Watch for Updates
Originally Posted December 10, 2020
by Robert Baty
Time marked link to Kent Hovind’s promotion illustrated below:
About 15 years ago I picked up on that claim when Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Brad Harrub, Ph.D. began promoting it in support of their young earth creationism via Apologetics Press out of Montgomery, AL.
I enlisted the assistance of geologist Joe Meert who was able to add to my own investigation and add weight to my efforts to debunk the claim.
Eventually, Bert Thompson published a retraction of his claim and the story appeared to disappear from the Apologetics Press portfolio of claims attempting to support young earth creationism.
We will wait and watch to see if Kent Hovind does likewise and retracts his promotion of this claim which was debunked many years ago.
The original Apologetics Press story and retraction used the same web address shown below, which has since been removed (it may be available via web archive resources):
Text of Original Apologetics Press Story
A Young Earth: “Fishing for Proof”
by Thomas Tarpley, B.S., G.C., Michael Cortez, B.A., and Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
“Show us proof!,” skeptics sometimes shout, suggesting by their taunt
that there is no reliable evidence that supports a young Earth.
From formal debates to Internet chat forums, the challenge is made to
supply proof that contradicts evolution. Sadly, even many Christians now
question whether there is sufficient evidence to support the biblical
account of Creation.
“Providing the proof” is exactly what Apologetics Press is all about.
And “proof” was exactly what we found on a field expedition to southeast
Tennessee on February 12, 2005.
It was there that we met Dan Jones, who revealed to us a geologic
anomaly that fits perfectly with the young Earth account. To use Mr.
Jones’ words, it is “something you would never see or expect to see.”
But it does exist, and it remains strong “proof” that cannot be
explained by evolutionary geologists—by their own admission. Keep
Over twenty-five years ago, Dan Jones was trout fishing in the Tellico
River. It was there he stumbled across something that still leaves
geologists scratching their heads. He stated: “I just walked up on a
sandbar and it was laying there with water slapping up on it” (as quoted
in Simms, 2004).
What did Dan Jones find?
It was a simple fishing reel—partially embedded in rock (known as
phyllite) believed to be about 300 million years old (according to
evolution-based dating systems).
Realizing that few would ever believe him, Jones decided to take the
rock as proof of what he had discovered.
In our interview with him, he recalled that he had been fishing with a
friend, but the friend had already left the scene. Mr. Jones remarked:
“I was walking in the river and came up on a sandbar, and there it lay”
Lest someone think that this anomaly is simply a reel that is “lightly
stuck” to an underlying rock, consider the fact that Jones frequently
carries it around by holding the reel as if it were a handle (see
In fact, he demonstrated this in our presence, showing just how embedded
in the rock the reel actually was.
Consider, too, the fact that the members of geology department from the
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC) scrutinized the rock, and
they were completely unable to explain it.
They eliminated the possibility of the rock being fake (as in some type
of concrete) by applying an acid test to investigate its composition.
But that’s where science stopped and speculation began.
Some were convinced that the reel “wore its way” into the rock. Another
“Perhaps some bizarre phenomenon caused by water flow rapidly passing by
caused it to abrade its way into the rock” (as quoted in Simms, 2003).
Another geologist suggested that maybe it was caused by some type of
However, speculation stopped when the chairman of the geology department
arrived on the scene. Richard Simms, in an article he wrote for the
Chattanooga Times Free Press (“The Reel in the Rock: Even UTC Geology
Experts Can’t Explain Rare Find”), observed:
Then the head geology guru showed up Department chairman Dr. Habte
Churnet at first seemed somewhat indifferent to the reel in the rock,
until his cohorts encouraged a closer look.
“Where did you get this?” he exclaimed. The fisherman recited his
Tellico story for the 10th time that day as Churnet examined the
It took minutes before the top geologist arrived at a conclusion that
brought chuckles around the room. With great authority he declared, “I
am the chairman of the department, and I say this does not exist. It’s a
figment of our imagination” (Simms, 2004).
When we asked Mr. Jones if he thought the department chairman stood by
his statement, he replied: “Yeah, I think he did. They could not explain
it” (Jones, 2005).
