Abstract

The southern margin of South Africa developed as a consequence of shear motion between the African and South American plates along the Agulhas-Falkland Transform Fault during the Early Cretaceous break-up of Gondwana. The Agulhas-Karoo Geoscience Transect crosses this continental margin, and includes two combined offshore-onshore seismic reflection/refraction profiles. We present results from the western offshore profile. Using ocean-bottom seismometers and a dense airgun shot pattern, a detailed image of the velocity – depth structure of the margin from the Agulhas Passage to the Agulhas Bank was derived. Modelling reveals crustal thicknesses of between 7 km and 30 km along the profile. The upper crust has P-wave velocities of between 5.6 and 6.6 km/s and the lower crust has velocities that lie between 6.4 and 7.1 km/s. Uppermost mantle velocities range from 7.8 to 8.0 km/s. The 52 km wide continent-ocean-transition zone, where the Moho rises steeply, occurs at the Agulhas-Falkland Fracture Zone.

Beneath the Southern Outeniqua Basin and the Diaz Marginal Ridge, a zone of relatively low velocities (~5 km/s) with a thickness of up to 3 km, can be discerned in the upper crust. We interpret this zone as an old basin filled with pre-break-up metasediments, which may be related to the Cape Fold Belt. We suggest that the origin of the Diaz Marginal Ridge is bound up with the tectonic history of this basin as it exhibits a similar velocity structure. Almost no stratified sediment cover exists in the Agulhas Passage because of strong erosion due to ocean currents. The velocity structure and seismic reflection results indicate the presence of alternating layers of volcanic flows and sediments, with a mean velocity of about 4 km/s. We suggest these volcanic flows were an accompaniment of possible re-activation events of parts of the Agulhas-Falkland Fracture Zone. Tectonic motion seems to be sub vertical instead of strike-slip along the re-activated part of the fracture zone. Therefore, a relation to the uplift of the South African crust may be possible.

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