Exploring former subglacial Hodgson Lake, Antarctica. Paper II: palaeolimnology

Direct exploration of subglacial lakes buried deep under the Antarctic Ice Sheet has yet to be achieved. However, at retreating margins of the ice sheet, there are a number of locations where former subglacial lakes are emerging from under the ice but remain perennially ice covered. One of these lakes, Hodgson Lake (72°00.549′S, 068°27.708′W) has emerged from under more than 297–465 m of glacial ice during the last few thousand years. This paper presents data from a multidisciplinary investigation of the palaeolimnology of this lake through a study of a 3.8 m sediment core extracted at a depth of 93.4 m below the ice surface. The core was dated using a combination of radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence, and relative palaeomagnetic intensity dating incorporated into a chronological model. Stratigraphic analyses included magnetic susceptibility, clast provenance, organic content, carbonate composition, siliceous microfossils, isotope and biogeochemical markers. Based on the chronological model we provisionally assign a well-defined magnetic polarity reversal event at ca 165 cm in the lake sediments to the Mono Lake excursion (ca 30–34 ka), whilst OSL measurements suggest that material incorporated into the basal sediments might date to 93 ± 9 ka. Four stratigraphic zones (A–D) were identified in the sedimentological data. The chronological model suggests that zones A–C were deposited between Marine Isotope Stages 5–2 and zone A during Stage 1, the Holocene. The palaeolimnological record tracks changes in the subglacial depositional environment linked principally to changing glacier dynamics and mass transport and indirectly to climate change. The sediment composition in zones A–C consists of fine-grained sediments together with sands, gravels and small clasts. There is no evidence of overriding glaciers being in contact with the bed reworking the stratigraphy or removing this sediment. This suggests that the lake existed in a subglacial cavity beneath overriding LGM ice. In zone D there is a transition to finer grained sediments characteristic of lower energy delivery coupled with a minor increase in the organic content attributed either to increases in allochthonous organic material being delivered from the deglaciating catchment, a minor increase in within-lake production or to an analytical artefact associated with an increase in the clay fraction. Evidence of biological activity is sparse. Total organic carbon varies from 0.2 to 0.6%, and cannot be unequivocally linked to in situ biological activity as comparisons of δ13C and C/N values with local reference data suggest that much of it is derived from the incorporation of carbon in catchment soils and gravels and possibly old CO2 in meteoric ice. We use the data from this study to provide guidelines for the study of deep continental subglacial lakes including establishing sediment geochronologies, determining the extent to which subglacial sediments might provide a record of glaciological and environmental change and a brief review of methods to use in the search for life.


Publication status:
Authors: Hodgson, Dominic A. ORCIDORCID record for Dominic A. Hodgson, Roberts, Stephen J. ORCIDORCID record for Stephen J. Roberts, Bentley, Michael J., Carmichael, Emma L., Smith, James A. ORCIDORCID record for James A. Smith, Verleyen, Elie, Vyverman, Wim, Geissler, Paul, Leng, Melanie J., Sanderson, David C.W.

On this site: Dominic Hodgson, James Smith, Stephen Roberts
1 January, 2009
Quaternary Science Reviews / 28
Link to published article: