Lithofacies and origin of late Quaternary mass transport deposits in submarine canyons, central Scotian Slope, Canada



Mass transport deposits, up to 3·9 m thick, have been identified from piston cores collected from canyon floors and inter-canyon ridges on the central Scotian Slope. These deposits are characterized by four distinct mass-transport facies – folded mud, dipping stratified mud, various types of mud-clast conglomerate, and diamicton. Commonly, the folded and stratified mud facies are overlain by mud-clast conglomerate, followed by diamicton and then by turbidity current deposits of well-sorted sand. Stratified and folded mud facies were sourced from canyon walls. Overconsolidation in clasts in some mud-clast conglomerates indicates that the source sediment was buried 12–33 m, much deeper than the present cored depth, implying a source in canyon heads and canyon walls. The known stratigraphic framework for the region and new radiocarbon dating suggests that there were four or five episodes of sediment failure within the past 17 ka, most of which are found in more than one canyon system. The most likely mechanism for triggering occasional, synchronous failures in separate canyons is seismic ground shaking. The facies sequence is interpreted as resulting from local slides being overlain by mud-clast conglomerate deposits derived from failures farther upslope and finally by coarser-grained deposits resulting from retrogressive failure re-mobilizing upper slope sediments to form debrisflows and turbidity currents.