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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CD250:

Stalactites can grow very quickly. Some have been observed to grow more than half an inch per year. The largest stalactites and flowstones could have formed in a few thousand years.


Meyers, Stephen and Robert Doolan, 1987. Rapid stalactites? Creation Magazine 9(4) (Sep.-Nov.): 6-8.


  1. The fast-growing stalactites form via processes very different from calcium carbonate stalactites found in limestone caves. Limestone is not soluble in water. When carbon dioxide (from decaying plants in the soil above the cave) mixes with water, it forms a very weak carbonic acid. This turns the calcium carbonate into calcium bicarbonate, which dissolves. When drips are exposed to air in the cave, a little carbon dioxide escapes from them into the atmosphere, which reverses the process and precipitates a small amount of calcium carbonate. The upper average rate for limestone stalactite growth is ten centimeters per thousand years, with lower growth rates outside of tropical areas.

    Fast-growing stalactites, on the other hand, either grow from gypsum through an evaporative process, or they form from concrete or mortar. When water is added to concrete, one product is calcium hydroxide, which is about 100 times more soluble than calcite. The calcium hydroxide absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reconstitute calcium carbonate.

  2. The time for stalactite growth also has to allow for time for the cave to dissolve in the first place, which is a very slow process, sometimes on the order of tens of millions of years. Then the geological conditions have to change so that the cave is no longer under water. Only then can stalactite growth begin.

  3. Direct measurement via radiometric dating gives stalactite ages over 190,000 years (Ford and Hill 1999). Other deposits in caves have been dated to several million years old. For example, argon-argon dating of alunite (an aluminum sulfate mineral) gives an age of 11.3 million years for a cave near Carlsbad Caverns (Polyak et al. 1998).

  4. Oxygen isotope measurements in stalactites give an indication of outside temperatures. They are consistent with the coming and going of ice ages back at least 160,000 years (Dorale et al. 1998; Wang et al. 2001; Zhang et al. 2004).


Matson, Dave E., 1994. How good are those young-earth arguments? A close look at Dr. Hovind's list of young-earth arguments and other claims.


  1. Dorale, J. A. Dorale, R. L. Edwards, E. Ito and Luis A. González, 1998. Climate and vegetation history of the midcontinent from 75 to 25 ka: A speleothem record from Crevice Cave, Missouri, USA. Science 282: 1871-1874.
  2. Ford, Derek C. and Carol A. Hill, 1999. Dating of speleothems in Kartchner Caverns, Arizona. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 61(2): 84-88.
  3. Polyak, V. J., W. C. McIntosh, N. Güven and P. Provencio, 1998. Age and origin of Carlsbad Cavern and related caves from 40Ar/39Ar of alunite. Science 279: 1919-1922. See also Sasowsky, I. D., 1998. Determining the age of what is not there. Science 279: 1874.
  4. Wang, Y. J. et al., 2001. A high-resolution absolute-dated Late Pleistocene monsoon record from Hulu Cave, China. Science 294: 2345-2348.
  5. Zhang, M., D. Yuan, Y Lin, H. Cheng, J. Qin and H Zhang, 2004. The record of paleoclimatic change from stalagmites and the determination of termination II in the south of Guizhou Province, China. Science in China Ser. D 47(1): 1-12.

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created 2003-4-21, modified 2004-5-12