Flow processes and sediment deformation in the Canary Debris Flow on the NW African Continental Rise

TitleFlow processes and sediment deformation in the Canary Debris Flow on the NW African Continental Rise
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsMasson, DG, Van Niel, B, Weaver, PPE
JournalSedimentary Geology
ISBN Number0037-0738
KeywordsCanary Islands, debris flow, sediment core, sidescan sonar

The Canary Debris Flow formed an extensive deposit on the NW African Continental Margin west of the Canary Islands. Sidescan sonar images and 3.5-kHz profiles show that the middle part of the debris flow deposit consists of complex channel systems separated by banks and ridges of debris. Channels are typically up to 10 km wide and 10 to 20 m deep, and have little or no debris fill. They appear to feed a more laterally continuous debris flow sheet which is seen further downslope. Interchannel banks and ridges are composed of 5 to 20 m thick debris deposits. This morphology is remarkably similar to that seen in subaerial debris flows, and we therefore infer that the observed submarine debris flow morphology is a primary flow fabric, rather than the result of the debris flow interacting with or exploiting pre-existing channels. High-resolution Sidescan sonar images show that the debris flow surface is covered by sediment blocks up to 300 m in diameter. A single core collected from the flow shows that most of the 4.6-m flow thickness at the core site is composed of a single clast. The clast has been folded, with its upper part consisting of an inverted minor image of the lower part. The same sequence occurs again, in situ, beneath the debris flow, suggesting that the clast may have a local source, rather than having been derived from the debris flow source area, some 200 km upslope. This indicates that the debris flow was capable of substantial seabed erosion in the middle part of its course. In these middle reaches, erosion within the channelled areas probably occurred simultaneously with deposition in the interchannel areas. Interchannel deposits may contain both locally derived and original source area material.