Abstract

The Strait of Georgia, a topographic depression between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, is considered to be the boundary between two tectonic provinces: the Coast Plutonic Complex on the east and the Insular Belt to the west. The allochthonous nature of the Insular Belt has been established, mainly on the basis of paleomagnetic measurements. Various tectonic models to explain the geological differences between the two provinces have been proposed. One of these suggests that the boundary is an old transform fault zone and is represented currently by a thrust fault along the eastern side of the Strait of Georgia. Other models propose that the Coast Plutonic Complex is a feature superimposed by tectonic and metamorphic events after the accretion of the Insular Belt. Such models do not require a major crustal discontinuity along the Strait of Georgia.In May 1982, a seismic refraction survey using a 32 L air gun and a radio telemetering sonobuoy system was carried out in the Strait of Georgia with the objective of investigating the nature of this boundary and determining the upper crustal structure. Three reversed profiles across the strait were shot; these are supplemented by several high-resolution reflection profiles from previous experiments. Two-dimensional models of the crustal structure across the strait have been constructed using a forward modelling ray trace and synthetic seismogram algorithm to match the travel times and amplitude characteristics of the data.Three basic layers or strata form the models, for which the maximum depth of reliability is 3 km. The first layer consists of unconsolidated sediments and Pleistocene glacial deposits, and the second represents Late Cretaceous – early Tertiary basin fill sediments that form the Nanaimo Group, the Burrard–Kitsilano formations, and the Chuckanut Formation. The third layer is likely the extension of the Coast Plutonic Complex beneath the strait, but the westerly limit of this unit is undetermined because of seismic properties similar to those of the Insular Belt volcanics. A local fault is located ~15 km northeast of Galiano Island on the west side of the strait. However, our study shows no evidence for a major fault along the strait. Thus those aspects of tectonic models that require the existence of a major transform or transcurrent fault boundary along the Strait of Georgia. may have to be revised.

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