On the possible origins of an unusual (mid to late holocene) coastal deposit, Old Punt Bay, South-East Australia



Publication Details

Switzer, A. D., Mamo, B. L., Dominey-Howes, D., Strotz, L. C., Courtney, C., Jones, B. G., Haslett, S. K. & Everett, D. M. (2011). On the possible origins of an unusual (mid to late holocene) coastal deposit, Old Punt Bay, South-East Australia. Geographical Research, 49 (4), 408-430.


An unusual coarse, shelly sedimentary unit is found elevated above present mean sea level in a sheltered pocket embayment at Old Punt Bay in south-eastern Australia. The coarse sediments, diverse microfauna, and large shelly macrofauna of mixed affinity suggest that the deposit is the result of high-energy deposition. The deposit was previously thought to have been deposited 1000-1300 cal bp based on one shell dated using 14C and amino acid racemisation. However, additional 14C dating indicates a likely age of ~2500 cal bp. Regardless of age constraints, the presence of rock-encrusting oyster shells and large articulated bivalves, suggests that the depositional event must have been capable of removing and transporting coarse sediments (rock clasts), bivalves, and oysters shells from a variety of seaward environments and depositing them with little abrasion, something storm waves are unlikely to do. The deposit may be tsunamigenic. If a tsunami origin is accepted, the new dating results indicate that it is possibly coeval with a tsunami event previously reported to have affected several other sites along the coast of New South Wales at c. 2900 cal bp. Consequently, this deposit provides evidence for the event at a new site and importantly, a tighter constraint on the likely date of the events occurrence. It further adds weight to the developing catalogue of palaeotsunamis that may have affected the south-eastern coast of Australia. Regardless of the deposit's origins, if viewed from a coastal planning perspective, this deposit indicates that this part of the coast has experienced large-scale overwash events in the past that if repeated, would be catastrophic. There are serious implications for risk management. Copyright 2011 The Authors. Geographical Research Copyright 2011 Institute of Australian Geographers.

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