Sedimentology and geochemistry of a perennially ice-covered epishelf lake in Bunger Hills Oasis, East Antarctica

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A process-oriented study was carried out in White Smoke lake, Bunger Hills, East Antarctica, a perennially ice-covered (1.8 to 2.8 m thick) epishelf (tidally-forced) lake. The lake water has a low conductivity and is relatively well mixed. Sediments are transferred from the adjacent glacier to the lake when glacier ice surrounding the sediment is sublimated at the surface and replaced by accumulating ice from below. The lake bottom at the west end of the lake is mostly rocky with a scant sediment cover. The east end contains a thick sediment profile. Grain size and δ13C increase with sediment depth, indicating a more proximal glacier in the past. Sedimentary 210Pb and 137Cs signals are exceptionally strong, probably a result of the focusing effect of the large glacial catchment area. The post-bomb and pre-bomb radiocarbon reservoirs are c. 725 14C yr and c. 1950 14C yr, respectively. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the east end of the lake is >3 ka BP, while photographic evidence and the absence of sediment cover indicate that the west end has formed only over the last century. Our results indicate that the southern ice edge of Bunger Hills has been relatively stable with only minor fluctuations (on the scale of hundreds of metres) over the last 3000 years.

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Antarctic Science

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