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Sediment Distribution Around Glacially Abraded Bedrock Landforms (Whalebacks) at Lago Tranquilo, Chile

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Whalebacks are convex landforms created by the smoothing of bedrock by glacial processes. Their formation is attributed to glacial abrasion either by bodies of subglacial sediment sliding over bedrock or by individual clasts contained within ice. This paper reports field measurements of sediment depth around two whaleback landforms in order to investigate the relationship between glacigenic deposits and whaleback formation. The study site, at Lago Tranquilo in Chilean Patagonia, is situated within the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ice limits. The two whalebacks are separated by intervening depressions in which sediment depths are generally 0.2 to 0.3 m. Two facies occur on and around the whalebacks. These facies are: (1) angular gravel found only on the surface of the whalebacks, interpreted as bedrock fracturing in response to unloading of the rock following pressure release after ice recession, and (2) sandy boulder-gravel in the sediment-filled depressions between the two whalebacks, interpreted as an ice-marginal deposit, with a mixture of sediment types including basal glacial and glaciofluvial sediment. Since the whalebacks have heavily abraded and striated surfaces but are surrounded by only a patchy and discontinuous layer of sediment, the implication is that surface abrasion of the whalebacks was achieved primarily by clasts entrained in basal ice, not by subglacial till sliding.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Glaciology, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK 2: School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, UK

Publication date: 01 October 2005

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