Abstract

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean were visited by Charles Darwin, who described geomorphological evidence that he considered supported his subsidence theory of coral-reef development. However, several other accounts of the reef islands have questioned Darwin's interpretation, and have suggested that a conglomerate platform that underlies most of the reef islands may indicate recent emergence of the atoll. Radiocarbon ages on corals from this conglomerate platform, reported here, indicate that it formed in the late Holocene. Fossil in situ microatolls above present upper coral growth limits, the elevation of associated beachrock, and the morphological similarity of the conglomerate platform to the present reef-flat deposits indicate a late Holocene sea level above the present relative to the atoll. The atoll has undergone at least 0.5 m of emergence since about 3000 yr B.P. This represents the first radiometrically dated evidence of Holocene emergence from islands in the eastern or central Indian Ocean.

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