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A transect of three holes drilled across the Blake Nose, western North Atlantic Ocean, retrieved cores of black shale facies related to the Albian Oceanic Anoxic Events (OAE) 1b and 1d. Sedimentary organic matter (SOM) recovered from Ocean Drilling Program Hole 1049A from the eastern end of the transect showed that before black shale facies deposition organic matter preservation was a Type III–IV SOM. Petrography reveals that this SOM is composed mostly of degraded algal debris, amorphous SOM and a minor component of Type III–IV terrestrial SOM, mostly detroinertinite. When black shale facies deposition commenced, the geochemical character of the SOM changed from a relatively oxygen-rich Type III–IV to relatively hydrogen-rich Type II. Petrography, biomarker and organic carbon isotopic data indicate marine and terrestrial SOM sources that do not appear to change during the transition from light-grey calcareous ooze to the black shale facies. Black shale subfacies layers alternate from laminated to homogeneous. Some of the laminated and the poorly laminated to homogeneous layers are organic carbon and hydrogen rich as well, suggesting that at least two SOM depositional processes are influencing the black shale facies. The laminated beds reflect deposition in a low sedimentation rate (6m Ma−1) environment with SOM derived mostly from gravity settling from the overlying water into sometimes dysoxic bottom water. The source of this high hydrogen content SOM is problematic because before black shale deposition, the marine SOM supplied to the site is geochemically a Type III–IV. A clue to the source of the H-rich SOM may be the interlayering of relatively homogeneous ooze layers that have a widely variable SOM content and quality. These relatively thick, sometimes subtly graded, sediment layers are thought to be deposited from a Type II SOM-enriched sediment suspension generated by turbidites or direct turbidite deposition.

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