Abstract

Three dives in DSRV Alvin on the Atlantic Continental Rise in Wilmington and South Wilmington Canyons, off the east coast of the United States, allowed examination and sampling of morphological features, in water depths of 2,300 to 2,400 m, that were observed in midrange sidescan sonar data. In Wilmington Canyon, a “fluvial-like” meandering system was confirmed. The meandering channel had steep undercut outer banks and gently sloping inner banks. Localized slumping is inferred from many steplike depressions on the steep outer banks. Although the meander system is as much as 500 m wide and has many characteristics typical of a fluvial system, extreme depth and evidence of episodic ongoing sedimentary processes preclude a true fluvial origin. Currents of unknown origin—that is, downcanyon turbidity flows—appear to be the only agent capable of sculpturing the observed features.

A meander system was not observed in South Wilmington Canyon. Channel-floor features, including deformed and displaced sediment, support a previous suggestion of large-scale slumping in the area. These sediments include upturned clay beds, disaggregated gravels, loosely bound gravel conglomerates in a reddish-brown matrix, and a tubular structure, resembling a tree-root cast, within a thinly bedded, reddish-brown sandstone.

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