Alumnus Ryan talks about the formation of Black Sea

The story of Noah’s Ark and the great flood has captured the attention of historians, scientists and theologians for centuries. New scientific developments in explaining this famous story were the main topics discussed in first lecture of the “Science Convocation Lecture Series.”

The Wege Auditorium in the Thompson Chemistry Laboratories was overflowing with students, alumni, parents and friends who gathered to hear Dr. William B. F. Ryan ’61 speak Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Ryan discussed his extensive research into the great flood. His current scientific hypothesis is that during the melting of the last Ice Age, a natural dam in the Bosporus Strait was broken, which caused a huge flood of water to pour into the Black Sea around 5600 B.C.

“Imagine a waterfall that is 400 times the size of Niagara or Victoria,” said Ryan. “A vast landscape the size of the state of Florida was flooded in a matter of months or years.”

In core samples taken from the floor of the Black Sea, Ryan found clay and roots of plants under a layer of mud, which he believes is evidence of the former land. “A civilization was found 97 meters below the surface of today’s Black Sea,” Ryan said.

In addition to discussing the flood, Ryan addressed the various Neolithic Stone Age peoples that populated the region. Though it is believed to have originated with the civilizations in Mesopotamia, the flood story is also found in other civilizations such as Babylon, Ur and Linear Band Ceramics.

Ryan hypothesized about how the flood survivor was warned. “The sound of the waterfall would be heard across the lake,” he said. “The water level would have risen and it would have been time to go somewhere else.”

After graduating from Williams in 1961, Ryan received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1971. Presently, Ryan is senior research scientist in geology at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and an adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia.

He has participated in numerous expeditions to the Black Sea region and will be taking part in his next one in a few weeks off of the North coast of Turkey in the Black Sea. In 1998, he co-authored a book called Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event That Changed History.

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