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Keywords:

  • sand sheets;
  • sand veins;
  • sand wedges;
  • permafrost;
  • thermal-contraction cracking;
  • deflation;
  • aggradation

Abstract

Sand-sheet deposits of full-glacial age in the Tuktoyaktuk Coastlands, western Arctic Canada, contain syngenetic sand veins 1–21 cm wide and sometimes exceeding 9 m in height. Their tall and narrow, chimney-like morphology differs from that of known syngenetic ice wedges and indicates an unusually close balance between the rate of sand-sheet aggradation and the frequency of thermal-contraction cracking. The sand sheets also contain rejuvenated (syngenetic) sand wedges that have grown upward from an erosion surface. By contrast, sand sheets of postglacial age contain few or sometimes no intraformational sand veins and wedges, suggesting that the climatic conditions were unfavourable for thermal-contraction cracking. Beneath a postglacial sand sheet near Johnson Bay, sand wedges with unusually wide tops (≤3.9 m) extend down from a prominent erosion surface. The wedges grew vertically downward during deflation of the ground surface, and represent anti-syngenetic wedges. The distribution of sand veins and wedges within the sand sheets indicates that the existence of continuous permafrost during sand-sheet aggradation can be inferred confidently only during full-glacial conditions. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.