Fjord valleys are carved during glaciation and then form local sediment sinks, which fill during retreat of the ice. Thus fjord valleys appear analogous to lower-latitude incised valleys, but they are remarkably different because fjords experience isostatic rebound during deglaciation, causing relative sea level to fall during infill.

This paper explores stratigraphic architecture of fjord valley fills based on Late Quaternary deposition in Clyde Inlet, Baffin Island, Arctic Canada, as constrained by 11 cosmogenic dates and 9 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C datings.

A major ice stream of the Laurentide Ice Sheet occupied Clyde Inlet at last glacial maximum and bulldozered through a U-shaped valley forming a lower sequence boundary. During the Early Holocene the system entered a deglacial stage; tidewater glaciers retreated rapidly (.100 km in 1000 yrs) through the fjord from 10.4 ka onward. Grounded ice lobes started retreating from the Clyde fjordhead by 9.4 ka. Then ice-contact fans (ICF) were deposited consisting of flat-topped fan deltas, covered with channels and boulder-strewn bars. Elevations of the surfaces vary between 62 and 77 m above sea level, which marks the relative sea level at the time of deposition and is considered to be the marine flooding surface. Marine muds have been draped directly onto the ICF complexes. Subsequently, coarse-grained glaciofluvial valley trains (GFVTs) prograde downstream caused by rapid base-level fall, despite possibly high sediment supply (i.e., forced regression). During the Late Holocene (3.5 ka) the last remaining lobes of the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated from the middle parts of Clyde River basin to form the present Barnes Ice Cap. At this phase, the rate of base-level fall has decreased (~1.6 m/ka over the last 3.5 ka), still the river incises significantly, marking a reduced sediment supply. Narrow coarse sandy fluvial terraces were being deposited at the lowest level of the incised river valley. Clyde fjordhead may not have entered a postglacial stage by definition, nevertheless a strongly reduced sediment flux is apparent. Numerous upland lakes likely play a role in trapping sediment in the hinterland. In addition, we speculate that the glacial regime of the Barnes Ice Cap switched from a sediment producing regime to a nonerosive cold-based regime.

In conclusion, stratigraphic patterns of valley fills in high-latitude areas display an evident signature of isostatic rebound and a strongly varying sediment supply. Rapid uplift causes ice proximal units to occur high in the infill and reverses classic fining upward valley fill sedimentary trends. The exact interplay of local sea-level change and sediment supply dictates the complexity of the valley fill, but coarsening upward trends with younger sandy fluvial deposits incising into the fill deposits ultimately have important implications for the interpretation of similar deglacial valley fill settings.