The Post-LGM Evolution of Milford Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand: Timing of Ice Retreat, the Role of Mass Wasting & Implications for Hazards
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The plate-boundary Alpine Fault runs immediately offshore of the popular tourist destination of Milford Sound, which is visited by more than half a million tourists each year. Glaciers retreated from the fiord between ~24-16 ka, leaving behind a legacy of extreme topography, including some of the world's highest sea cliffs, which tower nearly 2 km above the fiord. Visitors come to view the spectacularly steep and rugged landscape, with many cruising the fiord by boat.
This project utilizes surface exposure dating (TCND) of glacially modified surfaces, to gain further insight into the glacier retreat history of Milford Sound. Exposure dates from strategic locations near the entrance to the fiord indicate that the main trunk glacier had retreated about 9 km from its peak LGM position by ~18 ka. Additional TCND and calibrated Schmidt Hammer data from a range of positions within the Milford catchment provide strong evidence that the main trunk glacier receded rapidly after about 18 ka, retreating a further 16 km to a position near the present-day confluence of the Tutoko and Cleddau rivers, by ~16 ka.
Available seismic reflection data suggest that post-glacial sediment infill has been strongly influenced by massive deposits of rock avalanche debris. New high-resolution bathymetric and seismic reflection data reveals the presence of at least 18 very large post-glacial rock avalanche deposits which blanket ~40% of the fiord bottom. Geomorphic mapping and field investigation reveal the presence of at least ten additional very large to giant terrestrial landslide deposits in the lower Milford catchment; radiocarbon and surface exposure dating indicate that these events occurred during the Holocene, between ~9-1 ka. Ages of six of these deposits are in agreement with published rupture dates on the southern on-shore portion of the Alpine Fault.