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Australian Journal of Earth Science - Report 2014

Sellicks Beach, located on the eastern shore of Gulf St Vincent, South Australia, is subject to wavedominated processes and northward longshore transport. During winter, when wave energy is typically vigorous, gravel deposits are exposed across most of the beach, and three step-like berms are well developed. Sand is restricted to a narrow strip that is exposed only at low tide. In contrast, during summer, when wave energy is generally moderate to low, much of the gravel is covered by a thin veneer of sand and only the high berm, on the landward edge of the beach, remains as an obvious feature. Steeply dipping Neoproterozoic to Cambrian strata that outcrop strongly across Sellicks Hill are the original source rocks for the beach gravel; distinctive sedimentary textures, structures and fossils in the cobble-size clasts can be confidently matched with those of the provenance rocks. Much of the sediment entered the modern beach environment as a consequence of coastal erosion of transitional alluvial fan sediments. The oldest alluvial fan sediments are of late Pliocene to earliest Pleistocene age. Mount Terrible Gully provides a conduit for the input of fluvial sediment at the mouth of Cactus Canyon, where clasts as large as boulders accumulate across the beach. Sellicks Beach gravels are subject to longshore transport northwards. Relatively softer clasts, such as those derived from the Heatherdale Shale, are rare beyond Cactus Canyon. In contrast, quartzite clasts are more abundant towards the north. This lithological differentiation is attributed to preferential survivorship of clasts that are physically harder and chemically less reactive. The change in the shapes of clasts northwards, from predominately shingle-like ‘very platy’ and ‘very bladed’ at Cactus Canyon, to more ‘compact’ towards the boat ramp, is in accord with the more massive fabric of the surviving quartzite clasts. At Sellicks Beach, preservation of uplifted, coarse gravels, with entire and comminuted marine molluscan shells, of last interglacial age, provides evidence of neotectonism. At the landward margin of the beach, imbricated gravels in which pore spaces have been infilled with mud, and which show no evidence of modern coastal erosion, may provide evidence of continuing uplift during the recent Holocene. The geological setting, geomorphic framework and modern sedimentary regime at Sellicks Beach combine to provide an exceptionally useful outdoor laboratory for education in field geology.