Tag Archives: sand and gravel

A Perfect Core……..

By Margot Saher, Dave Roberts and Rich Chiverrell (Photography by Alex Ingle)

Darkness. A great mass of ice overhead. The eerie rumbling of a large, uncompromising mass, slowly but steadily on the move. Below a thick layer of stiff red sediment, ground off the red bedrock, crushed and churned into a lumpy, sticky blanket of glacial till.

Dark coasts

Dark coasts

What would later be called Cape Wrath was only miles to the south, but there was no cape yet. Just the grinding of slow and unforgiving ice moving north into the North Atlantic. But the times were changing. The sun gained in strength, atmosphere and ocean started to warm and the gigantic ice mass, later to be known as the British-Irish Ice Sheet, was in decline. As its surface melted, more water reached its bed, and it began to slide helplessly over its own sediments. Slowly it thinned, and retreated in the direction of the Scottish mountains with the ocean lapping relentlessly at its edges.

There seemed to be no hope, but the ice sheet made one last bold dash towards the edge of the continental shelf before it faltered. The recently deglaciated seabed and freshly deposited grey ocean sediments were bulldozed and overrun again by ice on the move, and buried once more in a blanket of red till. Linear ridges (moraines) marked the limit of this temporary re-advance. But it was only a death throw; the re-advance didn’t get far. The ice sheet’s days were numbered. The advance stopped, and turned into irreversible retreat.

A geophysical search for the perfect core.......

A geophysical search for the perfect core…….

Against a backdrop of rumbling, calving icebergs, station JC123-048VC slowly became ice free, as the snout of the ice sheet moved back over the site. A cold, shallow sea took its place; first, still close to the snout of the ice sheet, where streams of meltwater rushing into the waiting sea water lay down a blanket of coarse sand. As the ice retreated further, taking the meltwater streams with it, the sea fell silent. Only fine sediments spat out into suspension by the dying ice sheet made it to our site, slowly covering it in a thick, grey blanket.

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The ice sheet sent a final message as the ice margins retreated south towards the land; a message from an iceberg. As it passed, melting, overhead of station JC123-048VC, pebbles slipped from its icy grip. They plummeted into the depths, impacting into the soft fine clay sea bed. As soon as this excitement started it was over, and the pebbles were slowly covered by more of the same grey clay.

With the great weight of the ice gone, the Earth’s crust rose like an ancient giant from its slumbers, pushing the Scottish continental shelf closer to the sea surface. Over time, the waters shallowed, and the seabed currents became stronger. The last vestiges of the glacial seafloor were scoured by contour currents, which deposited the spoils of an energetic coast on the eroded sediment below. Millennia later coarse sand and shell debris formed a layer of several inches thick. And then on Sunday the 12th July 2015 all changed.

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There was an unfamiliar thud, and then the uncanny sensation of a vibrating tube burrowing into the sediment from above. It cut through the sand in a jiffy, passed the pebbles, and into the soft clays. The tube slid through it like a hot knife through butter. No struggle with the coarse sands lain down by meltwater streams either, only slowing on reaching the stiff, red till. It battled its way into it for a meter and a half. Then the friction became too much. The vibrocorer stopped, and then the whole tube, now full of sediment, was pulled back up to the sea surface, and hoisted back up onto the deck of the RRS James Cook, the ship it had come from. Peace returned once again on to the sea floor, at core site VC123-048VC, a few miles north of Cape Wrath, on the northwestern edge of Scotland; a land mass now devoid of ice sheets and glaciers.

The core came on board and was cut into sections, labelled, scanned, and split. Finally, we, the scientists who had planned the project, planned the cruise, sailed all the way from Southampton to Cape Wrath, and waited for the British Geological Survey (BGS) to deliver the core, first laid eyes on the sediment. The story was there: a stiff basal till deposited beneath the ice sheet; fines marking the first incursion of the sea; further glacial till documenting the ice re-advance, meltwater stream sediments deposited in front of the retreating ice margin; the fine clays deposited when the ice began to recede southwards containing drop-stones from the icebergs, and the marine sand of the modern seafloor. That was what we had come for. And this was the 48th core; none of the previous 47 had told the story of the vanishing British ice quite this clearly.

