Hydroplate Theory – review by Terry Hurlbut

The Hydroplate Theory of Walt Brown is the most comprehensive theory yet proposed to explain the process, and the aftermath, of the Global Flood. This theory attempts to explain many things most observers would never suspect the Global Flood of causing. As such this theory is the boldest and most thorough of the three most popular theories of the Flood. Furthermore, Brown does not hesitate to make many predictions from his model. The success or failure of his theory will depend on the fulfillment of those predictions.


The Global Flood is the most violent event in all of biblical history. It is the one event deserving of the Greek-derived name of cataclysm. That name suggests the worst kind of weather event; cf. Euroclydon, or “The Eurostorm,” the name that Luke the Physician gave to the storm at sea that nearly killed Paul of Tarsus on his way to Rome. (Acts 27:14)

Most scholars compare that event to the Nor’easter known to New England and the Mid-Atlantic part of the United States. But as anyone can tell from the description given in Genesis chapters 7 and 8, the Global Flood was far more violent than an American or European Nor’easter.

That same violence presents a serious problem to creation science and creation advocacy. The Flood was so violent that it changed the face of the earth itself. Adherents of the uniformitarianism of Charles Lyell and his successors confidently assert that no evidence of a global flood exists. They jeer as they challenge creation advocates to name the geological stratum where the Flood occurred. (John Baumgardner thinks he knows; see here.)

Never once does any uniformitarian think that one event could have laid down all the strata in the fabled Geological Column. (“Fabled” because, aside from familiar high-school wall charts, no observer has ever seen the entire Geological Column in one location, though the Grand Canyon comes close.) Furthermore, many creation scientists doubt this also.

But Walter T. Brown, in his Hydroplate Theory, confidently proposes that very thing. Furthermore he proposes many other consequences of the Global Flood that the Bible does not mention. Naturally he opens himself up to challenge, from creationist and uniformitarian alike. This review will be an attempt to judge whether the Hydroplate Theory can withstand such a challenge.

Prologue: Invalidating the Evolutionary Paradigm

Brown explains his theory in his own book, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood. Before he even begins discussing the Hydroplate Theory, Brown devotes 106 pages of his book to attacking conventional wisdom, and specifically the Grand Evolutionary Paradigm.

This Paradigm has three parts:

  1. Uniformitarianism: all processes at work today, have always been at work and at the same rate.
  2. Abiogenesis: the first life began from non-living components that somehow self-assembled.
  3. Common descent: all living things derive from one ancestor.

Brown spends most of this part attacking specific interpretations of the relevant evidence. This includes the fossil record, the planets and their orbital elements, the core of the earth, the Cosmic Microwave Background, the “geological column,” the striking parallelism of the strata, and other recorded facts. His conclusion: the facts do not support the conventional narrative of an old earth and sequential burial of the fossils. One of his most striking observations is the fish that fossilized in the act of eating another fish. This, he says, clearly shows that fossilization occurred far more rapidly than conventional wisdom supposes.

Not all his observations are necessarily relevant to the Hydroplate Theory per se. He includes them to weaken the argument for the Grand Evolutionary Paradigm and prepare the reader to accept another, far more radical, proposal.

The Hydroplate Theory in summary

Initial conditions

The Hydroplate Theory sets initial conditions for the Global Flood. The key condition is a sub-crustal ocean, ten miles deep to the surface of the earth and three-quarters of a mile deep. This ocean held roughly as much water as did the pre-Flood “seas” of Genesis chapter 1. In short, the oceans of today hold twice as much water as did those first surface oceans. The extra water was sub-crustal, and escaped its confinement.

This ocean was in a sealed chamber. Above was the earth’s crust. Pillars of rock held this crust up.

Furthermore the length of the day was exactly 1/360 of a year, not 1/365.24 as it is today. The length of the year is unchanged, but the day is shorter. Furthermore, the true month, or period of the moon, was exactly 30 days – i.e., 30 of the longer, pre-Flood days.

Another key condition: the earth had only one continent at first. This continent had mountains no higher than about 5,000 feet (about one mile), and also had shallow ocean basins.

