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Abstract

Extensive deep-water mass-transport deposits are observed in both slope and basin-floor settings. A detailed understanding of mass-transport deposits, in terms of emplacement processes, depositional products, and their stratigraphic and geographic distribution, is vital because they can constitute a significant portion of the stratigraphic section in deep-water settings. In addition, mass-transport deposits can play a significant role in hydrocarbon exploration, inasmuch as they can constitute seal, reservoir, and possibly source facies under the right circumstances.

Different data types bring to light different aspects of mass-transport deposits. This paper focuses on insights derived from seismic and outcrop data. Overall geometries and architecture of mass-transport deposits are readily observable in 3D seismic data; however, features below seismic resolution that are vital for process and lithologic understanding need to be observed in outcrop. Integrating observations across a broad range of scales by linking seismic and outcrop observations constitutes an effective way of improving our understanding of when and where mass-transport deposits are likely to form. In addition, this linkage sheds light on details of internal architecture that commonly characterizes these deposits.

Mass-transport deposits can comprise sheets, lobes, and channel fills, and can reach 150 m or more in thickness. Greater thicknesses are observed where successive flows are amalgamated. This paper documents both internal architectural or stratigraphic as well as external geomorphic attributes of such deposits, as expressed in outcrop and imaged by 3D seismic data.

Recognition of mass-transport deposits in outcrop is based on identification of bedding deformed by synsedimentary processes, with deformation ranging from minimal redistribution of large slide blocks to complete disaggregation typical of debris-flow deposits. On seismic data, mass-transport deposits can be recognized by certain geomorphologic as well as stratigraphic distinguishing characteristics: basal linear grooved and scoured surfaces, hummocky relief at the top, and internal chaotic to transparent seismic facies, with internal thrust faulting common.

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