ABSTRACT

Detailed side-scan sonar and gridded bathymetric surveys on continental margins reveal the existence of numerous submarine canyons. Recently published compilations of current velocities in submarine canyons indicate that alternating and undirectional flows often exceed 20-30 cm/sec with peak velocities ranging from 70 to 100 cm/sec. Current meters attached to the ocean floor have been lost at current velocities of 190 cm/sec. Such velocities are ample to transport sand-size sediments. The results of DSDP Leg 96 show the existence of massive sands and gravels on the Louisiana slope, deposited during the last glacial advance. Thus, present physical oceanographic data may be an analog to conditions during glacially induced lowered sea levels. Salt ridges and domes underlie much of the Louisiana slope, determining morphology. Submarine canyons lace the slope. Given a prograding shelf, the net sediment transport routes will be down the submarine canyons. Sediment deposition patterns around the salt ridges and domes include parallel-bedded foredrifts on the upslope side, lee drifts on the downslope side, and moats along the lateral flanks of the salt features. Major differences exist between the sedimentation patterns around a ridge and a dome. The size and shape of the flow pattern will determine whether there can be a flow over the salt feature with a resulting turbulent wave that may influence sedimentation. Sedimentation patterns about salt features on the present slope should be applicable to similar paleoenvironments.

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