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Hopefully we’ll be getting more cores like this in the coming three weeks of the cruise. We need this story told in every sector of the British-Irish continental shelf. Only then will we have what we set out for: the complete saga of the Last British-Irish Ice Sheet.

Cruise 1: Days 1-6 trials, tribulations and triumphs

By Rich Chiverrell and co from the edge of the shelf

Developed as a concept 3-4 years ago, and planned over the last 2 years with massive input from across the Britice-Chrono team and Colm Ó Cofaigh (Marine Theme Leader), on Monday 14th July it finally began to happen, Cruise 1 (JC106) of the NERC Consortium Project Britice-Chrono. The vessel, the RRS James Cook was waiting for us moored at the wharfside of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton as the various team members mobilised. For me this would be a first, after running the terrestrial field programme for the past 18 months, and now for something completely different – having visited numerous boulders, quarries and cliff sections, the chance to see and sample the extensive offshore sediment and landform record of the decline/collapse for the former British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS).

The leaving of Southampton

The leaving of Southampton

Individual preparations for an undertaking like this began months ago; spending 3-6 weeks living offshore on a state-of-the-art research vessel does not happen overnight. In June marine survey or personal survival training qualifications were needed. This involved 7/8 hours of training and tests at the Fleetwood Nautical Campus, which covered survival equipment, how to abandon ship from a 5m platform and in the appropriate survival gear (immersion suites, life jackets, entering life-rafts, management of life rafts, individual and group mobility in the water). All this in a state-of-the-art 8-9m deep wave simulator, where for the finale we abandoned ship from 5m, in the dark, smoke everywhere, rainfall and spray, into a wave churning pool, after 5-10 mins in the life-raft mal-de-mer was looming! Medical certification testifying fitness to work was also needed. And then on to other tasks, helping with permissions for geophysical survey and coring in Irish, English, Welsh, Manx and Scottish waters all were required; remarkably all interpret EU law differently and this resulted in a major undertaking for Colm Ó Cofaigh amongst many others.

It was with a little trepidation and expectation that I first visited the RRS James Cook on Monday to drop of personal luggage and cameras (on board duties for me included amateur film maker and outreach obsessive). First impressions, a big and well equipped ship, and my cabin is more spacious than I expected. Second impression there was still a great deal to do before our scheduled departure noon Tuesday 15th July, with an impressive set of additional equipment being loaded as I arrived; the British Geological Survey waited on replacement cranes to load the 6m vibro-corer. The NOC 12m length piston corer was also working its way on board. A freight container that housed the University of Leicester Multi-Sensor Core Logger was also being loaded. The science team added research consumables to allow the sampling of ~200 core profiles and then on Tuesday ourselves for familiarisation and preparations to depart. It perhaps was more of a surprise than it should have been when our eventually departure lunchtime on Friday came around, because mobilising this scale of operation is challenging, and we did have a few issues with the vibrocorer that the BGS team worked largely round the clock to fix including extra and replacement equipment from Edinburgh. The wider BGS team got to know the route from Southampton – Edinburgh well…..

After some final repairs and tests of the vibrocorer and we met our Friday departure time, and headed for a date with the English Channel and a test location identified to the south of the Isle of Wight. Casting off and the journey to the Solent was in calm seas and glorious sunshine, within 3-4 hours we reached the test area, and the BGS and JC106 Science teams readied themselves for the fray. Using the RRS James Cook’s dynamic positioning system the crew manoeuvred the ship into position in 30-40m of water. The BGS team, thoroughly checking the physical operation of the equipment, lowered, sampled and recovered a vibrocore. The equipment was functioning fine, we were ready for the Celtic Sea and the Science team had materials on which to practice our procedures e.g. core cutting, splitting and description.

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On finishing the test core location, the geophysical equipment was powered up, so that the watch teams could gain experience and practice the 24 hr geophysics monitoring duties. My first watch was 12 midnight through to 4am! Actually pretty good fun, not sure how quickly my body clock will adjust to a warmed up dinner for breakfast, breakfast for lunch and lunch for dinner, and for that matter sleeping 4pm til 11pm……

Saturday through to Sunday was spent in transit; the shelf edge of the Celtic Sea is quite a long way ~ 36 hours at ~10 knots. In the mid-morning our safety skills were put through the paces, with a muster drill, the alarms sound we secure warm clothing and life jackets and convene in the muster point, from which we are led to and board the two life boats. Very spacious, well kind of, the each can take ~50 people and we are a crew of around 50. You can imagine they would get very warm and pretty unpleasant if full of people for a long time.

