Augustine Island (volcano) in lower Cook Inlet, Alaska, has erupted repeatedly in late-Holocene and historical times. Eruptions typically beget high-energy volcanic processes. Most notable are bouldery debris avalanches containing immense angular clasts shed from summit domes. Coarse deposits of these avalanches form much of Augustine's lower flanks. A new geologic map at 1:25,000 scale depicts these deposits, these processes. We correlate deposits by tephra layers calibrated by many radiocarbon dates.
Augustine Volcano began erupting on the flank of a small island of Jurassic clastic-sedimentary rock before the late Wisconsin glaciation (late Pleistocene). The oldest known effusions ranged from olivine basalt explosively propelled by steam, to highly explosive magmatic eruptions of dacite or rhyodacite shed as pumice flows. Late Wisconsin piedmont glaciers issuing from the mountainous western mainland surrounded the island while dacitic eruptive debris swept down the south volcano flank.
Evidence is scant for eruptions between the late Wisconsin and about 2,200 yr B.P. On a few south-flank inliers, thick stratigraphically low pumiceous pyroclastic-flow and fall deposits probably represent this period from which we have no radiocarbon dates on Augustine Island. Eruptions between about 5,350 and 2,200 yr B.P. we know with certainty by distal tephras. On Shuyak Island 100 km southeast of Augustine, two distal fall ashes of Augustinian chemical provenance (microprobe analysis of glass) date respectively between about 5,330 and 5,020 yr B.P. and between about 3,620 and 3,360 yr B.P. An Augustine ash along Kamishak Creek 70 km southwest of Augustine dates between about 3,850 and 3,660 yr B.P. A probably Augustinian ash lying within peat near Homer dates to about 2,275 yr B.P.
From before 2,200 yr B.P. to the present, Augustine eruptive products abundantly mantle the island. During this period, numerous coarse debris avalanches swept beyond Augustine's coast, most recently in A.D. 1883. The decapitated summit after the 1883 eruption, replaced by andesite domes of six eruptions since, shows a general process: collapse of steep summit domes, then the summit regrown by later dome eruptions. The island's stratigraphy is based on six or seven coarse-pumice tephra 'marker beds'. In upward succession they are layers G (2,100 yr B.P.), I (1,700 yr B.P.), H (1,400 yr B.P.), C (1,200-1,000 yr B.P.), M (750 yr B.P.), and B (390 yr B.P.).
A coarse, hummocky debris-avalanche deposit older than about 2,100 yr B.P. - or perhaps a stack of three of them - lies along the east coast, the oldest exposed such bouldery diamicts on Augustine Island. Two large debris avalanches swept east and southeast into the sea between about 2,100 and 1,800 yr B.P. A large debris avalanche shed east and east-northeast into the sea between 1,700 and 14,00 yr B.P.
Between about 1,400 and 1,100 yr B.P. debris avalanches swept into the sea on the volcano's south, southwest, and north-northwest. Pumiceous pyroclastic fans spread to the southeast and southwest, lithic pyroclastic flows and lahars (?) to the south and southeast. Pyroclastic flows, pyroclastic surges, and lahars swept down the west and south flanks between about 1,000 and 750 yr B.P.
A debris avalanche swept into the sea on the west, and a small one on the south-southeast, between about 750 and 400 yr B.P. Large lithic pyroclastic flows shed to the southeast; smaller ones descended existing swales on the southwest and south.
Between about 400 yr B.P. and historical time (late 1770s), three debris avalanches swept into the sea on the west-northwest, north-northwest, and north flanks. One of them (West Island) was large and fast: most of it rode to sea far beyond a former sea cliff, and its surface includes geomorphic evidence of having initiating a tsunami. Augustine's only conspicuous lava flow erupted on the north flank.
During this prehistoric period numerous domes grew at th
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Volcanic Processes and Geology of Augustine Volcano, Alaska
U.S. Geological Survey
Alaska Science Center
Report: viii, 79 p.; 2 Plates: Plate 1 - 56.5 x 36 inches, Plate 2 - 57 x 39 inches