The last glaciation of Shetland
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Evidence of the last glaciation of the Shetland Islands, UK, is re-examined and combined with new data on terrestrial glacigenic deposits and recent offshore data from the continental shelf to produce a dynamic, integrated model of the history of the whole ice cap. It is shown that evidence which has previously been attributed to last glacial, or earlier, Scandinavian ice incursion, might be explained by the eastwards migration of local ice sheds. At its maximum, the ice sheet reached the continental shelf edge to the west of the islands, at least 75 km east, at least 50 km north and might be seen as a peninsular extension of the Scottish ice sheet to the south. The changing patterns of ice flow during deglaciation are reconstructed, implying an early phase of deglaciation at the west and northwest margins (possibly accounting for the suggested eastern migration of the ice shed), followed by retreat at more northern, then eastern, then southern margins. It is suggested that the above pattern reflects tidewater calving controlled by bathymmetric variation around the ice sheet. During a later phase of deglaciation, the margin of the ice cap may have grounded at around the current -100m bathymmetric contour and from there retreated terrestrially. The importance of topographic control on patterns of deglaciation as ice retreated towards the island group is clearly established. Some minor moraines in parts of Shetland are due to active ice margins but their age is unknown. Radiocarbon dates reported here show that the last glaciation was Late Weichselian and that the maximum northern extent was at least 50 km north of the islands. The concepts of an eastwards migrating ice shed and an early, extensive ice cap retreating to a grounding point, could have parallels elsewhere in Scotland during the last glaciation. The methodology applied in this study of Shetland - integrating onshore and offshore data, and developing a dynamic picture of the whole ice cap - needs to be applied to the last Scottish ice sheet also.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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