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Glacial Lakes and the Formation of the English Channel


I first learned about glacial lakes by reading Roger Osborne's The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology which includes an account of Percy Fry Kendall's paper A System of Glacier-Lakes in the Cleveland Hills (Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, volume 58, pages 471-571, 1902).  In this monumental paper, Kendall presents a mass of evidence showing that during the last Ice Age some of the valleys in the Cleveland Hills and North York Moors were blocked by ice allowing large lakes to form.

As I was familiar with the Cleveland Hills, having spent much of my youth wandering over and exploring them, I obtained a photocopy of Kendall's paper and carried it with me each day for a couple of weeks to read on the train to and from work. I also sent a copy to my father who, still living in Cleveland, was able to go out and visit many of the features mentioned by Kendall.  Here is one of my father's photo of the Hardale Slack glacial meltwater channel near Tranmire (not to be confused with Haredale near Freeborough Hill, though the latter is also in an area containing several meltwater channels):

Haredale Slack

A couple of days ago, when I first heard a fragmentary report of the discovery by Sanjeev Gupta and Jenny Collier of evidence that the English Channel was formed by a catastrophic flood, I almost immediately thought that it must be referring to the overflow from a glacial lake in the southern North Sea. When I got round to reading the press release, I found my suspicion confirmed.  But this must have been an overflow on a much greater scale than anything in the Cleveland Hills.  Not only would the lake have been filling with water from the melting ice sheet over Britain and the North Sea but the River Rhine would also have been feeding it with meltwater from the Alps.

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