Abstract

The glaciomarine sedimentary record of the fjord head (Collins Harbor) in Maxwell Bay, South Shetland Islands (West Antarctica), a large marine calving embayment, contains repeating couplets of organic-rich massive diamicton and organic-poor stratified diamicton. The massive diamicton is characterized by high total organic carbon (TOC) content and carbon to nitrogen (C/N) ratios and was deposited in a cold climate regime by iceberg-rafted sedimentation from coastal fast ice in which algal plants, as well as gravels, were entrained. The stratified diamicton is characterized by low TOC content and C/N ratios and was formed in a warmer climate regime when the flux of icebergs was suppressed, but turbid meltwater discharge continued to produce lamination. When the meltwater discharge decreased in cold climatic conditions, and resultant phytoplankton productivity was reduced due to the increased sea-ice coverage, ice rafting from shorefast sea ice might have played a major role in entraining benthic algae, as well as loads of sand and gravel, along the coastal area, resulting in an increased C/N ratio and gravel content in the massive diamicton. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon analyses conducted on well-preserved calcite shells were used to construct a chronology for the past 3000 years. Fluctuations in TOC are recorded (approximately four cycles over this time period), with the average duration of a cooling cycle being ∼500 years. These cycles may be correlative with the high-frequency (550 yr) variability in reduced Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) on the West Antarctic Peninsula shelf, because a decrease in CDW may be related to reduced deep water production in the North Atlantic during colder periods, as demonstrated for glacial intervals throughout the Pleistocene.

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