Current controlled deposition on the Wilkes Land continental rise, Antarctica
Published:January 01, 2002
C. Escutia, C. H. Nelson, G. D. Acton, S. L. Eittreim, A. K. Cooper, D. A. Warnke, J. M. Jaramillo, 2002. "Current controlled deposition on the Wilkes Land continental rise, Antarctica", Deep-Water Contourite Systems: Modern Drifts and Ancient Series, Seismic and Sedimentary Characteristics, D. A. V. Stow, C. J. Pudsey, J. A. Howe, J.-C. Faugères, A. R. Viana
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Turbidite, contourite and hemipelagic deposition are the main components of Wilkes Land continental rise sedimentation above the regional unconformity WL2. On the continental shelf, unconformity WL2 marks the start of shelf progradation, which is interpreted to correspond with the onset of glacial conditions in this segment of the east Antarctic margin. Unusually large (i.e. up to 900 m relief and 18 km between levee crests) channel-levee deposits, and high relief (up to 490 m) mounded contourite-style deposits develop above unconformity WLlb. Unconformity WLlb overlies unconformity WL2 and is interpreted to have formed under a fully continental glacial regime where ice streams reached the palaeo-continental shelf edge. Based on an analysis of multichannel seismic profiles and sediment cores, we differentiate three phases in the development of the sedimentary unit between WLlb and the present seafloor. From older to younger these are: Phase 1, dominated by turbidite deposition; Phase 2, dominated by turbidite and contourite deposition with significant mound building; and Phase 3, dominated by turbidite and contourite deposition without active mound building. We hypothesize that building of the mounds during Phase 2 corresponded with times of expansion of the Antarctic ice-sheet when vast amounts of sediment were eroded from the continent and continental shelf. The large amount of unsorted glacial sediment supplied to the outer shelf apparently travelled down the slope canyons and rise channels as turbidity current flows to feed the usually large continental rise channel-levee complexes. The suspended fines of the turbidity flows were then entrained in a palaeo-nepheloid layer and carried by the westward flowing palaeo-contour currents until their deposition in the mounds. During Phase 3, sediment supply to the continental rise, although important in volume and capable of turbidite and contour-current deposition, was insufficient to support further building of the mounds. We believe the decrease in sediment supply to the continental rise from Phase 2 to Phase 3 could be the result of a change on sediment depocentres, with most of the sediment supplied to the margin during Phase 3 being trapped on the continental shelf. We believe that ultimately these changes are related to the stage of glacial evolution of the continent.
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Deep-Water Contourite Systems: Modern Drifts and Ancient Series, Seismic and Sedimentary Characteristics
Countourites are a widespread but poorly known group of sediments linked to the action of powerful bottom currents in deep water. Although we know they are especially common along continental margins and through oceanic gateways, they have been surrounded by contoversy since they were first recognized in the early 1960s. Where correctly recognized and decoded they can provide one of the keys to our better understanding of bottom water circulation and of the ocean–climate link. They are part of the spectrum of deposits that confronts the oil industry as exploration moves into progressively greater water depths.
This memoir is an important outcome of the International Geological Correlation Project 432 on Bottom Currents, Contourites and Palaeocirculation. It includes 30 papers involving over 75 key scientists from around the world. Following an introductory state–of–the–art paper by the editors, there are 25 separate case studies on modern drifts and four on ancient contourite series. Each contribution highlights the specific geological and oceanographic setting, bathymetry, physiographic and stratigraphic context, seismic attributes and sedimentary characteristics of that drift. Case studies range from some of the well-documented North Atlantic drifts to those much less known from the Mediterrenean, from important syntheses of the Gulf of Cadiz and Vema Channel Gateway, to completely new data on South Atlantic, Pacific and Antartic margin systems. The four papers on ancient series from Japan, China and Cyprus serve to emphasise the complex nature and subtle characteristics of contourites, which make their identification a scientific challenge.
This volume is dedicated to the memory of Charlie Hollister (1936–1999), one of the founding fathers and pioneers of countourite research.