A punctuated 103.3 m thick succession of upper Palaeogene to Quaternary sediments has been recovered in a borehole from the upper Hebrides Slope, west of Britain. The borehole proved 11.2m of upper Oligocene, carbonate-rich muds at the base, unconformably overlain by 2.85 m of middle to upper Miocene, glauconitic sands. This is in turn unconformably overlain by 89.25 m of predominantly Plio-Pleistocene sands and muds, with a Holocene sea-bed veneer. The post-Miocene succession is subdivided into two units: the sand-dominated, Pliocene to lower middle Pleistocene, Lower MacLeod sequence between 89.25 and 67.82 m, and the mud-dominated, middle Pleistocene to Holocene, Upper MacLeod sequence above 67.82 m. Regional mapping indicates that these sequences are commonly associated with large-scale shelf-margin progradation and slope-front fan construction.
The borehole core provides an excellent record of the transition from pre-glacial to glacial conditions in the mid-latitude NE Atlantic Ocean. Climatic conditions warmer than present prevailed in the late Oligocene, mid- to late Miocene and Pliocene, although the influx of ice-rafted detritus in the late Pliocene marks the onset of climatic deterioration. This deterioration continued, in a fluctuating manner, until the early mid-Pleistocene (0.44 Ma) when fully glacial conditions were established on the Hebridean Margin.