Turbidite deposition on the glacially influenced, canyon-dominated Southwest Grand Banks Slope, Canada


  • Present address: ConocoPhillips, Houston, TX 77079, USA.


The deeply dissected Southwest Grand Banks Slope offshore the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was investigated using multiple data sets in order to determine how canyons and intercanyon ridges developed and what sedimentary processes acted on glacially influenced slopes. The canyons are a product of Quaternary ice-related processes that operated along the margin, such as ice stream outwash and proglacial plume fallout. Three types of canyon are defined based on their dimensions, axial sedimentary processes and the location of the canyon head. There are canyons formed by glacial outwash with aggradational and erosional floors, and canyons formed on the slope by retrogressive failure. The steep, narrow intercanyon ridges that separate the canyons are composite morphological features formed by a complex history of sediment aggradation and degradation. Ridge aggradation occurred as a result of mid to late Quaternary background sedimentation (proglacial plume fallout and hemipelagic settling) and turbidite deposition. Intercanyon ridge degradation was caused mainly by sediment removal due to local slump failures and erosive sediment gravity flows. Levée-like deposits are present as little as 15 km from the shelf break. At 30 km from the shelf, turbidity currents spilled over a 400 m high ridge and reconfined in a canyon formed by retrogressive failure, where a thalweg channel was developed. These observations imply that turbidity currents evolved rapidly in this slope-proximal environment and attained flow depths of hundreds of metres over distances of a few tens of kilometres, suggesting turbulent subglacial outwash from tunnel valleys as the principal turbidity current-generating mechanism.