A combination of geomorphological, seismic reflection and geotechnical data constrains this study of sediment erosion and deposition at the toe of the Cascadia accretionary prism. We conducted a series of ALVIN dives in a region south of Astoria Canyon to examine the interrelationship of fluid flow and slope failure in a series of headless submarine canyons. Elevated head gradients at the inflection point of canyons have been inferred to assist in localized failures that feed sediment into a closed slope basin. Measured head gradients are an order of magnitude too low to cause seepage-induced slope failure alone; we therefore propose transient slope failure mechanisms. Intercanyon slopes are uniformly unscarred and smooth, although consolidation tests indicate that up to several metres of material may have been removed. A sheet-like failure would remove sediment uniformly, preserving the observed smooth intercanyon slope. Earthquake-induced liquefaction is a likely trigger for this type of sheet failure as the slope is too steep and short for sediment flow to organize itself into channels. Bathymetric and seismic reflection data suggest sediment in a trench slope basin between the second and third ridges from the prism's deformation is derived locally. A comparison of the amounts of material removed from the slopes and that in the basin shows that the amount of material removed from the slopes may slightly exceed the amount of material in the basin, implying that a small amount of sediment has escaped the basin, perhaps when the second ridge was too low to form a sufficient dam, or through a gap in the second ridge to the south. Regardless, almost 80% of the material shed off the slopes around the basin is deposited locally, whereas the remaining 20% is redeposited on the incoming section and will be re-accreted.
Additional publication details
Slope basins, headless canyons, and submarine palaeoseismology of the Cascadia accretionary complex