Sediment cores collected in a coastal lagoon a few kilometres east of Wairoa, northern Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, were examined using sedimentological, geochemical, palynological and micropaleontological analyses. A distinct short-lived catastrophic saltwater inundation (CSI) about 6300 years BP and possibly other minor marine incursions are preserved in the coastal estuarine to lagoonal freshwater sedimentary sequences, which have been deposited in the last 6500 years. The CSI is characterised by a gravel unit that thins landward and decreases in particle size to sand, within a sequence consisting mainly of brackish estuarine muds. Diatom assemblages indicate a marked change from the shallow brackish estuarine muds to marine gravels and sands to brackish estuarine muds. The marine influence in the gravel and sand is also shown by the presence of marine dinoflagellates and a peak in Na/Rb. Sedimentological, chemical and paleontological (in particular diatoms) evidence indicates it is a CSI. We conclude that this was a tsunami and propose the most likely propagating mechanisms. Marine influence decreases upcore and totally freshwater conditions are evident in the upper section of the cores. The geochemistry of the sediments mainly reflects the change in stratigraphy, with distinct signatures for tephra (Na, Fe, Cr), organic-rich and peat units (As, Br) and the coarse gravel-sand CSI unit (Na/Rb, Cr, Fe), but it is also indicative of changes in depositional environment. The change in chemistry (Na/Rb) in the CSI event is indicative of a saltwater influence, whereas a marked change in S content suggests a sudden change from brackish to freshwater conditions shortly after 4800 years BP. Another peak in S and Br content about 3200 years BP may indicate another temporary change to brackish conditions.
- Coastal lagoon
- Subsidence earthquake