Abstract

New stratigraphic and high-resolution seismic data from the Bengal Fan indicate that the world's largest fan shows active growth during the most recent sea-level rise and the recent highstand. This unique phenomenon contradicts common sequence-stratigraphic models, and the sediment preserved provides new insight into the sedimentological response of a fan system to sea-level rise, climatic terminations, and monsoon intensity during the past climatic cycle. We present a detailed dated sequence of turbidite sedimentation based on a core transect perpendicular to the active channel-levee system in the upper mid-fan area. Between the two major terminations 1a (12 800 14C yr B.P.) and 1b (9700 14C yr B.P.), and especially at the end of the Younger Dryas, a 13-km-wide channel built up levees 50 m high. With decreasing sediment supply, continued sea-level rise, and increasing monsoon intensity during the early Holocene, turbidity currents were confined to the channel and gradually filled it. The canyon “Swatch of No Ground,” a shelf depocenter that serves as the source for frequent turbidity currents, and the channel-levee system provide the unique opportunity for studying an active highstand system. Many fans showed this behavior only during lowered sea-level.

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