Abstract

New high-quality multibeam and seismic data image the western slope of the Great Bahama Bank and the adjacent floor of the Straits of Florida. The extensive survey reveals several unexpected large- and small-scale morphologies. These include bypass areas, channel-levee-lobe systems, gullied slopes, and products of slope instabilities at various scales, including long slump scars at the lower slope and mass transport complexes that extend ∼30 km into the adjacent basin floor. The toe of the slope is irregularly covered with deep-water carbonate mounds. The abundance of the individual morphological features varies from north to south. From 26°00′N to 25°20′N, the slope is dissected by numerous deep canyons that abruptly end southward, where the slope is characterized by a smooth lower portion and small regularly spaced furrows in its upper part. Further south, two long (25–50 km) scars document instability at the lower slope. One of these scars is the source area of a large mass transport complex. In addition to this large-scale feature, several types of gravity-induced sedimentary processes are revealed. Most of the morphologies and inferred processes of this carbonate system are similar to those observed in siliciclastic systems, including mass transport complexes, gravity currents initiated by density cascading, and overspilling channeled turbidity currents. For the first time, a clear asymmetric channel-levee system has been identified along the slope, suggesting similitude in sorting processes between carbonate and siliciclastic systems and enhancing the reservoir-bearing potential of carbonate slopes. Notable differences with siliciclastic systems include: the lack of connection with the shallow and emerged part of the system (i.e., bank top), and the small size of the sedimentary system.

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