On waking 11pm after not much sleep, still adjusting to the new life cycle… Taking over from the end of my day watch partner, Catriona, my watch was good fun acquiring the data for the next 5-6 hours involving scouting for core sites as we began our target geophysics transect on the shelf edge, with some success finding some promising targets in between problems with the Sub-Bottom Profiler. Riccardo and then Kasper followed, with ever present input from night coring lead Sara, night geophysics lead Fabio and Margot. On this watch we completed an acoustic velocity profile as a calibration for the multibeam survey systems, and worked the geophysics transect. Once complete we arrived at the destination for our shelf edge piston core. The piston coring team from NOC made quick work of the 459 meter, recovering ~ 4m (JC106-002PC). Fabio and the RRS James Cook computation team carried out a further calibration of the multibeam survey using the sea floor topography. The core awaits acclimatising to the MSCL container and whole core analysis of the physical properties with Elke.

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At noon, the baton passed to day watch (Katrien, Lou, James, Catriona, Daniel, Zoe) and the challenges of obtaining five vibrocores along the geophysics transect in search of that Holy Grail, a contact between subglacial diamicts and glaciomarine deposits in 280m of water. JC106-003VC, the first stop, was on the flank of the western side of Little Sole Bank near an earlier BGS vibrocore. The materials were very tough penetrating ~1.6m, with a much consolidated stony diamict at the base; admittedly a little/lot early to say it looks a lot like what we were hoping for, and there are four more sites to follow, but….

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Minching about on a sunny Isle of Lewis

By Rich Chiverrell

Port Skigersta delta

Port Skigersta delta

One of the smaller ice-masses draining the former British-Irish Ice Sheet, the Minch palaeo ice stream drained much of the NW sector of the British–Irish ice sheet (∼15,000 km2) feeding sediments to the large Sula Sgeir fan fronting the continental shelf. But if this is small, standing on the east coast of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) looking across the sunlit, blue seas and skies east to the feeder fjords and mountains of the Summer Isles and Wester Ross helps one visualise how large this former ice sheet really was. Our aim for this ongoing Briticechrono Transect 8 fieldwork was to secure a series of targets for Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating from outwash sands from Lewis, one of the outermost land-masses on the western flank of the Minch Ice Stream. This work will support previous sampling efforts targeting boulders on the Scottish Mainland and the Hebrides for cosmogenic nuclide dating. Previous OSL sampling had targeted the inner sector of the Minch on Skye and north of Ullapool. The team (Rich Chiverrell, Matt Burke, OSL Postdocs Rachel Smedley and Alicia Medialdea) set off first thing on Tuesday morning to join Transect Leader (Tom Bradwell) on Lewis. Departing a cloudy Manchester via Glasgow Airport we landed before lunchtime to blue skies, sunshine and searing temperatures at Stornoway Airport.

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Inspired by our surroundings, the weather and the prospect of excellent sediments the four newcomers sped off to meet up with advance team Tom Bradwell, Adrian Hall and Maarten Krabbendam (from the Netherlands) at Port Skigersta in the far north of Lewis. The site an embayment on the western flank of the Minch Ice Stream gave stunning views across the water back to the ice source areas in western Scotland and beautiful turquoise seas. The sediments were very impressive with the sequence a stacked delta sequence with steeply dipping fore-set sands capped by top-set horizontally stratified gravel. Intriguingly the basal delta is buried by laminated bottom-set muds, in turn buried by a second delta fore-set and top-set couplet. The repeating delta suggests changes in water level probably lake level, dammed between the ice stream and bedrock rise into Lewis. We sampled both deltas close to the fore-set – top-set contact. And then for some geological tourism, the raised beach at Galsom guided by Adrian Hall, stunning and confusing sediments, all contributing to produce a plethora of hypotheses. Difficult to address under the banner of Briticechrono, the beach deposits (guess the isotope stage) appear altered by over-ride by ice, locally there is a surface diamicton and the beach pea/rounded gravels are probably thrust or stacked. We have targeted an outwash (ish!) deposit above a glacial diamicton, fingers-crossed for contributing to the debate. Excellent food followed at the Cabarfeidh Hotel our home for the next few days (well some of us!).

