Glaciation together with tectonism have been dominant factors affecting sedimentation in the Gulf of Alaska area from at least the late Miocene throughout the Quaternary. The effects of tectonism are apparent in high mountains that border the gulf, raised terraces of Middleton Island and the eastern gulf coastal zone, and numerous active faults and related earthquakes. Glacial evidence includes magnificent glaciers and their onshore deposits, spectacular fjords, large sea valleys incised in the continental shelf, submarine morainal ridges at mouths of bays and sea valleys, and thick glacimarine sedimentary sequences (diamicts) that are exposed onshore and at the sea floor along the outer shelf. Seismic-reflection profiling and sampling of the uppermost marine sedimentary sequences in the Gulf of Alaska and adjacent fjords and bays have allowed identification of three discrete glacially related stratigraphic units. These units were delineated on the basis of seismic signature, geometry, physiographic location, stratigraphic position, and sedimentologic characteristics. The oldest unit, a Quaternary diamict, is portrayed on seismic profiles by irregular, discontinuous reflections. This unit probably includes till, outwash and glacimarine sediment. A geographically restricted unit, one incorporating Holocene end moraines at bay mouths and associated with some sea valleys, consists of jumbled masses of discontinuous reflections and very irregular surface morphology. The youngest unit, a blanket of Holocene sand to clayey silt prograding as a sediment wedge across the shelf, contains nearly horizontal, parallel reflections except where disrupted by mass movement. Although seismic-reflection data alone cannot provide definitive proof of the presence of glacial sediment, when combined with sea-floor sampling, seismic profiling is a powerful tool for determining the continuity of marine sedimentary units and relationships to past and modern glaciers. ?? 1989.
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Seismic reflection characteristics of glacial and glacimarine sediment in the Gulf of Alaska and adjacent fjords