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Abstract

The Nova Scotian continental rise is swept by a Deep Western Boundary Current system comprising layers of Labrador Sea Water overlying a core of Norwegian Sea Overflow Water at depths of 3100-3900 m, and below about 4600 m a cold stream of southern-source water. Seismic-reflection data show that the rise contains sediments transported downslope in channels and debris lobes, but there is also evidence of current-controlled deposition and erosion in the post-Eocene sequence. The rise is now mantled by Holocene contourites that have accumulated at a rate of c. 6 cm ka−1 and are <1 m thick. Bottom photographs show a zonation in current effects and bedform types, with longitudinal ripples and strong currents prevalent at 4800-5000 m, smaller bedforms and progressively weaker currents up to c. 4000 m, and mostly tranquil seafloor above 4000 m. Bedform scales and orientations also suggest significant short-term (hours to weeks) variability in current velocity but a mean contour-following flow to the southwest at longer time scales (months to years). These structures are not preserved in the sediment because of pervasive bioturbation and the uppermost layers have negligible preservation potential. The sediments display clear current controlled effects in their grain-size structure involving both percentage of (foraminiferal) sand, and size and percentage in the 10-63 µm range, the ‘sortable silt’. There is a sand-rich zone at 4800–4900 m and below 5000 m, and a decreasing silt/clay ratio from 5100 m up to 4000 m. Although much of the sedimentary sequence probably has been emplaced by downslope processes, it has been significantly modified by the Deep Western Boundary Current. Particularly strong and variable currents which rework sediments below c. 4800 m probably are engendered by interaction of Gulf Stream eddies with the DWBC. Although strong currents and upstream input from turbidites and debris flows might be thought to favour a coarse-grained deposit, the facies at the HEBBLE (High Energy Benthic Boundary Layer Experiment) site is muddy contourite with ≤ 12% sand.

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