Abstract

Hydroacoustic and sedimentological data from the western leeward flank of the Great Bahama Bank document the interplay of off-bank sediment export, along-slope transport, and erosion, which together shape facies and thickness distribution of slope carbonates. The integrated data set depicts the combined product of these processes and allows formulation of a comprehensive model of a periplatform drift that significantly amends established models of carbonate platform slope facies distribution and geometry. The basinward-thinning wedge of the periplatform drift at the foot of the bank escarpment displays along-slope and downslope variations in sedimentary architecture. Sediments are muddy carbonate sands that coarsen basinward. The drift wedge has a pervasive cover of cyclic steps. In zones of lower contour current speed, depth-related facies belts develop, whereas strike-discontinuous sediment lobes, scarps, and gullies characterize areas with higher current speed. This understanding of the impact of currents on carbonate-slope sedimentation has wider implications for seismic and sequence stratigraphic interpretation of carbonate platforms and for applied aspects such as hydrocarbon exploration.

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