Sr and Nd isotopic compositions have been measured on the lithic fraction of last climatic cycle sediments from the North Atlantic (approximate to 40 degrees N/approximate to 60 degrees N), in order to identify the origins of the particles. From the reconstruction of their transport pathways, we deduce the mechanisms that explain their distributions. The main source regions are the Canadian shield (mostly the area of Baffin Bay and western Greenland), the Scandinavian shield, the European region (British Isles and Bay of Biscay), and Iceland. We observe a significant glacial/interglacial contrast, characterized by a dominant Icelandic input via near-bottom transport by North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) during the interglacials and a largely continent-derived contribution of surface-transported, ice-rafted detritus (IRD) during the glacial period. During the last glacial period, the Heinrich events (abrupt, massive discharges of IRD) originated not only from the Laurentide ice sheet as heretofore envisioned but also from other sources. Three other major North Atlantic ice sheets (Fennoscandian, British Isles, and Icelandic) probably surged simultaneously, discharging ice and IRD into the North Atlantic. As opposed to theories implying a unique, Laurentide origin [Gwiazda et al., 1995] driven by an internal mechanism [McAyeal, 1993], we confirm that the Icelandic and the Fennoscandian ice sheets also surged as recently proposed by other authors, and we here also distinguish a possible detrital contribution from the British Isles ice sheet. This pan-North Atlantic phenomenon thus requires a common regional, external forcing.
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