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Day 2, still warm, still still (no winds) and the sunshine popped in later! After an epic breakfast (Lewis did us proud) back to the north and just south of the Butt of Lewis the west coast Swainbost Sands offered much promise. The sections were epic more glaciotectonics, tills, shells than you can shake a stick at, and the beach!!!! One of the best beaches I have seen in the British – Irish Isles…. Selecting targets was challenging, much of the outwash deposit was rich with shells, thrust, tectonised and not where it was deposited! How? Well by marginal movements and override by ice and at a substantial scale. Three sample locations were found and in the back, along with crucial in gamma detector comparisons, duplication with different detectors at some of the samples. The sampling completed our targets after ~36 hours on the islands, and so we racked our brains for other targets. After a quick visit ~5/6km south down the west coast of Lewis where we encountered convincing striae in steeply foliated Lewisian gneiss, where the glacial lineation trends cross obliquely the metamorphic structure heading northwest. We also prospected for sites further up-ice around Stornoway; another fine meal at the hotel and some gin-assisted colour-by-numbers approaches to former ice geometry and let’s see what tomorrow brings for our last 3-4 hours on this eye-opening island (hopefully a final sample)….

Many a mickle makes a Muckle (Roe)….

Contributed by Tom Bradwell (1.75m tall) and Rich Chiverrell

Dawn broke at 0430 (we understand but not by experience) with clear skies and wide views across the hills around Lerwick. The team assembled slightly later than this, well 4 hours later actually – at around 0830 – after a good night’s sleep following our 2-day extravaganza on Unst. The prospect of great weather called for a slight change of plan and we decided to split into 3 teams for the day: Derek, David & Tom headed west in the Hilux to hopefully find some nice big rocks on Muckle Roe; Rich and Matt went south in the Vito MPV in search of glacial sands; and Chris, Saskia and Vince went to gather more footage of the Project Leader in his well worn and very practical Drizabone field gear.

The island of Muckle Roe lies in St Magnus Bay but is only 25 m from the Shetland mainland at its closest point and is conveniently joined by a sturdy bridge spanning Roe Sound. Taking advantage of this team Hilux drove to the end of the public road at Muckle Ayre, parked and set off on foot into a chill NW wind towards the furthest tip of the island. Muckle Roe is composed almost entirely of Silurian/Devonian granite and is quite rightly a national scenic area. The landscape is quite different to that across much of Mainland Shetland, with distinctive red granite crags, precipitous cliffs, and an abundance of glacially transported boulders – so many boulders in fact that it soon became apparent that the cosmogenic sampling team were in for a good day! After a couple of kilometres walk they found the first signs that glaciers had once crossed the island from east to west, with a number of rounded ultramafic and meta-sandstone boulders scattered across glacially polished and broken bedrock surfaces. These boulders could only have come from the Shetland mainland and their presence was a clear indicator that a large ice mass covered the whole island group probably with a 30-km wide ice lobe flowing into St Magnus Bay. Unfortunately, these boulders in particular could not be sampled as they don’t contain quartz: the mineral needed for the cosmogenic nuclide analyses. Instead the team took quartz-rich granite samples from a glacially deposited boulder, a smaller cobble and some ice-worn bedrock. If only all sample sites were this good!

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The team enjoyed a brief lunch stop of cornish pasty, squashed sandwiches, dried mango and caramel logs sat on glacially polished granite slabs overlooking the western cliffs with fine views to Foula and Eshaness. Derek even found the time and signal strength to send a couple of tweets. More sampling followed in the afternoon including a very prominent granite erratic nicknamed simply “big white” taking the final tally to 9 for the day. As the sun beat down, and temperatures soared into the low teens the weary 3 made their way back to the Hilux via the coastal path taking in some of Shetland’s (if not some of the UK’s) best cliff scenery. Vertiginous granite cliffs at Picts Ness and the Hole of Hellier were carefully navigated around before the samples were safely deposited in the truck.

