• glaciation;
  • Shetland;
  • glacial landsystems;
  • Scotland;
  • North Atlantic


Evidence relating to the extent, dynamics, and relative chronology of the last glaciation of the Shetland Islands, North Atlantic, is presented here, in an attempt to better illuminate some of the controversies that still surround the glacial history of the archipelago. We appraise previous interpretations and compare these earlier results with new evidence gleaned from the interpretation of a high resolution digital terrain model and from field reconnaissance. By employing a landsystems approach, we identify and describe three quite different assemblages of landscape features across the main islands of Mainland, Yell and Unst. Using the spatial interrelationship of these landsystems, an assessment of their constituent elements, and comparisons with similar features in other glaciated environments, we propose a simple model for the last glaciation of Shetland.

During an early glacial phase, a coalescent British and Scandinavian ice sheet flowed approximately east to west across Shetland. The terrestrial land-forms created by this ice sheet in the north of Shetland suggest that it had corridors of relatively fast-flowing ice that were partially directed by bed topography, and that subsequent deglaciation was interrupted by at least one major stillstand. Evidence in the south of Shetland indicates the growth of a local ice cap of restricted extent that fed numerous radial outlet glaciers during, or after, ice-sheet deglaciation. Whilst the absolute age of these three landsystems remains uncertain, these new geo-morphological and palaeoglaciological insights reconcile many of the ideas of earlier workers, and allow wider speculation regarding the dynamics of the former British ice sheet.