“…fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguire virtute e canoscenza....”—Dante Alighieri, Inferno XXVI

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” —T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)

In 2011, we published the first volume dedicated to the scientific achievements of William R. Normark (Fildani et al., 2011). While we were formatting the volume, it became apparent that our colleagues were not done with contributions, as we kept receiving submissions—and for years since. A “spill-over” second volume in honor of Bill became necessary, and the innovative publication style of Geosphere was considered well suited to receive the continuous flow of submissions into 2018.

Integration across disciplines, scientific rigor, and masterful synthesis together represent the “core” of Bill’s legacy. This volume includes scientific contributions from recognized experts in different fields from marine geology, sedimentology, tectonics, seafloor geomorphology, and overarching earth sciences. Many times, we have written about how Bill’s comprehensive approach to science and his natural talent for synthesizing large data sets made him the prototype of the modern scientist, but it is with his intuitions and thought experiments that Bill really reached deeply into the earth science community with original insights.

Since Bill’s passing in 2008, there have been advancements in concepts and models that Bill and his closest collaborators helped shape; these recent advancements corroborate some of Bill’s early observations and hypotheses (Fig. 1). For instance, the technological improvements of the automated underwater vehicle (AUV) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have helped illuminate sectors of the seafloor that have been in the “darkness” since humans began speculating about the deepest reaches of the oceans. Because of the new and improved AUVs, marine geologists have been able to map in high resolution the channel to lobe transition zones (CLTZ) on submarine fans, an elusive deep-sea neighborhood that has major implications for applied stratigraphy (e.g., reservoir modeling for giant deep-water fields). Recent images published by Carvajal and colleagues (2017) illuminates the CLTZ where Bill and colleagues first postulated it—the Navy Fan. The newly obtained images would have enthused Bill. CLTZs are fundamental building blocks of deep-sea fans, and two contributions in this volume (Van der Merwe et al., 2014 and Pemberton et al., 2016) offer great examples of what we suspect their stratigraphic architectures should look like in outcrop. However, because of the advancements in seafloor mapping we can now improve our predictive models. Enhanced data resolution is having an impact on new conceptual models on how deep-sea channels form and how they transition into the unconfined basin floor. This is a topic Bill helped shape early on with detailed work on Monterey Fan (Monterey East system of Fildani et al., 2006) and the early scoping of the Lucia Chica channel system project (Maier et al., 2013).

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Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC license.