Gravelly shoreface deposits: a comparison of modern and ancient facies sequences



The morphology and dynamics of modern gravel shorefaces are poorly documented. This hinders the interpretation of possible ancient counterparts. A comparative study of a modern (Chesil Beach, England) and an ancient (Baytree Member of the Cardium Formation, Alberta) gravel shoreface shows that the two systems are very similar close to and above sea-level, with a high (about 1 m) gravel plunge step lying below plane-bedded sands and gravels of the beachface. The shoreface at Chesil Beach is dominated by asymmetrical gravel wave ripples. These are oriented offshore near the toe of the shoreface, and onshore in shallower depths. This may reflect offshore movement during storms and landward reworking during fair weather. The Baytree Member is over 12 m thick and comprises over 80% conglomerate. Conglomerate is decimetre-bedded, massive or cross-bedded, with sets over 60 cm thick produced by gravel bedforms migrating alongshore. It is interbedded with discontinuous cm- to dm-bedded sandstones which may be cross-bedded. Pebble fabric and cross-bed orientation both indicate strong alongshore sediment transport. Near the base of the section, pebble orientations suggest that gravel wave-ripples developed below the zone of strong longshore flows. Differences between these two examples may be attributed to different directions of wave approach.