Team ‘Elusive Quaternary Sediment’ following up some precise instructions from T1 Leader of go to behind ‘a well-known supermarket chain store’ there will be something there, and failing that drive around and find some stuff…… Pausing for some quick digital recognisance, emergency lunch supplies and then the section- bedrock and 1-1.5m diamict, job well done part one at least. The driving around aimlessly took much much longer! The coastal sections on the journey down to Hoswick proved equivalently disappointing, though interesting if you like windblown sand and peats inter-bedded of Holocene age overlying a thin glacial diamict. Matt and I then headed for Burn of Mail, and an eventual rendezvous with ‘the making of….’ documentary team. A cracking valley and showing the first set of convincing retreat moraines with ice flow down the valley eastwards from the mainland of Shetland. No sections but cracking geomorphology and a good boulder spread with the potential to record passage of the ice margin on land from the east. There was the tremendous opportunity to watch a future movie star in the making, as our film and outreach crew (Vince and Saskia) collected some of the final footage on Shetland for the U-rated comedy prequel to ‘Silence of the Lambs’. We then headed west to check out the southern flanks of Papa Sound, a stretch of marine waters extending from our destination on Wednesday ‘Papa Stour’ to the hinterland of ice on Shetland around Voe. Our brief ‘brief’ was to find boulder and if possible OSL datable materials, lo and behold we did, much of the lower terrain between Voe and Aith was ornamented with moraine ridges and glacial sediment documenting in this case the retreat of ice margins from the west onto Shetland. 15 m off the road inland of Gon Firth a 5m thick borrow-pit section through a moraine shows a sequence of a coarse grained boulder (>1 m) diamict overlain by a finer grained (>0.3m) poorly stratified till, but separated by 0.5m of stratified outwash sands probably lain down as wash down the front of the moraine. OSL samples were recovered and have the potential to add to the age control in this sector of the former ice sheet, particularly with paired cosmogenic ages if possible.

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C3W team Vince and Saskia departed for home this afternoon, overloaded we know with excellent footage documenting the work of Britice-Chrono and the T1 team on Shetland, we thank them for their company, hard work and efforts, and wish them a speedy journey home…. A fine evening meal (cooked by chef Fabel) of Jalfrezi chicken with rice, poppadoms and indian snack selection was enhanced further with David’s home-made onion pickle accompaniment (recipe available on request). With ready made plans for tomorrow and Papa Stour hopefully on Wednesday, Transect 1 (onshore) feels like it is rounding the bend onto the home straight…..

Transect 1 Shetland – Day 3: Northmaven

By Derek Fabel

The writing is in the sand

The writing is in the sand

After a leisurely start we were on the road 8:45 to North Maven, the northern most part of Shetland Mainland. The target areas for sampling were a very distinct set of bedrock ridges extending for several kilometres in a northwest direction on the west coast of North Roe. We had spotted the bedrock ridges on air photos and satellite images, but now it was time to set foot on them. Tom, David and I drove to the end of a 4×4 track, shouldered our packs and set off looking for the ridges. After strolling through 3km of rocks, heather and bogs we were standing on what we previously had only seen on a computer screen. The shapes of the ridges, and smooth bedrock features on them, show they have been covered by flowing ice. When the ice melted away it left behind boulders that had been carried by the moving ice to the area. The boulders are of different rock types and thus were eroded from different source areas. The boulders are what we were after, and we quickly collected samples from the tops of six of them.

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While we were sampling boulders, Matt and Richard, the sedimentologists in the team, went along the Esha Ness coast looking for sedimentary deposits related to the last ice sheet that covered Shetland. In the afternoon the two groups met up in North Roe and did a vehicle swap so Matt, Richard and Tom could visit a famous Quaternary site at Fugla Ness at the northwestern tip of Northmaven. Fugla Ness was a stunning location, with a well exposed interglacial peat deposit between two glacial tills, apparently 130,000 years old and containing roots and stumps of Pine trees. For Tom, Matt and Rich the most exciting new (?) finds were a set of striations in the gabbro bedrock and these were buried by the Fugla Ness interglacial deposits and so are at least 130,000 years old and testify to previous glaciation of Shetland.

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David and I went north towards Fethaland, to look for some more rocks. After collecting three more samples, we looked at some glacial moraines near Skelberry, and promptly collected another three samples from some large, very, very, very hard granitic boulders. It was now 7pm and we were supposed to meet Chris, Vince and Saskia, who had flown in from England today, at Frankie’s fish and chip shop (the most northern chippy in the UK) in Brae. They were duly seated munching on fish and chips. Unfortunately Tom, Matt and Richard did not get back in time for a sit in meal. They enjoyed their fish suppers at Mavis Grind while the sun was setting.

