Geomorphology and accommodation space as limiting factors on tsunami deposition: Chatham Island, southwest Pacific Ocean

S. L. Nichol*, C. Chagué-Goff, J. R. Goff, M. Horrocks, B. G. McFadgen, L. C. Strotz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Chatham Island in the southwest Pacific Ocean is exposed on all sides to potential tsunami impact. In historical time, tsunamis are known to have inundated the coast on several occasions, with the largest event in 1868. Coastal dunes along the northeast coast of Chatham Island preserve sedimentary evidence of this and possibly earlier tsunami events, as localised gravel lags. However, these deposits lack a clear stratigraphic context and establishing their age is difficult. This study examines the sediment record in a freshwater wetland at Okawa Point, located directly landward of the dunes where apparent tsunami gravels occur. Sediment descriptions, pollen, foraminifera, chemical data and radiocarbon dates from cores are used to reconstruct the environmental history of the wetland. The record extends from ca >43. ka to the present and incorporates glacial, post-glacial and human-influenced phases. Throughout this time the wetland appears to have remained isolated from catastrophic marine inundation. The only evidence for saltwater intrusion is observed in the historic period, via geochemical, grain size and pollen data, which record a marine inundation event that forced the transport of a thin (cm-thick) deposit of dune and beach sand into the seaward edge of the wetland. This is interpreted as the signature of the 1868 tsunami. The lack of more widespread physical evidence for this and other tsunami events in the wetland is attributed to the morphological roughness afforded by coastal dunes and limited accommodation space for Holocene deposits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalSedimentary Geology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


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