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Vitus Lake, the ice-marginal basin at the southeastern edge of Bering Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A., is a site of modern, rapid, glacial-marine sedimentation. Rather than being a fresh-water lake, Vitus Lake is a tidally influenced, marine to brackish embayment connected to the Pacific Ocean by an inlet, the Seal River. Vitus Lake consists of five deep bedrock basins, separated by interbasinal highs. Glacial erosion has cut these basins as much as 250 m below sea level. High-resolution seismic reflection surveys conducted in 1991 and 1993 of four of Vitus Lake's basins reveal a complex, variable three-component acoustic stratigraphy. Although not fully sampled, the stratigraphy is inferred to be primarily glacial-marine units of (1) basal contorted and deformed glacial-marine and glacial sediments deposited by basal ice-contact processes and submarine mass-wasting; (2) acoustically well-stratified glacial-marine sediment, which unconformably overlies the basal unit and which grades upward into (3) acoustically transparent or nearly transparent glacial-marine sediment. Maximum thicknesses of conformable glacial-marine sediment exceed 100 m. All of the acoustically transparent and stratified deposits in Vitus Lake are modern in age, having accumulated between 1967 and 1993. The basins where these three-part sequences of "present-day" glacial-marine sediment are accumulating are themselves cut into older sequences of stratified glacial and glacial-marine deposits. These older units outcrop on the islands in Vitus Lake. In 1967, as the result of a major surge, glacier ice completely filled all five basins. Subsequent terminus retreat, which continued through August 1993, exposed these basins, providing new locations for glacial-marine sediment accumulation. A correlation of sediment thicknesses measured from seismic profiles at specific locations within the basins, with the year that each location became ice-free, shows that the sediment accumulation at some locations exceeds 10 m year-1.
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20th-century glacial-marine sedimentation in Vitus Lake, Bering Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A.