Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Remembering rainbows

I once cycled under the rainbow.

The year was 1993 or 1994, during the time I worked in Africa. I was cycling back to the school where I was teaching after visiting a friend. The rainbow was a full double arc perfectly centred over the dirt road stretching before me.

I looked over my shoulder and the recently risen sun was directly behind me, its light splitting into the spectrum as it was refracted and reflected from the raindrops falling in the distance. Of course, I never reached the rainbow as it receded before me.

Rifle back through the months and years of the calendar of my life to when I am a child, reading my illustrated children's Bible and there is the story of how the rainbow came to be placed in the sky. As a child I thought, "There have always been rainbows and this is a story to explain them." I am currently re-reading the full Bible and have come to the story of Noah, which brings this to mind.

Forward again to about 1989 and I am reading Isaac Asimov's book "In the Beginning", which provides a commentary on Genesis from a scientific point of view. He examines the amount of water stored in the ice caps and the rise in sea level if it had all melted - not enough to flood the world. That would have taken a miracle to conjure up vast volumes of water.

Then on to 1999 and a documentary by the BBC's Horizon program into Noah's flood (I just looked this up to confirm the date). The theory proposed was that around 7,000 years ago what is now the Black Sea was a freshwater lake below sea level, then the sea broke through from the Mediterranean, finally eroding a channel so a trickle turned into a flood. The water level would have risen rapidly, covering the settlements along the lake's edge - settlements that have now been discovered beneath 7,000 years of silt.

Anyone attentive to the waterfall from the Mediterranean or the level of the lake could have seen something was coming with time enough to build a ship. Here's how a report on the documentary from 2000 explains what happened when the water broke through:

"About 7,000 years ago, according to geological evidence, the rising Mediterranean sea pushed a channel through what is now the Bosphorus, and then seawater poured in at about 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls. The Black Sea would have widened at the rate of a mile a day, submerging the original shoreline under hundreds of feet of salty water."

A cataclysmic event that would no doubt have lived on in human memory down the centuries, appearing in the stories of different cultures.

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