Abstract

To investigate the possible relation between the fabric (microstructural arrangement of particles) of a fine-grained sedimentary deposit and the depositional and environmental processes of that deposit, the fabric of sediment samples from the sea floor of two different depositional settings, Shelikof Strait and the Alsek prodelta, Alaska, were studied by using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Sediment of both areas is texturally similar, consisting of a muddy sand that grades to a mud with increasing water depth. Mineralogically, both areas are characterized by a clay-size fraction dominated by illite, chlorite, and rock flour. The dominant fabric of undisturbed sediment from both study areas consists of a sand- and coarse-silt-size agranular fraction surrounded by an open matrix of clay- and fine-silt-size platelets arranged in a combination of randomly oriented flocs and many single grain contacts. The similarity of the fabric of sediment from the two study areas suggests that the fabric is not controlled by the different depositional settings but rather by the dominant clay mineralogy and sediment texture. The most noticeable alteration of the original fabric of Shelikof Strait and Alsek prodelta sediment occurs as a result of high levels of consolidation and the shearing process.

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