The bathymetry, sedimentology and seismic stratigraphy of Lake Sibaya- Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The morphology of Lake Sibaya is a product of an ancient fluvial system that drained a coastal landscape dominated by aeolian processes. The sedimentary processes within the lake are driven by wind generated currents. The dominant sedimentary process is one of lake segmentation, whereby prograding bedforms isolate the lake into smaller water bodies. The prograding bedforms include cuspate forelands and sand spits. The size and mobility of these bedforms is a function of sediment availability and current regime. The bathymetry of Lake Sibaya is discussed, with emphasis on geomorphic features derived from the ancient aeolian landscape as well as features related to modern sedimentary processes. The presence of underwater knickpoints and terraces indicate that lake level fluctuations have been common in Lake Sibaya. It is during lake highstands that large volumes of sand are eroded from aeolian dunes which surround the lake and made available for shoreline progradation. Ancient dune topography is preserved to depths of 20 m below water-level within the lake. Surface sediment distribution maps were compiled from 515 grab samples and thirteen core samples. Fine grained, well sorted, coarse skewed quartz sand comprises the majority of the surface area of the lake floor. Gyttja is the other dominant sediment type and accumulates in palaeovalleys and depressions on the lake floor. Sediment distribution in Lake Sibaya is discussed in terms of modern lacustrine processes as well as inherited sedimentary characteristics. The stratigraphy of the sediments underlying Lake Sibaya was investigated using a Uni-Boom seismic profiling system. Seismic profiles were compiled by identifying acoustically reflective surfaces that show regional development. Thirteen seismic overlays were prepared, and are illustrated as west - east and north - south seismic profiles. Five sequences ranging in age from late Cretaceous to Holocene were identified from the seismic profiles, and are described in terms of sequence stratigraphic principles. The seismic sequences were interpreted within a lithostratigraphic framework and are presented as a series of idealised geological sections. Thirteen sediment cores were collected from the Lake Sibaya area in order to ascertain the accuracy of the stratigraphic interpretation of the seismic records, to investigate reflective horizons identified from seismic records and to collect dateable material. Interpretation of the sediment cores reveals that a proto Lake Sibaya existed on drowned dune topography, during the period ± 43500 BP to ± 25500 BP prior to the Last Glacial Maximum. During the early to mid Holocene the Lake Sibaya site was occupied by a saline lagoon which underwent isolation from the sea ± 5030 BP. Since the mid-Holocene the lake has evolved to totally freshwater conditions and has undergone little sedimentation. The geological evolution of the Lake Sibaya area is discussed in terms of the geometry of the identified seismic sequences, the sedimentary characteristics of these sequences and the radiocarbon dates provided from the sediment cores. Palaeo-environmental conditions during the accumulation of the sedimentary sequences is discussed where fossil remains permit.
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