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Abstract

The area south of South Africa is one of the most important gateway regions for the interchange of watermasses from the Atlantic, Indian and Southern oceans. This results in a very complex flow pattern which up to now has been known only in general terms. For this study, a set of seismic reflection lines from the southern Agulhas Plateau has been analysed. These show strong indications for the effect of bottom currents on sedimentation in the form of sediment drifts, channels, erosional unconformities and sediment waves. These observations have been used to infer the development of palaeocircu-lation over the southern Agulhas Plateau since Paleogene times. Three different currents have been identified. The oldest observed flows across the Agulhas Plateau from the southwestern tip to the northeast, and probably dates from the early Eocene times. It is believed to comprise an Antarctic Bottomwater component derived from its source in the south. The eastern Agulhas Plateau is characterized by a south-flowing current, which has been active since the Lower Oligocene and appears to have remained stationary to within a distance of 10 km. The Agulhas Retroflection is considered as its most likely source. The third current observed flows along the western flank of the plateau, dates from the Middle Miocene and probably results from an Antarctic Bottomwater component re-circulated via the Cape Basin.

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