Well worth the rushing and much deserved

Well worth the rushing and much deserved

Another long and very productive day, done. Out Skerries tomorrow.

Eastern delights: following the retreat of the Irish Sea Ice Stream

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By Rich Chiverrell

The transect 4 team of BriticeChrono converged for the last time on land in a small pad just outside Gorey on the Wexford coast of southeast Ireland to complete the terrestrial sampling. The team comprised Chiverrell, Burke, Scourse (and van Landeghen) sailing Holyhead to Dublin, the OSL crew of Duller and new Britice-Chrono postdoc Rachel Smedley taking the Fishguard-Rosslare, cosmogenic nuclide team Small sailing Stranraer-Belfast, and Ó Cofaigh jetting into Dublin from the northeast. The challenge facing us was to augment the already excellent geochronology that existed for this sector of the former British-Irish Ice Sheet, ~4 young (out of ~30) radiocarbon ages on shells reworked into Irish Sea tills documenting the advance of ice south of Ireland. Optically stimulated luminescence ages for sand grains in outwash deposits on the south coast and in the Screen Hills north of Wexford constrain the retreat of ice marginal positions. However there are then gaps in the geochronology to the north of Ireland, and the region is devoid of low altitude cosmogenic ages with most effort so far expended in the Blackstairs and Wicklow Mountains.

In the south our efforts (Day2) focused on the coastal exposures at Kilmore Quay where stratified outwash sands fill depressions in Irish Sea tills and have been deformed during over-ride by inland ice out of Ireland. We recovered four OSL samples targeting shallow and possible slack water lithofacies. On the south-eastern corner of Ireland between the Irish Sea and Lady’s Island Lake we encountered numerous granite boulders, sourced from local bedrock but transported short distances by ice. Though slightly sub-optimal, three of these were sampled and make an excellent cluster of age determinations with the OSL samples ~4 km to the west.

Up-ice, north of Wexford the coastline from Blackwater Harbour to Cahore Point offers 7.8km of difficult to rival exposure of the Quaternary stratigraphy. The winter storms and tides had rendered the cliff-line along the coast both unstable and very well exposed in equal measures. Drawing on the stratigraphical logs of Geoff Thomas and John Summers the OSL team made short work of the sequences (Day 2). Working north-to-south, accessing the coast northwards from Blackwater Harbour, after the tide allowed access, our sampling targeted rippled sands within stacked planar cross-stratified sands, probable bar-forms, in a thick >30m packages extending south of a marginal position (2) to the rear of Blackwater Head. The locations has been OSL dated previously to ~23.6 kyrs, with sampling targeting equivalent deposits exposed in quarry faces ~1km inland.

Earlier, the OSL team had split up for more rapid sampling, with Chiverrell and Burke accessing the sections from Knocknasilloge, and sampling south of the access point in a thick 25m package of outwash sands lying south of four ice marginal positions (4-7) identified by Thomas and Summers. Sampling targeted distal style deposition, with low energy rippled samples and falling flow regime finer drape laminations. Approximately 2.4km further north, around Ballyvaldon, Rachel Smedley (taking her first BriticeChrono sample) and Geoff Duller sampled the extensive 600-800m sequence of outwash sands fronting ice limit 9 north of the access point. The final samples in this section, were sampled north of Tinaberna, where outwash sands front limit position 11, and sit directly on consolidated Irish Sea till.

On the final morning (Day 5), heading north to Dublin, Chiverrell, Burke and Small visited Wicklow Point, to sample a subglacial channel system on the tip of the headland. The channel 20m wide in places and >10m in depth, has an undulating floor and exits to the sea and both end, thus can only really have formed beneath ice covering the headland. On the walk south from the golf course, two granite erratics were encountered sat on schist bedrock, but the contexts were poor for sampling. Instead we sampled quartz veins in the walls of the channel for cosmogenic nuclide dating. From here David headed to the north of Ireland and a ferry, with Rich and Matt sprinting west for some unfinished transect 5 business in County Clare and the Burren coastline.

