Abstract

The eastern Gulf (MAFLA) continental margin may be conveniently divided into two parts of opposing history and character. West of Cape San Blas lies the eastern limb of the Gulf Coast Geosyncline whose surface expression is a clastic sand body, called the MAFLA Sand Sheet, grading westward into the muds of the Mississippi pro-delta. These sediments have a clay mineral suite dominated by smectite. East of Cape San Bias lies the West Florida Margin, a sequence of carbonate and evaporitic rocks which has been cut off from a major clastic source since Jurassic time. The surface expression of this sequence is the West Florida Sand Sheet, predominantly a patchy veneer of shell hash and foraminiferal, algal, and even oolitic sands which is subjected to periodic reworking by frontal system storms and hurricanes. Kaolinite dominates its clay mineralogy. Seaward of the carbonate sands lies the West Florida Lime Mud facies, slope sediments composed of planktonic foraminifera and coccoliths. Inshore of the carbonate sands and separated from them by a zone of mixed composition lies a mature quartz fine sand, which also makes up the beaches of Southwest Florida. West Florida shelf quartz sands appear to have been deposited at lower sea level stands and to have been transported back and forth with no net drift in a longshore current system which changes seasonally from north to south. Clay mineralogy in portions of the MAFLA region shows distinct changes in composition over a period of a year in the benthos and over periods as short as a few hours in the water column. These changes reflect contribution from two distinct provenances. Benthie variation probably results from occasional intrusion of smectite laden Mississippi River or Loop Current water into the eastern zone. Water column variation may be the result of seiching of the Gulf or the pulsing movement of kaolinite laden eastern shelf water to the west.

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