Mount St Helens, photo credit: SD4ever

Book Review: Footprints in the Ash


Mount St Helens, photo credit: SD4ever

Cover of

It’s big, 7″ x 9″ [c. 18 x 23cm]

One of the books I got with my birthday money [in 2012] was this one by John Morris and Steven A. Austin. I was especially looking forward to reading it because I’ve heard how much evidence the Mount St. Helens explosion gave us. I’ve even heard a story of a scientist finding Jesus as his Savior and Lord following the study of this volcano (he hasn’t posted his testimony online to my knowledge).

Cover of

I’m actually going to start with a mini review of the book, Grand Canyon: A Different View.  There was a copy of that book at the retreat center my writers conference was held at a few months ago, so I stayed up late one night to check it out. It looked beautiful (all the hard covers I’ve seen from Master Books do), and had some amazing pictures. But it didn’t take long before I started noticing a very defensive tone in their writing. They were always saying things like, “although main stream science claims… we believe it happened much faster.” The tone almost sounded whiny with frustration at not being accepted.

I did not order that book for my personal library.

Mount St Helens erupting, photo credit, NASASo, just a bit concerned, I cracked open my lovely edition of the book Footprints in the Ash last week. I needn’t have worried. The style and voice of this book couldn’t have been more different. Dr. Morris and Dr. Austin ooze with confidence and excitement. They spend very little time talking about “millions of years,” and “slow and gradual geological change” and get straight to the facts.

Everything they share from their first-hand experience is backed up with amazing pictures and diagrams. I especially liked the maps showing the drainage patterns before, shortly after, and several years after the main explosion.

I’m not going to cover their evidences in detail, but here are their main points:

Stratification (rock layering) can happen very quickly (in seconds to minutes)

Canyons can erode in a few hours

Uprooted trees still often end up being buried upright, but not where and how they grew

Peat layers (like coal is made from) can form very quickly

Recovery from a disaster happens much faster than scientists predicted

One of the things I was most impressed by with this book was their awareness of the reader. This is not a book that requires you to have already accepted the authors’ claims before you can bear to read it. It would be excellent to give to a geology lover who has never considered the possibility of a world-wide catastrophe before. They’ll get the point, but not by having it stuffed down their throats. The book does end with a gently-stated call to choose eternal protection in Jesus.

You can check out more reviews at the publisher’s page.

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
He looks on the earth, and it trembles: he touches the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Psalm 104:31-33

PS My kids (9 and under) couldn’t care less about this book, but have really enjoyed the video Noah Justice did on Mount St. Helens.

Mount St Helens, photo credit: SD4ever

Review: Awesome Science, Mount St Helens



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Christmas, 2012, a church group gave us some spending money. We had enough socks already, so I decided the best thing for the kids (OK, it was really for me) would be to get the Awesome Science DVDS done by the Justice family. Here’s what I think of them.

If you can’t afford the whole set, get the St Helens one at least. Why? Because that volcano has given us observational science opportunities like no other. My personal favorite way to learn about the events there is the book by Dr. Austin, but my kids haven’t once looked at my copy. For them, a video is the way to go.

The idea of the Awesome Science series is really good. Having a “kid” do the talking gives it an instant connection with young people. The graphics and footage are well done, you can turn off the rock music in the settings, and there is a lot of information on each episode (they’re nearly an hour long).

The reason I didn’t write before is one major beef I have with the series; you need an adult vocabulary to fully understand what’s going on. I can’t imagine Noah (the c.14 year old host) wrote the script himself. In the Grand Canyon DVD (the first) he talks about how scientists “infer” things. I’ve got the study guides and that word didn’t even make the vocabulary list, they forgot how unusual it is for kids to talk about anyone ‘inferring’ anything.

Here’s a list of words I pulled from the Mount St Helens episode to give you an idea of what you’re in for. All of these were used without explanations. He wasn’t introducing you to these words, he expected you to already know how to use them:Mount St Helens erupting, photo credit, NASA

  • empirical
  • lateral
  • equivilent
  • estimated
  • alleged
  • direct observation
  • homogenized
  • indications are
  • subsequent models
  • lakes were breached
  • hence
  • displaced the lake
  • interpret a geologic site
  • hypothesised
  • aniseptic waters
  • waters prevailed
  • subsequent
  • ultimate authority

A few of these terms are mentioned in the teacher’s guide where it would be easier to pause and find out what he was talking about. But for kids watching a movie on the weekend, that’s a lot of big words!

With my family, I’ll probably sit down and teach them the big words Noah uses (“if he can understand them, you can too”) so they can expand their vocabulary. The problem is if you want to show the films to everyday kids; they will miss some of the more important scientific points. At the same time they’ll still learn a lot, so it’d be worth it anyway. Plus, my kids enjoy them. Watching for the 2nd and 3rd time, most of them wandered off to play, but my 6 year old stuck it through to the end ’cause he loves volcanoes!

I’m looking forward to what the Justice family is able to film this year. The more images of real geology not filtered through the Uniformitarian mindset we get in our heads, the better!

Remember your Creator while you are young, before the bad times come—before the years come when you say, “I have wasted my life.” Ecclesiastes 12:1 Easy-to-read Version