Abstract

The effects of an eastern boundary current in the North Atlantic have been mapped from about 39 degrees north latitude along the Iberian margin to as far north as 43 degrees 30' north latitude at the western margin of Galicia Bank. The geostrophic current has produced sediment drifts that are covered with bedforms. The sediment drifts are difficult to detect on Gloria long-range side-scan sonar data but are easily resolved on seismic-reflection records as anomalously thick accumulations of sediment banked against either buried or outcropping basement highs. The bedforms ornamenting the drift surfaces were subdivided into 1,000-m water-depth intervals, and their dimensions were tabulated. There are few bedforms in water depths less than 2,000 m, but from depths between 2,000 and 4,000 m they are numerous and have a mean wavelength of 695 m. Bedforms from depths greater than 4,000 m have a mean wavelength of 999 m. The different wavelengths from different water depths suggest two distinct and separated boundary flows. The wave heights of all bedforms found in water depths greater than 2,000 m are less than 10 m. In order to investigate the continuity of sediment drifting through geological time, the stratigraphic section drilled at DSDP Site 398 was reinterpreted and, using seismic-reflection profiles, was traced throughout the northern Iberian margin. Together, the lithostratigraphic and seismic data indicate that sediment drifting developed along this margin in the Eocene. The lithofacies of the Eocene section is the oldest to have numerous layers of sand and silt. An unconformity separates the Eocene section from the latest Miocene-Pliocene section. The unconformity is interpreted to be the result of the initial pulses of Mediterranean outflow that followed the Messinian desiccation events. A second period of sediment drifting commenced during the Pliocene once the Mediterranean basin filled and the flow out of the Strait of Gibraltar resumed.

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