One process, and one event, set up the processes that led to a “cataclysmic” failure of the earth’s crust along a seam that persists today. (More below.) The event was a stress fracture of one or more of the sub-crustal pillars. Brown will not speculate on what caused this stress fracture. He does, however, remind his readers that:

  1. Man was in a sinful, therefore fallen, condition, and
  2. That condition applied to the rest of creation, as the Bible repeatedly attests.

This is one of the few weaknesses of the Hydroplate Theory: why would God set initial conditions that set the earth up for such a failure? His answer: either it was the general sin of man, or perhaps some man, or group of men, as part of a mining operation, set off a massive explosion where they shouldn’t have. (For reasons that will become clear, that explosion cannot have been a nuclear or thermonuclear explosion. If the Global Flood turns out to be the first man-caused disaster, the cause must limit itself to chemical high explosives only.)

The process that set up the eventual failure was tidal pumping. The moon “pumped” the crust. The pumping was too slight for any person then alive to feel. Nevertheless, after at least 1,656 years (see Genesis chapter 5, Masoretic Text), the sub-crustal ocean was now a supercritical fluid. That is, it was hotter than the critical temperature of water, but under a pressure greater than the critical pressure.

In a supercritical fluid, the liquid and vapor phases not only coexist but are perfectly miscible. The meniscus that normally separates the liquid and vapor phases of a volatile substance, vanishes as the liquid becomes supercritical. (A fluid hotter than the critical temperature and under a pressure less than the critical pressure exists strictly as a dry gas – or in the case of water, as true steam.)

Note that the Bible does attest to one miracle: Noah, whom history should regard as the greatest shipwright in history, had one hundred twenty years’ warning. See Genesis 6:2.

The rupture

The Global Flood began with a thinner-than-hairline crack in the crust. In two hours the crack penetrated to the sub-crustal ocean and also encircled the earth. The crust opened rapidly and released the sub-crustal ocean, now supercritically hot and under tremendous pressure.

The seam this crack made persists today – as the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest Indian, and Pacific Indian Ridges and other formations that are part of the Mid-Oceanic Ridge system.

The water escaped as a hypersonic jet that punched a hole in the atmosphere. That jet carried with it large quantities of rock and mud – and also spores and seeds. Here, then, is Brown’s answer to the riddle of the survival of the Plant Kingdom: these seeds and spores survived, lingered in the atmosphere, and eventually fell to earth after the waters dried up – or rather, receded. But about one percent of the earth’s mass, in the form of water, rock and mud, escaped the gravity of the earth. This mass persists in space as the comets, asteroids, and meteoroids we know today, plus deposits of ice on the moon, on Mars, and even on the planet Mercury.

The flood

The water jet caused fluttering of the ten-mile-thick crustal edges. These edges crumbled away and eroded. Brown estimates the crust eroded for 400 miles inland on each side of the rupture. (Note that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is an irregular path parallel to the eastern coastlines of the Americas to the west, and the western coastlines of Europe and Africa to the east.

The escaping water caused the floor of the sub-crustal chamber to buckle upward. The rupture also broke up the original super-continent into the seven continents we know today. The buckling chamber floor rose up to create the Ridge. That Ridge now became a chute for the continents to slide down in each direction. The Americas slid westward, and Africa and Europe slid eastward. The European and Asian hydroplates crashed into one another to form the Himalayan chain. (More below.)

The plates sank to a level that allowed the water to slosh over them, and that was the Flood. In addition, much of the hypersonic water jet fell as rain. But note: the Hebrew word for rain in Genesis chapter 7 does not connote the kind of rain with which we are familiar. That word connotes a driving rain that could tear down a concrete wall. And in fact, that word for “rain” is almost a hapax legomenon – a word that happens once and only once in any literary work.

On the opposite side of the earth, the Pacific basin buckled down to match the Ridges buckling up. This buckling formed the great ocean trenches and the Benioff (BEAN-off) zones that to this day conventional geologists ascribe (mistakenly, says Brown) to subduction – when one tectonic plate dives under another.

