Reference Work Entry


Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 456-457

Glacial moulin, mill or pothole

  • Rhodes W. Fairbridge

From the French moulin, mill, the glacial moulin or pothole formed in the bedrock under glacial ice is a term that dates back in the literature to (1841), that admirable early explorer of the Alps. Brögger and Reusch (1874) recognized traces of moulins in the deglaciated region near Oslo in Norway, describing them as giant's kettles, since in places they scour to astonishing depths. Warren Upham (1900) reintroduced the term “moulin or glacial mill,” distinguishing between the “giant kettle” (the pothole) and the moulin (the waterfall). G. K. Gilbert (1906) was careful to label the pothole itself as “moulin work.”

The moulin hypothesis, as first conceived, was based on the observation of summer meltwaters pouring into gaping crevasses in glaciers, and so-armed with boulders, pebbles and sand that a deep pothole would be scoured out (analogous to those of mountain torrents or waterfalls). Series of moulins would be generated by the gradual movement of the glaci ...

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