Abstract

The Sicilian Channel is a broad and shallow shelf which is geologically part of the African Plate. Its NW sector (the Adventure Plateau), where water depths rarely exceed 100 m, is punctuated by several kilometre-sized morphological highs. These elevations, formed by both sedimentary and volcanic rocks, emerged around middle Holocene time or earlier when they constituted a large archipelago. High-resolution single-channel and multichannel seismic reflection profiles, along with stratigraphic and lithological information derived from exploration wells and rock samplings, are analysed to derive the shallow and deep structural setting of these banks and identify their geological nature. The sedimentary banks (Talbot, Ante-Talbot, Panope, Nereo and Pantelleria Vecchia), presently located at water depths 8–40 m, are composed of Miocene rocks severely deformed by a late Miocene compressional phase which produced the external sector of the Sicilian–Maghrebian thrust belt. Tortonian-aged rock samples from the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank represent patch reefs that have mostly formed on structural highs. Sedimentary analogies suggest that other sedimentary banks of the Adventure Plateau may have the same origin. Galatea, Anfitrite and Tetide represent submarine volcanic edifices emplaced on major extensional faults formed during early Pliocene – Quaternary continental rifting of the Sicilian Channel. The present-day morphology of the banks is the result of repeated phases of subaerial exposure and drowning, especially since the Last Glacial Maximum.

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