Loch Ness Chronology: Getting to Grips with Gyttja

The waters of Loch Ness fill a particularly steep sided chasm in the Great Glen of Scotland.


Loch Ness lies along the Great Glen Fault, which forms a line of weakness in the rocks which has been excavated by glacial erosion, forming the Great Glen and the basins of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness.

Its deepest point is 230 m (126 fathoms; 755 ft), making it the second deepest loch in Scotland after Loch Morar.


The Great Glen, also known as Glen Albyn or Glen More is a long and straight glen in Scotland running for 62 miles (100 km) from Inverness on the edge of Moray Firth, to Fort William at the head of Loch Linnhe.


Some of the sediments that settle to the bottom of Loch Ness have formed thick deposits [in excess of 10 metres deep] that contain clearly delineated layers that are roughly 10 centimetres thick according to a Seismic Profile.


However, the characteristics of the sediments in Loch Ness vary considerably according to location and depth.

For example:

The deep sediments in the North Basin of Loch Ness are “finely laminated” and accumulate at a rate in excess of 1 centimetre per year.


A 1999 doctoral thesis documents a chronology based upon North Basin cores.

Sediment cores, two approximately 6 metres and one about 1 metre in length, were recovered from the profundal plain of the northern basin of Loch Ness, Scotland.

Examination revealed that the sediment is composed of irregular sequences of pale and dark laminations, most sub-millimeter in thickness, some ca 5 mm thick.

Enumeration of laminae, and determination of lamination thickness, was carried out using X-radiography and image analysis.

A hypothesis was developed that the finer laminations represent varves.

This was tested by means of lamination counting, and by radiocarbon dating of material from one ‘long’ core.

Comparison of the two chronologies thus derived suggested that the hypothesis was correct, and that a non-continuous chronology had been obtained, spanning the period ca 9000 to 1500 BP.

Laminated Sediments of Loch Ness, Scotland: Indicators of Holocene Environmental Change – Michael Colin Cooper – December 1999
Department of Environmental Sciences – Faculty of Science – University of Plymouth


The chronology relied primarily upon counting core layers of dark gyttja.

Gyttja (sometimes Gytta) is a mud formed from the partial decay of peat.

It is black and has a gel-like consistency.

Aerobic digestion of the peat by bacteria forms humic acid and reduces the peat in the first oxygenated metre (generally 0.5 metre) of the peat column.

As the peat is buried under new peat or soil the oxygen is reduced, often by water logging, and further degradation by anaerobic microbes, anaerobic digestion can produce gyttja.

The gyttja then slowly drains to the bottom of the column.

It pools at the bottom of the peat column, about 10 metres (33 ft) below the surface or wherever it is stopped by e.g. compacted soil/peat, bedrock, or permafrost.

Gyttja accumulates as long as new material is added to the top of the column and the conditions are right for anaerobic degradation of the peat.

Gyttja can form in layers reflecting changes in the environment as with other sedimentary rock.


The Ness 4 core contained 6,651 lamination pairs [with an average thickness of 0.61 mm] and “blocks of chaotically-arranged, laminated sediment, surrounded by unlaminated dark brown gyttja” at a depth of about 1.5 metres.

These blocks of “chaotically-arranged, laminated sediment” aren’t really a surprise because the Glen Turret Fan sediments [in upper Glen Roy] also contain a deformed section.

In 1839 Charles Darwin observed evidence indicating the “rising of the land” in Glen Roy and this was coincidentally confirmed in 2015 by the 29° inclination of the annual sedimentary layers of the Glen Turret Fan in upper Glen Roy.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/the-fold-up-beds-of-glen-roy/

However, it’s very possible [about] 50% of the identified upper layers in the Loch Ness Chronology are undetected multiple layers – just like the Elk Lake Varve Chronology.

Firstly, the Chaotic Section in the Loch Ness Chronology appears at [about] year 2,072 while the deformed layer in the Glen Turret Fan is aligned to 1,082 BP [868 AD].

Secondly, the annual layers of the Loch Ness Chronology [even when compressed down to 3.22 years per vertical pixel] don’t display the pattern that is clearly evident in the Centennial Averages graphic i.e. 1 cm of sediment creates more than 0.61 mm of gyttja.

Thirdly, the Centennial Averages graphic aligns very well with the Arabian Horizon, Heinsohn Horizon and Glen Turret Fan Deformed Layers on Leona Libby’s Old Japanese Cedar Tree Chronology.

Fourthly, the alignment with Leona Libby’s Old Japanese Cedar Tree Chronology supports the view that Loch Ness [in it’s current form] was created at the Heinsohn Horizon.

If the Nicolaus Germanus map of Scotland is accepted at face value then we are presented with the curious conundrum of how exactly Scotland morphed into it’s current familiar form shown on modern maps.

Solving this mystery is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

After some trial and error it becomes apparent the only way this ancient form of Scotland can morph into its current shape is by splitting Scotland into two independent pieces which can move independently.

This insight reveals the disintegration of Doggerland was a two step operation and that Eastern Scotland was initially separated from the British mainland by the Doggerland outflow channel.

The first step nudged Western Scotland [along with English & Wales] Northwards.

This Northward nudge appears to have damned Doggerland’s natural Northern drainage channel [in the gap between the ancient two piece Scotland] and created a [roughly] circular depression that rapidly began to fill with water.

The expansion of the freshly damned Doggerland lake [aka the North Sea] ultimately created a Southerly overflow channel which is now known as the English Channel.

The 1467 Germanus map of Scotland captures the configuration after this first step.

The second step in the transformation is far more catastrophic.

The Western section of Scotland rotates anti-clockwise by about 90° whilst the Eastern section of Scotland performs an amazing back-flip that arcs through [about] 180°.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/shaping-scotland-in-two-shakes/

This re-analysis implies the bottom 4,579 layers beneath the Chaotic Section in the Loch Ness Chronology were created during the chaotic period of [roughly] 300 years between the onset of the Arabian Horizon and the Heinsohn Horizon i.e. at a rate of 15 per year.

1) “laminations, most sub-millimeter in thickness, some ca 5 mm thick”.
2) “laminae from the Early Holocene are thicker than those from the Late Holocene”.
3) “The Loch Ness chronology is, at present, floating” and “non-continuous”.

Laminated Sediments of Loch Ness, Scotland: Indicators of Holocene Environmental Change – Michael Colin Cooper – December 1999
Department of Environmental Sciences – Faculty of Science – University of Plymouth


Gallery | This entry was posted in Arabian Horizon, British History, Catastrophism, Geology, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Old Japanese Cedar Tree, Varves. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Loch Ness Chronology: Getting to Grips with Gyttja

  1. Pingback: European Islands of Culture | MalagaBay

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