For those who would evaluate such evidence with an open mind, here are
the facts. It was 1897 when William Shakespeare Jr. patented the first
fishing reel. That, by definition, would limit the age of this reel to
roughly 100 years. Yet this rock, which weighs close to 20 pounds, is
considered by evolutionary timescales to be roughly 300 million years
old. Ann Holmes, of the geology department at the University of
Tennessee, Chattanooga, stated: “It’s called phyllite. It’s a
metamorphic rock from the Appalachians, the Brevard Zone that was formed
probably when Africa and America collided about 300 million years ago”
(as quoted in Simms, 2003). Mr. Jones recalled that the geologists
appeared very familiar with this type of rock, and he remembered being
told that the rock came from the period when the continents divided. He
said they informed him that the only two places where this type of rock
is found is in the Appalachians and Africa. The obvious question then
is: What is a 300 million-year-old rock—which is supposed to have
broken off when America separated from Africa—doing in the Tellico
River with a fishing reel embedded in it?
Does this “proof” fit evolutionary theory? Hardly!
You cannot embed a 100-year-old fishing reel inside of a
But does the evidence fit with a young Earth timeline?
Definitely. We contend that the rock is not 300 million years old, as
Instead, it formed recently, allowing a 100-year-old fishing reel to
become embedded during the process.
Like it or not, this “proof” does exist, as we can attest. We have seen
it with our own eyes. We have talked personally to the man who found it.
And he has challenged evolutionary geologists to refute it.
But they cannot.
The problem is, in cases like this in which the data do not fit
evolutionary theory, it is always the data that end up being thrown out,
not the seemingly sacrosanct theory. The “reel in the rock” does not fit
with what evolutionists would expect, so they resort to off-the-cuff
comments like, “I am the chairman of the department, and I say this does
not exist; it’s a figment of our imagination,” and then toss out the
data—rather than the now-falsified theory.
Evolutionists will approach this piece of scientific evidence with one
of two options.
They will ignore it and hope it goes away, or try to discredit it in an
effort to bolster their old-age timelines. (Bear in mind that any
efforts to discredit this piece of evidence will invariably call into
question the legitimacy of the knowledge base of the entire geology
department at UTC, whose members personally examined this unusual
Skeptics ask for proof. Well, this certainly qualifies as proof.
Question is: Will the skeptics accept the “proof” provided by this
amazing piece of scientific evidence? If not, why not?
Jones, Dan (2005), Personal Interview, conducted February 12.
Simms, Richard (2003), “The Reel in the Rock: Even UTC Geology Experts
Can’t Explain Rare Find,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, October 2,
Text of Apologetics Press Retraction
A Young Earth: “Fishing for Proof”
A NOTE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF APOLOGETICS PRESS
In this spot on our Web site, we formerly had an article titled “A Young Earth: Fishing for Proof” written by three of my staff members. That article dealt with the subject of a newspaper article by Richard Simms that appeared in the October 2, 2004 issue of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Mr. Simms article, “The Reel in the Rock: Even UTC Geology Experts Can’t Explain Rare Find” told the story of a gentleman by the name of Dan Jones who, while fishing a number of years ago in the Tellico River, discovered a portion of a fishing reel imbedded in solid rock. That rock, known as phyllite, is supposed to have been formed (according to evolution-based dating methods) 300 million years ago.
In his Chattanooga Times Free Press article, Simms related the story of how Mr. Jones had shared his find with several members of the geology department at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC). Several members of the department expressed various opinions as to how the reel “might” have gotten in the rock, but apparently even among the geologists there was no clear consensus.
On February 12, 2005, my three staff members traveled to southeastern Tennessee to speak with Mr. Jones personally, and to examine the reel in the rock that was the subject of Mr. Simms’ newspaper article. Upon their return to our offices, those staff members wrote an article about their trip, in which they described Mr. Jones’ find in great detail [including several close-up, high-resolution pictures (available below for viewing) that were part of their article]. Shortly thereafter, we placed the article on our Web site.
I therefore have made the decision to remove the story from our Web site while we study this issue further (which we most assuredly are continuing to do).
Truth is very important to us, and we do not want to ever knowingly use any material, or offer any explanation, that is not defensible via the actual facts of the case. I hope this will be evident to any fair-minded reader, as evinced by the following actions on our part.
First, we did not base our original article on second-hand information or hearsay from a mere newspaper article. Rather, my staff members traveled a considerable distance (and at considerable expense in both time and money) to witness the find firsthand.
Second, from every piece of evidence we had (and still have) at our disposal, there was no indication of any kind in regard to some sort of “fakery” by Mr. Dan Jones (or anyone else). Mr. Jones was as kind, humble, and cooperative as any human could be, and was perfectly willing to allow his unusual find to be submitted to whatever up-close examination was required or requested (even going so far as to allow professional geologists at UTC to carry out acid tests to determine the exact composition of the rock).
Third, as soon as criticism about our article began to arrive in our offices (including some that was offered in extremely inflammatory language and that included slurs, innuendoes, and personal attacks against both the authors and our work in general), we nevertheless tried to accept the criticism at face value, and worked diligently to try to ferret out the actual facts of the case.
