Ascension Submarine Canyon, which lies along the strike-slip (transform) dominated continental margin of central California, consists of two discrete northwestern heads and six less well defined southeastern heads. These eight heads coalesce to form a single submarine canyon near the 2700 m isobath. Detailed seismic stratigraphic data correlated with 19 rock dredge hauls from the walls of the canyon system, suggest that at least one of the two northwestern heads was initially eroded during a Pliocene lowstand of sea level ???3.8 m.y. B.P. Paleogeographic reconstructions indicate that at this time, northwestern Ascension Canyon formed the distal channel of nearby Monterey Canyon and has subsequently been offset by right-lateral, strike-slip faulting along the San Gregorio fault zone. Some of the six southwestern heads of Ascension Canyon may also have been initially eroded as the distal portions of Monterey Canyon during late Pliocene-early Pleistocene sea-level lowstands (???2.8 and 1.75 m.y. B.P.) and subsequently truncated and offset to the northwest. There have also been a minimum of two canyon-cutting episodes within the past 750,000 years, after the entire Ascension Canyon system migrated to the northwest past Monterey Canyon. We attribute these late Pleistocene erosional events to relative lowstands of sea level 750,000 and 18,000 yrs B.P. The late Pleistocene and Holocene evolution of the six southeastern heads also appears to have been controlled by structural uplift of the Ascension-Monterey basement high at the southeastern terminus of the Outer Santa Cruz Basin. We believe that uplift of this basement high sufficiently oversteepened submarine slopes to induce gravitational instability and generate mass movements that resulted in the erosion of the canyon heads. Most significantly, though, our results and interpretations support previous proposals that submarine canyons along strike-slip continental margins can originate by tectonic trunction and lateral offset. ?? 1986.
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Ascension Submarine Canyon, California - Evolution of a multi-head canyon system along a strike-slip continental margin