Abstract

Geological evidence suggests that during the Late Quaternary, a river system (the Solent River) drained a large part of central Southern England. Its upper reaches flowed in a west-east direction, flanked to the south by a Chalk ridge (the Purbeck-Isle of Wight Chalk Ridge). Today, only part of the upper reaches of the river's tributary channels remain, as the area was inundated during the Flandrian Transgression, forming an embayment system (Poole and Christchurch Bays). In order to map the offshore buried channels of the upper reaches of the Solent River an extensive set of shallow-marine geophysical data was analysed and interpreted. The results of this investigation show that the Solent River system was disrupted irreversibly by southerly capture of its upstream section before the Flandrian Transgression. This disruption was the result of the fluvial breaching of the southern barrier of the system (the Purbeck-Isle of Wight Ridge) at three points, probably during Late Devensian time. Poole Bay was first to be submerged during the transgression. The estuaries which resulted from the drowning of the fluvial palaeovalleys of Poole Bay were infilled with transgressive facies sequences which have been preserved within the buried palaeovalleys. In contrast, Christchurch Bay was submerged at a later time, but because of the abrupt manner of its inundation, no transgressive facies have been preserved within its buried palaeovalleys.

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