Abstract

Seismic refraction data have been interpreted along a line crossing the Queen Charlotte transform, just north of the triple junction where the Explorer Ridge intersects the continental margin. These data, observed at three onshore sites, help to define the structure of the continental crust beneath the Queen Charlotte sedimentary basin. Sediment thicknesses of up to 4 km were determined from a coincident multichannel reflection line. Beneath the sediments, velocities increase from about 5.5 to 6.3 km·s−1 at 8 km depth, then increase from 6.5 to 6.7 km·s−1 at 18 km depth. Below this depth, the lower crust is partly constrained by Moho wide-angle reflections at the three receiving sites, which indicate a lower crust velocity of 6.8–6.9 km·s−1 and a Moho depth of 26–28 km. The crustal velocity structure is generally similar to that in southern Queen Charlotte Sound. It is in contrast to the velocity structure across Hecate Strait to the north, where a prominent mid-crust interface at ~15 km depth was observed. Seismic velocity models of the continental crust provide constraints that can be used in modelling gravity data to extend structures across the ocean–continent boundary. Along the profile just north of the Queen Charlotte triple junction, the gravity "edge effect" is very subdued, with maximum anomalies of < mGal (1 mGal = 10−3 cm·s−2). To satisfy the gravity data along this profile, the modelled crustal thickness must decrease to oceanic values (5–6 km) over a horizontal distance of 75 (±10) km, which gives a Moho dip of about 14°. Farther north, refraction models across Hecate Strait provide similar constraints for gravity modelling; the gravity data indicate horizontal transition distances from thick to thin crust of 45 (±10) km, comparable with, but slightly smaller than, those nearer the triple junction, and Moho dips at an angle of 18–22°. The greater thinning near the triple junction is consistent with mass flux models in which ductile flow in the lithosphere is induced by the relative motion between oceanic and continental plates.

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