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Morphology and internal structure of sand shoals and sandbanks off the Dorset coast, English Channel



The morphology and internal structure of sand shoals and sandbanks around a coastal headland (Portland Bill, southern UK) are described on the basis of sidescan sonar and high-resolution seismic data sets. Morphological and architectural evidence, combined with the spatial distribution and nature of the bedrock surface, indicates that the evolution of these deposits, especially the sandbanks, may not only be hydrodynamically controlled but also morphologically controlled. The internal structure of the sand shoals reveals a simple pattern of clinoforms dipping in the same direction as their steeper profile. In contrast, the internal structure of the sandbanks reveals that their lower seismic units consist of a sedimentary core interpreted as the remains of a lowstand deposit or an early stage of the bank development under different prevailing hydrodynamic conditions. The present morphology of the sandbanks is represented by upper seismic units characterized by large-scale sandwave foresets dipping at 6–8°. The nature and morphology of the bedrock surface may also influence the development of sandbanks in some cases. For example, to the west of Portland Bill, the morphology of the bedrock surface (basal reflector) restricts the development of the Portland Bank. This information may explain the asymmetric evolution of sandbanks around Portland Bill.