Radiocarbon dating and the old wood problem
So how could these tree trunks have survived being engulfed by molten lava?
The imprint of a leaf was also discovered within the basalt, which was also regarded as remarkable, remembering that the enclosing rock was once molten lava erupted at 1000–1200°C (about 1800–2200°F).The next image (below left) is of charred fossil wood; and beside that is intact fossil wood (Note biro gives size perspective).The bottom two images are of basalt with holes from former gas bubbles (left) and visible fossil tree roots in siltstone.Pieces of the basalt samples from the outcrop and the drill core were also sent to analytical laboratories, for major, minor, and trace element analyses to establish the character of these rocks, but mainly for radioactive ‘dating’ analyses.Potassium-argon (K-Ar) ‘dating’ was performed on the two outcrop samples by the AMDEL laboratory in Adelaide (Australia), while one of the two outcrop samples and two drill core samples, one being in contact with the fossil wood, were ‘dated’ by Geochron Laboratories. When subsequently questioned regarding the limits of the analytical method for the radiocarbon and any possibility of contamination, staff at both laboratories (Ph. scientists) were readily insistent that the results, with one exception, C results (last column in Table 1), consistent with the carbon being organic carbon from wood, and indicating no possibility of contamination.To young-earth creationists the geological context of these fossil wood fragments in the basalt lava flow clearly indicates that these represent post-Flood trees overwhelmed by a post-Flood volcanic eruption nearby, and thus both the fossil wood and the basalt are less than 4,500 years old.
Nevertheless, within the conventional (uniformitarian) framework of interpretation, a clear-cut conflict can be seen between these two radioactive ‘dating’ methods.
It is readily apparent that there are significant variations in the results, as evident in the calculated ‘ages’ of the outcrop 2 sample provided by each laboratory.
The problem of obtaining consistently ‘acceptable’ K-AR ‘ages’ is also highlighted by the observation that both outcrop and both drill core samples probably represent the same basalt flow in each respective location (hence the calculated average ‘ages’ in the last column of Table 2) While the quality and accuracy of the analytical work undertaken by all the laboratories involved is unquestionably respected, all the calculated ‘ages’ are mere interpretations based on unproven assumptions about constancy of radioactive decay rates, and on the geochemical behaviour of these elements (and their isotopes) in the unobservable past.
Tiny portions of the same piece of fossil wood encased in the basalt in the drill core were sent for radiocarbon (C) analyses to two reputable laboratories—Geochron Laboratories in Cambridge, Boston (USA), and the Antares Mass Spectrometry laboratory at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lucas Heights near Sydney (Australia).
Neither laboratory was told exactly where the samples came from to ensure that there would be no resultant bias.
The pieces of wood recovered by the miners were examined and photographed, as too was the leaf imprint, but access to the ventilation shaft was not possible, nor were samples of the enclosing basalt available, having long been dumped with all the other rubble and waste rock.