Abstract

The deep structure and tectonic history of the continental margin of southwestern Canada have been determined by phase I of the Lithoprobe program across south-central Vancouver Island and associated marine studies across the continental shelf and slope. This article reviews results from the marine portion of the corridor but also presents continuous onshore–offshore data and interpretation. The geophysical data include multichannel seismic reflection, seismic refraction, magnetics, gravity, bathymetry, sea-floor acoustic imagery, heat flow, and seismicity. There has been Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) coring and downhole measurements on the continental slope. The margin structure and Cenozoic tectonic history are dominated by the consequences of subduction. Two narrow terranes, the Eocene volcanic Crescent and the Mesozoic mainly sedimentary Pacific Rim, were emplaced along the coast at the time of north Pacific plate reorganization at 43 Ma. They provide the landward-dipping backstop to a large accretionary sedimentary prism formed from the sediments scraped off the incoming oceanic plate. The prism exhibits active folding, thrusting, and tectonic consolidation, and it provides a model for the formation of ancient fold and thrust belts. An extensive gas hydrate layer was detected beneath the continental slope by a seismic BSR (bottom-simulating reflector) and was penetrated by the ODP drilling. The surface heat flow decreases landward from high values over the young oceanic plate to low values just seaward of the volcanic arc as a consequence of the heat sink provided by the underthrusting oceanic plate. The margin seismicity includes continental crust-events and earthquakes in the downgoing oceanic plate. No earthquakes have been detected on the subduction thrust fault but great thrust events are inferred to occur with an average interval of 600 years. The seismic source zone for such events is restricted to a narrow region beneath the continental shelf because of the high temperatures over the young Juan de Fuca plate.

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