Mud volcano field seaward of the Barbados Accretionary Complex: A deep-towed side scan sonar survey


  • Pierre Henry,

  • Xavier Le Pichon,

  • Siegfried Lallemant,

  • Jean-Paul Foucher,

  • Graham Westbrook,

  • Michael Hobart


A 30 km2 diapiric field has been identified near 13°50′N up to 12 km seaward of the deformation front of the Barbados accretionary complex. Using a deep-towed side scan sonar with a 3.5-kHz profiler, we identified 31 different diapiric structures. Based on seismic stratigraphy, we show that this field has been active for 200,000 years and that it is a transient feature triggered by the seaward propagation of the high pore fluid pressure associated with the décollement beneath the accretionary complex. Both basement and décollement in this area are anomalously shallow due to the presence of a N110° basement ridge. The height of the diapirs above seafloor does not exceed 40–50 m and can be related to the pressure head of the mud below the décollement. Two types of structures are identified: mud volcanoes and massively emplaced diapirs and ridges on the one hand, enigmatic circular very flat mud pies and conical mounds on the other hand. The second type of structures has steeper slopes and appears to be associated with very active venting, as confirmed by a submersible exploration reported in a companion paper (Le Pichon et al., this issue (b)). The venting results in the formation of a stiff carbonate crust and of large subsiding basins around the mud pies. Continuous active fluid expulsion through these structures indicates that an efficient piping system still connects them to the zone of anomalously high pore pressure below the protodécollement.