Abstract

The transition from cyclothemic shelf to shale-dominated slope deposits (Callovian to Oxfordian) that accumulated along the northern convergent margin of Bowser Basin is delineated by spectacular, conglomerate-filled channels, or gullies. The gullies, representing the shelf-slope break, formed in two stages: (1) Slumping of upper slope-outer shelf sediment created topography, which determined (2) the course of fluvial, distributary-type channels and focused gravel-dominated sediment transport during relative sea-level lowstands. Gully fill consists predominantly of debris-flow deposits, locally incorporated into small (lowstand) fan deltas that prograded from gully margins. Lowstand fluvial channels overlie shelf cycles, incise the underlying highstand deposits, and are overlain by fossiliferous, transgressive sandstone. However, the shelfbreak gullies deposits are up to 10 times thicker than those of the associated lowstand fluvial channels. Although the lowstand fluvial channels likely acted as bypass conduits for gravel and sand during times of low sea level, the initiation and "overdeepening" of the shelfbreak gullies by slumping probably took place during both high and low relative sea levels. Deposition within gullies may also have continued during relative highstands, from sediment in storage on the outer shelf. The implications for sequence stratigraphic models are: shelf-break gullies can form at any stage of sea level fluctuation; gully thickness may not be related to the magnitude of lowstand incision on the adjacent shelf; and gullies formed by sediment gravity failure do not provide quantitative information about the magnitude of sea-level fall.

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