Fourth, it is my hope that the fact we have removed the article from our Website will serve as compelling confirmation of the value we place on truth, as well as proof that we are willing to respond in an honorable manner when challenged.
Our studies into this matter are continuing.
I ask for your patience as we complete them.
Dr. Bert Thompson
Link to Joe Meert’s 2005 Internet Report on His Effort
Screenshots (4) from Above Site
Text of Above
On my trip to Tennessee, I asked Brad Harrub at apologetics press to arrange a meeting between the man owning the ‘reel in the rock’ and me.
Brad did not respond, but I did manage to take a look at the phyllite in which it was supposedly embedded. I was accompanied by metamorphic/structural geologist Jim Vogl and when I mentioned the reel in the rock, he had the same question about its undeformed state. I sent the following e-mail to Brad (no response yet):
I tried contacting you last week via the website e-mail system on your site but did not receive a response. This was disappointing because I happened to be on a field trip in Tennessee and the Tellico area. I was hoping to get a look at the reel in the rock that is touted on your website as evidence for a young earth and problematic for geologists. While I did not get to look at the reel, I was able to look at the rock type in which the reel appears to be embedded. I would like to demonstrate why the reel is not good evidence for a young earth and also to correct some scientific misinformation in your article. To be fair, I think most of these mistakes were simply the result of poor recollection on the part of the finder of the reel rather than deliberate attempts to mislead. Nevertheless, I think it is important to correct these errors of fact as side notes to your article. Let me start with the corrections and then explain why I think the reel is more of a curiosity than a scientific enigma.
(1) The collector stated that he recalled that they informed him “that the only two places where this type of rock is found is in the Appalachians and Africa”. This is incorrect. Phyllite is a common type of metamorphic rock found on every continent.
(2) “Mr. Jones recalled that the geologists appeared very familiar with this type of rock, and he remembered being told that the rock came from the period when the continents divided.” The rock formed as a result of continental collision according to evolutionary geology.
Now, here’s the major problem with your story and I trust that you will do the right thing and withdraw the claim. Phyllite is a metamorphic rock and the minerals in the rock indicate (through non-controversial physics and chemistry) that the rock could have only formed under conditions where the temperatures were above 300 C and pressures were above 3-5 kbars (roughly 9-15 kilometers depth). These mineral reactions have been demonstrated in the laboratory and it is well known that the rock known as phyllite starts out as a mudstone and as it is progressively heated and buried it becomes a slate and then a phyllite. So if the reel had been embedded in the rock when it formed, then the reel would have been buried and heated causing it to be flattened as are many of the micaceous minerals in the rock. Imagine how the reel might look if it was run over by a dump truck full of granite. Yet the reel shows no deformation and no indication that it was part of the rock during the metamorphic cycle. Since I have not been able to study the rock in detail, I can only conclude that the reel became embedded in the rock after the metamorphism perhaps due to chemical reactions between dissolved minerals in the water as it sat there for many years. The alternative is that the reel was placed in the rock by someone as a practical joke. Again, this could only be verified through examination of the reel and the rock. However, it is clear from the simple physics and chemistry involved in the formation of the phyllite that it was not formed at the same time as the rock. Now, you may still assert that the earth is very young and that modern geology has the age of the earth all wrong, but this finding does nothing to help your case. I am a Christian who disagrees with your assertions about the age of the earth, but I think we should be honest and forthright in the evidence we present to others. At the very least, I would hope you would be willing to publish my response to the article in question.
Text of Above
I also e-mailed Ann Holmes who is featured in the piece and has actually seen the rock, with her permission this is what she had to say:
The old guy (and a newspaper reporter) brought it in to the department;
Text of Above
There’s more to the e-mail including an exchange amongst faculty at UTC all discussing the fact that the reel is not naturally embedded in the rock. Just got permission to use those:
My immediate reaction is one of total indifference. Like you, I
suspect, I don’t take anybody seriously that takes this kind of
Despite that attitude, it still gets under my skin. …and what
Text of Above
and AEH (Ann again) comments:
We were being polite and respectful to an old man who wanted his “find” to be important.ª We try not to trample people’s feelings when they bring in “dinosaur bones” (concretions), fossilized bird nests (cave deposits), and all the strange pseudofossils that linger in family collections.ª None of us saw any evidence that the rock was formed around the reel.ª In fact, quite the opposite.
Dr. Ann Holmes
Link to My December 9, 2020 Report on Kent’s Promotion
Joe Meert Added the Following to The Above Site