Maio, C.V.; Crowell, A.L.; Sullivan, R.M.; Buzard, R.M.; Whitley, M.A.; Bogardus, R.C., and de Wit, C.W., 2019. Examining coastal dynamics and archaeological site evidence at a drowned cirque basin influenced by earthquakes and Little Ice Age glaciation. Journal of Coastal Research, 35(4), 814–834. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
This study contributes baseline information regarding the framework geology, drivers of coastal change, and archaeological record along the fjord-indented coastlines of southcentral Alaska. Field data were collected in July 2015 from James Lagoon, a 30-m-deep drowned cirque valley adjacent to McCarty Fjord in the Nuka Bay region of Kenai Fjords National Park. A 1790 CE terminal moraine deposited by McCarty Glacier extends across the cirque opening and delimits the lagoon. Acoustic surveys of the lagoon reveal bedrock overlain by deltaic, lacustrine, and marine facies containing beds that indicate past submarine landslides. Lagoon and marsh sediment cores contain coarse sand horizons interbedded with silt and peat, evidence of repeated low-frequency, high-intensity events. The largest of the event beds in the marine cores occurs near the surface and is likely associated with the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake (moment magnitude 9.2). Trees killed during the 1964 earthquake fringe the coastline and indicate ∼2 m of coseismic subsidence. Radiocarbon ages of five exposed subfossil stumps indicate two pre-1964 subsidence events occurring between 1710 and 1789 and 1078 and 1125 median probability calendar year CE (cal CE). A Sugpiaq culture archaeological site dated to 1565 cal CE existed on the western shore of James Lagoon in the interval between these two events, possibly for proximity to an ice floe harbor seal rookery at McCarty Glacier. Archaeological site elevation above mean high water at James Lagoon and around Nuka Bay is inversely related to the extent of cumulative site erosion caused by coastal submergence during the last two great earthquakes. These combined findings lay the groundwork for future research and provide context to ongoing coastal hazards and their effects on cultural resources.