Continental drift

As mentioned, the continental plates, called hydroplates (because they had what was left of the sub-crustal ocean to lubricate them), moved rapidly away from the initial rupture. The Americas slid down the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward toward the Pacific Basin. Eventually the water ran out from under them and they came crashing down to the old sub-crustal chamber floor.

The European and African plates slid eastward. They eventually crashed into the Asian plate. The Himalaya mountain chain is the approximate point of impact.

Any student of geography should notice: almost all mountain chains are oriented north to south. The Himalayas are the sole exception. Except for the Himalayas, the other mountain chains (the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Sierra Madre, the Andes, etc. In the Americas, and the Urals, Alps, Pyrenees, Apennines, and other chains in Europe, Africa and Asia) formed as wrinkles in the hydroplates as they crashed to the sub-crustal chamber floor.

The Himalayas are a special case. Three plates crashed into one another, and the Himalayas rose up at the point of impact.

When the mountains first formed, they sank. As they sank, great masses of crust rose to their east as the plateaus associated with every mountain chain, without exception. The Himalaya chain and the Tibetan Plateau made a system so massive that it changed the rotation of the earth. Among other things, this put the Antarctic hydroplate into a new south polar region. It also played a role in the freezing of the mammoths of northern Asia and the formation of the permafrost.


Where did the water go? Much of it drained into the Pacific Basin, which now was much deeper than it had been. (In fact, the Atlantic Basin has the Ridge, while the Pacific Basin has the Challenger Depth.) In fact, the waters receded to a depth that left sea level several miles lower than it is today. This explains the Era of Peleg ( “for in his time the world was divided”). It also explains why, centuries after the disembarkation from Noah’s Ark (actually, Life-ship), several great nations of Noah’s Eastern descendants could cross a land bridge over the present Bering Straits, enter the Americas, fan out, and set up their hunting-and-gathering camps throughout the Americas. Such is the origin of the Aleut, Inuit, Sioux, Arapaho, Apache, Navajo, Mohegan, Delaware, Cherokee, and all the other First Nations of North America.

The rising of the sea would trap animals on islands in the Pacific Basin (including, classically, the Galapagos and Hawaiian chains) – and the continent of Australia.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is another special case. The Colorado Plateau, as it rose hydraulically from the settling-into-place of the Rockies, trapped two vast lakes of Flood waters: the Grand Lake and the Hopi Lake. Thin dams held in the water of those lakes. Centuries after the Flood, and after the First Nations had wandered deep into North America, one of those dams let go. The water drained from Hopi Lake into Grand Lake, and caused another dam to burst. That rupture created the mighty Colorado River, which flowed fast enough to cut the surrounding terrain and even to cut into bedrock. The waters stripped off the top stratum but cut swaths through all the other strata. This left the Grand Canyon, which today is still the best natural laboratory for the geological strata. (And how do we know this occurred as stated? The Bible does not attest to this, of course. But Native American legend does. The obvious inference: enough people witnessed these events to tell their story, at least as oral history.)

Evidence requiring an explanation

Walt Brown’s book, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, is now in its ninth edition. Brown lists twenty-five separate categories of evidence:

  1. That demands an explanation, and
  2. For which Brown offers an explanation.

Many of the explanations Brown offers are nothing short of radical – and by radical this reviewer means exactly what the word connotes: tearing at the roots of conventional earth science and even of commonly accepted notions from astronomy and physics. This reviewer has already discussed the Grand Canyon. Other radical explanations include:

  • Gravitational settling partially melted the earth’s core, which was not molten, even in part, to begin with. This settling also shortened the day, for the same reason a figure skater spins faster by drawing in her arms: conservation of angular momentum.
  • The mammoths, caught outside in a hailstorm of unimaginable proportions, froze where they lay – and in some cases, froze where they stood.
  • The supercritical water dissolved calcium carbonate and other minerals the way only supercritical water can. That accounts for the vast deposits of limestone the world over.
  • Comets, asteroids, and meteoroids all formed from water, rock and mud that escaped into space during the initial rupture.
  • Radioactive elements formed during the Flood. The fluttering of the earth’s crust produced earthquakes of magnitude 10 to 12. The quartz in the continental crust produced electromotive forces (“voltages”) high enough to turn the heavier metals into plasma. Plasma, as its name implies (a thing you shape and mold), can fuse. This fusion produced super-heavy elements that promptly split to form the trans-lead elements, up to uranium (and arguably as high as plutonium) we know today.

