Abstract

The active margin between the continental North American plate and oceanic Pacific plate west of the Queen Charlotte Islands was the site of an extensive onshore–offshore seismic refraction project in 1983. An airgun line shot over two ocean-bottom seismographs (OBS's) and a 32-charge explosion line recorded on the two OBS's and eight land-based seismographs (LBS's) deployed across northern Moresby Island were selected to study the structure of the predominantly transform Queen Charlotte Fault Zone and the associated offshore terrace. Two-dimensional ray tracing and synthetic seismogram modelling produced a pronounced laterally varying velocity structural model showing three major crustal components (oceanic, terrace, and continental) separated by an outer, crustally pervasive fault and active Queen Charlotte Fault, respectively. The 3 km thick block-faulted upper terrace unit, overlain by deformed sediments, is indistinguishable from adjacent oceanic sediments and upper crustal basalts located to the west. The upper part of the 10–17 km thick lower terrace unit has anomalously low velocities relative to the adjacent oceanic and continental crustal units. A high gradient increases terrace velocity rapidly with depth until the contrast becomes negligible at approximately 17 km depth. Changes in depth to Moho beneath the terrace suggest an increase in eastward Moho dip from 2–5 °observed west of the terrace to 19 °below it. Tectonic mechanisms proposed to explain the anomalous terrace structure involve sediment accretion during subduction of oceanic lithosphere, alternating or combined with compressive upthrusting of material along near-vertical fault planes during periods of active transform motion.

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