Marine Science Faculty Publications

Large-scale Submarine Landslides, Channel and Gully Systems on the Southern Weddell Sea Margin, Antarctica

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slope processes, Antarctica, continental slope, slide, mass wasting, trough mouth fan

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New multibeam bathymetric data from the southeastern Weddell Sea show significant differences in surface morphology of the outer continental shelf and slope between two adjacent cross-shelf troughs. These are the Filchner Trough and a smaller trough to the east which we refer to as the ‘Halley Trough’. Multibeam bathymetric data, acoustic sub-bottom profiler and seismic data show major differences in the incidence and morphologies of submarine gullies, channel systems, submarine slides and iceberg scours, and in sediment deposition. These large-scale differences suggest significant variation in slope and sedimentary processes and in the environmental setting between the two troughs, leading to much greater deposition at the mouth of the Filchner Trough. Bedforms, including a terminal moraine and scalloped embayments on the outer shelf of the Halley Trough, provide insight into the relative timing and extent of past ice-sheet grounding and point to grounded ice near to the shelf edge during the Late Quaternary.

The new data reveal two large-scale submarine slides on the upper slope of the eastern Crary Fan, a trough mouth fan offshore from the Filchner Trough. Both slides head at the shelf edge (~ 500 m water depth), with the largest slide measuring 20 km wide and with an incision depth of 60 m. Multibeam and seismic data show elongate slabs on the seafloor surface of the mid-slope. The lack of a discernible sedimentary cover suggests that they were generated after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This is unusual because post-LGM submarine slides are very rare on the Antarctic continental margin, and to our knowledge, no other post-LGM slides have been documented on an Antarctic trough mouth fan. Because the slides occur on a part of the continental slope where the deposition of glacial debris was greatest, we speculate that weaker, unconsolidated sedimentary layers within the subsurface are important for slide initiation here.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Geology, v. 348, p. 73-87