That last explanation has another part. The plasma activity released a sea of neutrons. The sub-crustal waters absorbed most of these and formed “heavy water,” containing deuterium and occasionally tritium. But other mineral deposits also absorbed neutrons. This is the origin of the rare isotopes of various elements we see in the wild.

The Technical Gazette

In the third part of his book, Brown answers many “frequently asked questions,” both about his theory and about origins science in general. Here a careful reader will find a frank discussion of many issues, some problematic, some not so much. The problematic issues are questions for which Brown admits he has incomplete answers. They include:

What triggered the Flood? Did God actually create an earth on which such a violent event was inevitable?

When did the Flood occur? Obviously one cannot date the Flood from the fossil record or the geological column. Brown holds that the Flood itself produced both. But he does discuss how to fix the date of the Flood astronomically, from the orbits of the comets. According to the Hydroplate Theory, the material that became the comets, all launched at once. So any year in which all the comets were likely at perihelion, is a good candidate for the common launch year. Brown defines a 200-year-wide range of possible launch years, centered on 3290 BC. He then discusses possible support for narrowing that year using Biblical scholarship.

Here he has a problem. The scholarship for the chronology of Biblical events, and the lives of famous Biblical figures, is unsettled. Neither astronomy nor scholarship alone can answer the question, when did the Flood occur. Only in combination can one fix that date, mainly by using astronomy to inform the scholarship and try to settle some of the thorniest scholarly issues.

Full disclosure

This reviewer worked directly with Brown in an attempt to fix the date of the Flood, by providing a synoptic analysis of the relevant scholarship. The process is beyond the scope of this review, except to say the results are as provocative as is the Hydroplate Theory itself.

Predictions of the Hydroplate Theory

As mentioned, the Hydroplate Theory makes definite predictions. Brown mentions these throughout his text. But he also lists them, fifty in all, on page 434 of his book.

He admits to one partial miss. He predicted the dwarf planet Ceres, the most massive object in the asteroid belt, would have a spin very similar to that of earth. It does not. A day on Ceres is 9.075 earth hours, and its axis is inclined 31 degrees from true north.

In contrast, Brown has six confirmations. The latest was the finding that Ceres produces large amounts of water vapor. When the spacecraft Dawn makes rendezvous with Ceres a year from now, Brown will get a direct test of another prediction: that water vapor, or water ice, in space will be rich in deuterium.

Things to Recommend about the Hydroplate Theory

The Hydroplate Theory is consistent, comprehensive, and comprehensible. Brown does seem to speculate endlessly about subjects that were not his primary field of study. But in so doing, he emulates Leonardo da Vinci and other of the early masters of the Renaissance. These men did not specialize. The Renaissance valued generalized achievement and “smarts.”

Contrary to most popular criticism, Brown does realize that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” So he gathers evidence. His book has a rich body of annotations and, above all, references. Nor does Brown contradict himself. That last would be an easy trap to fall into, considering the wide scope of Brown’s discussion.

But by far the best thing to recommend about the Hydroplate Theory is Brown’s refusal to invoke miracles. William of Occam, a pioneer of scientific method, famously said one must not multiply guesses without good reason. “Brown’s Razor,” for lack of a better term, similarly states: one does not invoke miracles to which the Bible does not specifically attest. If the Bible does not mention a miracle to explain any given event, the real explanation must lie in the nature of events of that kind, and of the things or people taking part in that event.

And so, like any detective (for that is how an origins scientist must work), Brown relies on:

  1. Facts, and
  2. Eyewitness testimony.

That testimony must come directly from God (the Annals of Creation, Genesis 1:1-2:4a), or from Adam, Noah, his sons, and Terah, father of Abraham. And Brown takes care never to put words into any of their mouths.

