Abstract

We present the first multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection line that crosses the South Sandwich Trench, South Sandwich island arc, and East Scotia Sea backarc basin. The line is used in combination with earthquake catalogue data to interpret the strain distribution across the Sandwich plate and the relationship of forearc structures to processes operating at the trench. The MCS data reveal a 1.2-km-high fault scarp associated with a 20-km-wide arcward-tilted block in the mid-forearc; these features indicate large-scale gravitational collapse, and earthquake data are consistent with trench-normal extension at shallow depth in this area. There is, however, little evidence of distributed extension within the interior of the Sandwich plate. The MCS data show a small frontal wedge that achieves its maximum thickness only 18 km from the trench. Backarc magnetic data, mid-forearc extension, and the small size of the frontal wedge are all consistent with long-term and ongoing subduction erosion. Earthquake data suggest that this erosion is taking place in an environment of low interplate stress.

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