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Re: Re[2]: The Henry Voyage

Dear Friends,

 Doug Wellar's reasonable comments on the carbon dating deserve a full
answer and, as promised, here it is complete with sources. Here is what we
have written about the carbon dating of the Newport Tower. Bear in mind
that, as Doug has so accurately stated, Prof Bethune is an expert on pourous
substances, a bio-chemist of considerable
 knowedge and a co-worker of the inventor of the original Carbon dating
proceedures. While that does not necessarily give Prof Bethune comparable
rank to the originator of this process, it does mean that he has the
undoubted ability to understand the physics and the chemistry involved -
which is certainly far  more than I, or perhaps most others on this list,
can justly claim.

Excerpt from our book:

The Carbon Dating Controversy

In 1992 a team of researchers from Denmark and Finland led by Heinemeier and
Junger took samples of mortar from the Newport Tower for testing. For
reasons that are far from clear, while eight core samples were taken, one
from each pillar, only those from pillars 6 and 7 were tested. The core
sample that was taken from the wall of the fireplace at a level of 420 cm
was rejected in analysis for reasons that were not disclosed in the copy of
the report that we have seen. Surface samples were taken from the plaster on
pillar 8 which gave a range of dates of 1550-1770 and a surface sample from
plaster in the chimney flue was also taken which gave a range from
1680-1810. Two core samples from pillar 6 were tested; sample 1 gave a range
of dates from 1750-1930 and sample 2 from 1510-1640. Therefore the overall
dating of the core sample from pillar 6 ranges from 1510-1930.  Of the core
samples taken from pillar 7, several were rejected arbitrarily, four were
tested and gave a range of dates from 1410-1855. Even to the untrained eye,
when carbon dating of four samples from within two pillars of the Newport
Tower indicate a time-span that ranges from 1410 to the 1930s, we would
suggest that this defies logic. It certainly raises serious questions
concerning the reliability of the use of carbon dating techniques in dating
mortar, in general, and of this investigation in particular. We are not
alone in questioning these results; several scientists of the highest repute
have also made highly critical comments about them. The analytical chemist,
James L. Guthrie PhD, has condemned the results in the following words:

'The plaster dating results of Heimeier and Junger are not to be taken
seriously because the small number of samples tested, the poor precision of
the methods revealed by the only test run in duplicate, and by the
unwarranted assumption that all of the mortar and plaster is of the same
age. Plaster and mortar applied over hundreds of years during known episodes
of repair and reinforcement complicate the analysis, and the reported
results suggest to me that the samples were mixtures of carbonates of
various ages. The possibility that any of the specimens was a pure sample of
the original mortar seems remote. Other things bother me, such as a
preference for the more recent dates obtained from the first fraction of the
evolved carbon dioxide, the apparent belief that a single ambiguous result
from a nearby 17th century house is an adequate control, and the use of a
calibration that may not be appropriate for the New England coast. . . . The
plaster samples seem to be a mix of older and newer plaster, and there is no
evidence that any is from the date of construction. Errors, especially the
adsorption of modern carbon dioxide would tend to date samples closer to the
present than to the date of mixing.'

This matter of slow diffusion of carbon dioxide through the mortar, making
some samples appear younger than they really are, is a variable quantity as
it may take several hundred years for carbon dioxide to reach depths of 20
cm.26 This point was expanded in some detail by Dr. Alan Watchman, a
geological dating expert of Data-Roche Watchman Inc. who wrote:

'The data in table 1 of the article can be used to suggest an age of about
550 radio-carbon years might be obtained from measuring the more acid
resistant carbon in the mortar - taking into consideration possible
diffusion, particle size, crystallisation and fractionation effects. If my
hypothesis is correct, then the calibrated age for the mortar would be about
1400 AD.'

The most scathing criticisms of the carbon dating of the mortar of the
Newport Tower were made by Professor Andre J. de Bethune who was Professor
of Chemistry at Boston College. Professor de Bethune made several criticisms
of a highly technical nature which tend to invalidate the thinking and the
methodology used in the tests. He echoed the criticisms we have quoted above
and stated:

'there are serious doubts in my mind concerning the mortar testing at the
tower. . . . the timing yielded by the tests is close to the time that
Governor Arnold . . . referred to the tower in his last will and testament.
But does this date truly give us the age of the tower?'

 Professor de Bethune goes on to explain that this date could only be valid
if we could be absolutely certain that in the intervening period there had
been no exchange of carbon dioxide between the carbonate in the mortar and
carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. When wood or fibre samples are tested
such exchange ceases when the tree or plant dies. But with a porous ionic
solid, such as mortar, an exchange of CO2 molecules at the gas-solid
interface does tend to continue, especially in a damp climate such as New
England. While such gas-solid exchanges are extremely slow, we know that in
this instance we are dealing with a time scale in excess of three centuries
and this continuing exchange would have rejuvenated the mortar, so to speak,
with a respect for its carbon 14 content. With this possibility in mind Dr.
de Bethune states 'an earlier origin for our Newport Tower - Portuguese or
Viking - cannot be excluded, even in the face of painstaking carbon 14
analyses.' Professor de Bethune is not merely emeritus Professor of
Chemistry at Boston College, he was a close colleague of Professor Willard
F. Libby, who devised carbon dating in the first place, and therefore his
considered professional opinion cannot be easily dismissed.

>From these comments it is plain that at best, the Carbon Dating of the
Newport Tower is deemed to be unreliable and innaccurate by reputable people
of considerable expertise by reason of the questionable selection of the
samples used and because of the unsuitable nature of the substance being
tested. Therefore in attempting to assess the true date of the Tower's
construction we have to rely on the archaeological work done by Arlington
Mallory and the late Jim Whittal.
Both point firmly to a date over two hundred years prior to the
establishment of the Colony at Rhode Island and Jim Whittal, who is the only
investigator so far to conduct an extensive comaparitive study of the
building with it's European counterparts, points unequivocally at Earl Henry
St Clair as the builder.

This should provide food for thought.

References used are as follows:

English translation of an article by Heinemeier and Jung published in
Archaeological Excavations in Denmark, 1992.

 Article b James L. Guthrie on file in the Jim Whittal Archive in the folder
'Comments on the Radio Carbon dating of the Newport Tower'.

Letter to Jim Whittal from Data-Roche Watchman Inc, dated June 21st 1996,
Letter by Andre de Bethune published in the
Newport Daily News, 8th July 1997.

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