The Heat Problem

The most common criticism of any flood theory is: wouldn’t the earth, or the Flood waters, have gotten hot enough to cook or boil everything alive? (Baumgardner and company cite this problem to support their assumption that the earth has always had its present core, mantle and crust.) Those who apply the heat problem to the Hydroplate Theory raise two issues:

  1. The water from any sub-crustal ocean should have been hot enough to turn the surface ocean into a boiling cauldron. That should have killed everyone and everything aboard the Ark. Her wooden hull would not have insulated her crew and cargo nearly well enough to avoid this outcome.
  2. The accelerated nuclear decay would also have given off a tremendous amount of heat. That would have had the same outcome.

True enough, one who propounds a theory has trouble seeing what might be wrong with it. But the critic has his own problem. One cannot criticize one theory for failure to agree with another. That would be a form of circular reasoning: “Your theory does not work under my theory; therefore your theory must be wrong.” A valid judgment of any theory must examine it on its own terms.

The Hydroplate Theory specifically discards and dismisses many assumptions on which conventional theories depend. Chief among them, and relevant to the heat problem are:

  1. Did the earth form with a hot, and indeed partially molten, core, as we observe today?
  2. Are radioactive elements in the earth present in an even distribution, even going into the core?

Brown’s answer to both questions: No. Furthermore he takes great care to disprove by counterexample both those propositions. On pages 28 and 29 Brown shows convincingly that the earth was never molten, and did not form from meteoritic bombardment.

Of course, the earth has a molten outer core and a solid inner core. How did this happen? Brown shows (pp. 552-555) that it happened by gravitational settling. (This same gravitational settling, as mentioned, shortened the day from 1/360 year to 1/365.24 year.)

Concerning radioactive elements, Brown also shows their distribution is non-uniform. Recall also that Brown discusses at length how radioactive elements formed during the Global Flood and were not a constituent of the earth when it formed. Given that proposition, the heat problem from radioactive decay vanishes. Why? Because the very formation of radioactive elements must have been an endothermic process. Were that not the case, trans-lead elements would never be useful either as weapons or as sources of energy. However much energy the rapid decay of radioactive elements must have released during the Flood, pales next to the energy those same elements absorbed in their formation.

Nevertheless, one particular heat problem remains: why didn’t a supercritically hot sub-crustal ocean heat the surface ocean to a boil?

The answer: when the supercritical water escaped from its chamber, it also escaped from high pressure to low pressure. In that environment, it vaporized. Vaporization is also an endothermic process. Were that not the case, a phenomenon like refrigeration would be impossible.

Recall also that, according to the Hydroplate Theory, about one percent of the total mass of the earth escaped by means of the hypersonic jet. The escaping water, rock and mud would also have carried a lot of heat with it.

Compatibility with other theories

The Hydroplate Theory is not compatible with the catastrophic plate-tectonic theory of Baumgardner et al. The reason: Baumgardner assumes a hot mantle that suddenly became less viscous with a catastrophic (and undefined) event, causing immediate runaway subduction and displacement of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The hot mantle alone is incompatible with the Hydroplate Theory, which assumes an initially cold and solid mantle and core. Brown also concludes, after much analysis, that subduction can never occur.

Brown specifically discusses the water vapor canopy theory of Isaac Vail and successors. He examines possible canopies of water vapor and ice, and rejects each on account of insurmountable problems with pressure, heat dissipation, and lack of translucency. In fact, transparency would be required, and neither canopy would be transparent.

Brown has not, thus far (at least in print), discussed the crystalline canopy theory of Carl E. Baugh. In fact, today Carl Baugh has rejected a liquid-metal-hydrogen canopy and now proposes a canopy of sugilite, a semi-precious stone, magenta in color, almost as beautiful to look at as jade. And more to the point, transparent. This reviewer discusses that theory here.


The Hydroplate Theory is the most comprehensive theory anyone has yet put forward to explain the Global Flood. So comprehensive is it that most who try to criticize it, miss key points and try to judge it in terms of conventional theory. Brown, in seeking to explain the Flood, turned conventional geology, astronomy, and even nuclear physics, among other disciplines, on their heads.

The theory is self-consistent, well-defended, and above all, feasible. It is also subject to continual refinement, as most theories must be to stay viable.


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