Water depths increase rapidly offshore but remain modest within the archipelago. A drop in sea level of just 35 m would reunite the islands. The contours suggest that two submerged cliff lines and platforms exist – one at around -10 m and another at -50 m. The lower features may relate to a submerged rock shoreline around St Kilda at -40 m. The NNE alignment of the break of slope east of Orkney runs parallel to but 20 km west of the Walls Boundary Fault and follows no known structural weakness.

bathymetry

  • The outer coast of Orkney is an outstanding location to study the erosion of hard rock coasts. Evidence of major erosion is not hard to find. The great bowl of Enegars corrie is losing its edge to the sea. The egg-shaped headland of Marwick Head is a dome half lost.

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  • Amongst the many beauties of Orkney are the beaches which fringe the bays and ayres of the inner coast. These are dynamic forms, changing shape with the seasons and gradually retreating landward as sea level rises.

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  • Orkney is a dissected landmass drowned by postglacial sea level rise. A drop in sea level of just 35 m would unite the archipelago into a single island. The individual islands may represent hills that formed the watershed areas of preglacial drainage basins but it is linear glacial erosion which has separated one island from another and severed Orkney from the rest of Scotland.

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  • World coasts have seen sea-level variation of approximately 100 metres within the past 11,500 years through melting of the ice caps. When the ice caps melt the sea level rises globally (eustatically). The relative sea-level at any location is measured proportionate to the nearby land, which is itself subject to tectonic movement both up and down.

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