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ABSTRACT

Coastal exposures of Late Pleistocene sediments deposited after 19 000 yr BP near Dublin, Ireland, provide a window into the infill of a subglacially-cut tunnel valley. Exposures close to the steeply dipping bedrock wall of the valley show boulder gravels within multi-storey U-shaped channels cut and filled by subglacial meltwaters driven by a high hydrostatic head. Gravels are truncated by poorly sorted ice-proximal glaciomarine sediments that record the pumping of large volumes of subglacial debris along the tunnel valley to a tidewater ice sheet margin. The sedimentary succession is dominated by sediment gravity flow facies comprising interbedded diamict and massive, poorly sorted gravel facies interpreted as subaqueous debris flow deposits. Gravel beds show local inverse and normal coarse-tail graded facies recording the restricted development of turbulent flow. Sediment gravity flow deposits fill broad (<2 km) shallow (10 m) and overlapping channels. Penetrative deformation structures (e.g. dykes) are common at the base of channels.

The same subglacially-eroded topography and glaciomarine infill stratigraphy can be identified on high resolution seismic profiles across nearly 600 km2 of the western Irish Sea. Tunnel valleys are argued to have been exposed to glaciomarine processes by the rapid retreat of a calving tidewater ice sheet margin in response to marine flooding caused by glacio-isostatic downwarping below the last British Ice Sheet. The facies associations described in this paper comprise an event stratigraphy that may be found on other glaciated continental shelves.