Sedimentary patterns and geometries of the Bahamian outer carbonate ramp (Miocene–Lower Pliocene, Great Bahama Bank)



Core, logging and high-resolution seismic data from ODP Leg 166 were used to analyse deposits of the Neogene (Miocene–Lower Pliocene) Bahamian outer carbonate ramp. Ramp sediments are cyclic alternations of light- and dark-grey wackestones/packstones with interbedded calciturbidite packages and minor slumps. Cyclicity was driven by high-frequency sea-level changes. Light-grey layers containing shallow-water bioclasts were formed when the ramp exported material, whereas the dark-grey layers are dominantly pelagic. Calciturbidites are arranged into mounded lobes with feeder channels. Internal bedding of the lobes shows a north-directed shingling as a result of the asymmetrical growth of these bodies. Calciturbidite packages occur below and above sequence boundaries, indicating that turbidite shedding occurred during third-order sea-level highstands and lowstands. Highstand turbidites contain shallow-water components, such as green algal debris and epiphytic foraminifera, whereas lowstand turbidites are dominated by abraded bioclastic detritus. Gravity flow depocentres shifted from an outer ramp position during the early Miocene to a basin floor setting during the late Miocene to early Pliocene. This change was triggered by an intensification of the strength of bottom currents during the Tortonian, which was also responsible for shaping the convex morphology of the outer ramp. The Miocene and Lower Pliocene of the leeward flank of Great Bahama Bank provides an example of the poorly known depositional setting of the outer part of distally steepened carbonate ramps. The contrast between its sedimentary patterns and the well-known Upper Pliocene–Quaternary slope facies associations of the flat-topped Great Bahama Bank shows the strong control that the morphology of a carbonate platform exerts on the depositional architecture of the adjacent slope and base-of-slope successions.