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Observations by transmission and scanning electron microscopy (TEM and SEM) of surficial sediment microfabric along with quantitative geochemical tests of organic matter from continental margin deposits reveal important fundamental interrelationships of material properties and processes during diagenesis of mud to shale. Fine-grained surficial muds possessing ≥2% total organic carbon (TOC) and ≥5% smectite commonly have very high porosities (≥90%), low wet bulk densities, and very low effective stresses that are consistent with minimal dewatering and consolidation in the upper few meters subbottom. These muds are characterized by random orientation of clay domains and marine organic material in the form...

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