths have any truth to them, even if the legends only use these mountain names because there the mountain they live close to now, they still say, time after time, that the only survivors had to flea to mountain peaks. They also reveal that some mountain peaks weren’t high enough and boats were required. Now , lets assume that every bit of ice on the planet melted tomorrow. The accepted levels of ocean rising bringing into consideration both poles and every glacier on the planet is somewhere between 60-80 meters (200-270 ft). Hmmm?

That’s a major problem. Eighty, or even a hundred meter (270-330 ft) higher oceans would be terrible for the coastal cities of the world, but there would still be vast, vast amounts of lands above water. Which means either A)The Ancients are exaggerating, which is possible but seems unlikely due to the staggering number of account from every corner of the earth.
B)The flood was localized to a specific area (I.e. Mesopotamia) either before humans spread, or alternatively the story was so great it just spread and worked its way into all these myths. This is surely possible due to the similarities with some birds and animals, however it’s also possible the myths have just blended together through thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years or even more. C)The Earth had some sort of alteration in its rotation, or an impact (I.e. meteor) creating walls of water hund
reds of meters or even several kilometers tall into every continent. Possible, but none of the myths seem to mention any change in the rising or setting sun in relation to the great flood, or any fireballs in the sky (although both are mentioned in many myths, they are usually their own separate myths) or
D) My favorite, The Moon or some other celestial body came close enough to earth to alter its natural gravitational forces, (or some not yet understood force somehow altered it) causing an extremely massive tide.
giant_moon
Photo courtesy http://psychedelicadventure.blogspot.ca

The interesting part of D is that there are several myths that elude to sky without a moon before the great flood, with the moon only coming into the night sky after. Perhaps the ‘catching’ of the moon by our earth could have sudden, extreme tidal effects, I don’t know. What I do know is that all of these myths can’t just be stories can they? Where could that much water have possibly come from? And if it was here, where is it now? Whether it was melting ice caps, super tides, or a cosmic impact we may never know, but it’s safe to say something peculiar and unprecedented took place in our ancient past.

@Grimerica

Further Reading…

Flood Mythology

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-my...
http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html/
http://www.native-languages.org/legends-...

Mountain Heights

www.wikipedia.com
www.britannica.com
www.earthcatalogue.com
http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/ma...
www.geonames.org

Ice Free Water Levels

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environ...
http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/environm...
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/feature...

Before the Moon

http://english.pravda.ru/news/russia/10-...
http://www.hotspotsz.com/Before_the_Floo...

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red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
6 hours 24 min

A fascinating take on the flooding myths, my friend. Taken with both open-mindedness & skepticism.

Some time ago I discussed via e-mail with our mutual friend Micah Hanks the issue of the Hopi legends pertaining to aerial machines called Patuwotas, which seem to have a strong correlation with the Hindu Vimanas, as well as with the Jewish Kabbalistic term of the Merkabah.

The point being that here once again we find a common theme across different cultural traditions. Which makes one wonder if indeed these legends share a common source.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
2 min 46 sec

I wonder if some of these flood myths may have been inspired by the last retreat of glaciers which in some places was locally catastrophic as ice dams suddenly collapsed. We are finding more and more instances of that in the geological record. Then there is the story of the huge fresh water influx that may have happened as a large meteorite slashed over the Canadian shield while it was still glaciated over the Great lakes and blew up some very large ice dams which caused sea levels to rise catastrophically as was recently discovered in some geological exploration in Ireland.

Grimerica's picture
Member since:
25 October 2012
Last activity:
1 year 20 weeks

this is definitely another viable option. It also fits nicely with the native American myths eluding to multiple floods getting progressively worse until the great flood. Ancient glacial lake Missoula for example, was believed to have had periodic ice dam bursts before finally failing completely. Perhaps it is possible that catastrophic floods have happened on multiple occasions in multiple places. If we're willing to entertain the thought of ancient advanced civilizations having possibly risen and fallen, perhaps even multiple times in our human history, the timeline can get a whole lot longer...

Grimerica's picture
Member since:
25 October 2012
Last activity:
1 year 20 weeks

i sometimes wonder what sorts of myths would evolve over even fifty generations, should some sort of mass extinction event took place today. Only a few million survivors scattered over the globe, cities and towns all gone what would those myths of life before Armageddon morph into in thousands, if not tens of thousands of years

Possibilianist G-gnome's picture
Member since:
12 November 2012
Last activity:
1 year 41 weeks

Grimerica,

Well done, very interesting. It leaves me wanting to know more about what happened in more places around the world than before. Good bit of research, it's amazing to me that we don't hear more about the North America legends.

It would be nice to see what other lore's there are to explore

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
2 min 46 sec

Just the fact that many ancient cultures tended to throng around rivers and that those rivers sometimes flooded spectacularly and frighteningly is enough of a psychological impact to have been incorporated into the tribe mythos. It is hard for us to understand now how much of the "world" of ancient peoples was just maybe a few hundred square miles and how major weather events and disasters were in effect world ending or world threatening.