Day 4 saw an assault on the north of the region, with half the team (Chiverrell, Ó Cofaigh, Duller and Smedley) focused on the embayment south of Bray Head yielding OSL samples from the top-set sands of inland delta near Kilpedder from a now dormant quarry. The coast at Greystones proved tricky to access with engineering works and erosion producing excellent exposures once we reached the beach from the northern end. The exposures described previously by McCabe and Ó Cofaigh, were for the most part similar to the published work, with a thinning wedge of subaqueous diamict lapping-off Bray Head. The notable differences were a 5-6m thick sequence of steep angle delta foreset sands and gravels, which were a capped by a more horizontally stratified set of sand and gravel described previously, but here interpreted as a topset deposit. Thus the only differences to the previous interpretation are for the sequence to include a sub-aerial component as the delta broke the water surface of the subaqueous basin. OSL sampling targeted a very precariously located sand unit at the base of the top-set. In the afternoon, our team merged again and attention then turned to Bray Head and the search for glacially scoured bedrock and erratic boulders. One of the highlights of the trip! A delightful granite erratic sat on quartzite bedrock, within 100m we located striated and smoothed quartzite on the stoss side of a roche moutonnée and adjacent plucked surfaces on the lee side. Together the three locations have to potential to tie down the retreat chronology northwards.

Finally, north of Dublin at Howth, (Day 4) three of the team (Scourse, Burke and Small) an ice proximal delta is exposed in a former quarry and road cut showing shallow angle sand and gravel fore-sets capped by gravel top-sets. OSL sampling targeted sandy units towards the top of the fore-set. Within 1km at the top of Howth Hill ice-scoured quartzite bedrock yielded two samples, and an apparently excellent fish and chip shop yielded lunch before they returned south to Bray Head.

Spaced over >100km south to north the samples hopefully will advance understanding of ice retreat on the west flank of the Irish Sea Ice Stream, parallel equivalent efforts in the east where sites extend from Scilly, Pembroke, Cardigan Bay, Llyn and Anglesey. Other activities on our travels in Ireland include planning and discussions in advance of the marine sampling in this sector in July 2014. Not satisfied with finishing off one transect, a delta sequence had been overlooked on the south coast of the Galway Bay Icestream (Transect 5) at Doolin, so Chiverrell and Burke completed a 500km round trip to box that one off. A very happy team ticked off a whole load objectives on this trip……

Luminescence dating sampling at Cherry Orchard Farm, near Delamere

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By Richard Chiverrell

Another day and another quarry, but this time the BriticeChrono Terrestrial team Rich Chiverrell and Matt Burke met up with some friends, with luminescence dating team Geoff Duller and Holly Wynne from Aberystwyth and stratigraphic geru Geoff Thomas to tackle the delights of rural Cheshire, Transect 3. Breaking all the rules for BriticeChrono quarry investigations the sun was out and not a snowflake in sight or site for that matter. Cherry Orchard Farm is one of a series of sand and gravel quarries to the east of the mid-Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, recently sampled for cosmogenic nuclide (CN) dating.

The site (location 17 on the map) makes an intriging pair with cosmogenic nuclide location ‘Urchin’s Kitchen’ (location 16), a deeply incised bedrock channel eroded subglacially. We hope to compare the performance of luminescence and CN dating techniques with pairings like this. The setting contains numerous the active and former sand and gravel extraction sites around Delamere Forest, and is located on an extensive (8x5km) gently undulating triangular terrace or bench raised >10m above the floodplains of the Weaver Basin. The terrace is fed by channels flowing from the Sandstone Ridge and presumably a former ice margin on the southern edge of zone 5 (see the map).

Quarry operator (Richard Wilding) was fanastically co-operative and allowed us full access to the sections which reveal shallow water sandur and fine-grained glaciolacustrine sands. The sands were a dream to sample, well sorted, stratified, the right grain size for luminescence dating and with excellent exposure throughout the section. Four samples were taken arrayed vertically through the sequence, though probably almost identical in age given the depositional environment, we sampled different lithofacies or depositional environments. The lengthly process was completed in 5 hours, it takes 60 minutes to record the gamma dosimetry (with a field gamma spectrometer) for each sample, which gave plenty of time for discussion, strategy and logging. Then for some differing journeys home, it can’t take that long to drive to Aberystwyth can it?! Can’t wait for the dates and the next phase of sampling on transect 3…..