Abstract

The Wilkes Land continental slope contains an intricate network of submarine canyons that on the continental rise develop into a series of channel and overbank deposits of turbidite systems. We can define upper-fan, middle-fan, and lower-fan provinces. The Wilkes Land upper fans are characterized by large channels with relief up to 900 m, distances between levee crests up to 18 km, and channel-floor widths up to 6 km. Middle-fan channels also have high relief (∼300 m), and locally, interchannel areas exhibit mounded contourite-style deposits with high relief (up to 490 m). Within middle-fan sediment mounds there are acoustic facies of channel-overbank deposits from turbidity currents, and of sediment waves from contour-current sedimentation. The lower rise is characterized by small, shallow channels (50-75 m relief) and by interchannel areas of low relief, both characteristic of a lower-fan environment. The Wilkes Land turbidite systems show the following significant morphological differences compared to most river-sourced fans: (1) multiple large tributary channels across the upper and middle fan, (2) channel relief several times greater (900 m) than typical relief (100-200 m) for channels on fans less than 300 km in diameter, and (3) steep middle-fan and lower-fan gradients. We interpret the differences in channel network patterns, channel size, and middle-fan and lower-fan gradients between the Wilkes Land fans and other fans to result from the continental ice sheet feeding glacial ice streams that reached the outer continental shelf at times of glacial maxima. The Wilkes Land canyon-channel network patterns are comparable with the high-latitude Laurentian Fan and Labrador Sea channels. The Laurentian Fan also has large upper-fan channels with larger relief (800 m) than typical relief (200-300 m) expected for fans that are 600 km in diameter. Both the Labrador Sea and Laurentian Fan are fed by continental ice sheets at the shelf edge.

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