We have determined the seismic velocity structure of the crust in the vicinity of the Appalachian deformation front off western Newfoundland and the adjacent Gulf of St Lawrence. These measurements were made from two perpendicular wide-angle seismic refraction profiles, one of which is collinear with a previously recorded deep seismic reflection profile. The Grenville foreland crust, about 45 km thick, is characterized by velocities of 6.35 km/s in its upper part and 6.7 km/s in its lower part. Close to the coast of Newfoundland, a deep crustal reflective wedge is bounded by a northwest-dipping reflector and by the crust–mantle boundary, which is at only 39 km depth beneath the wedge. In the wedge, velocities of 7.2–7.3 km/s may indicate the presence of mafic and ultramafic rocks. We speculate that several processes could have caused the high velocities and the high reflectivity. The most attractive is perhaps crustal extension with consequent underplating during the formation of the Iapetus Ocean or during later reactivation by Carboniferous strike-slip movements.

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