High-Resolution Acoustic Imaging in the Agadir-Canyon Region, NW-Africa: Morphology, Processes and Geohazards

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Sebastian Krastel1, Russell B. Wynn2, Peter Feldens1, Daniel Unverricht1, Veit Huehnerbach3, Christopher Stevenson4, Silke Glogowski3 and Anke Schuerer1, (1)Inst fuer Geowissenschaften, Kiel, Germany, (2)National Oceanography Center, Soton, Southampton, United Kingdom, (3)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany, (4)The University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Agadir Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons in the World, supplying giant submarine sediment gravity flows to the Agadir Basin and the wider Moroccan Turbidite System. While the Moroccan Turbidite System is extremely well investigated, almost no data from the source region, i.e. the Agadir Canyon, are available. Understanding why some submarine landslides remain as coherent blocks of sediment throughout their passage downslope, while others mix and disintegrate almost immediately after initial failure, is a major scientific challenge, which was addressed in the Agadir Canyon source region during Cruise MSM32. We collected ~ 1500 km of high-resolution seismic 2D-lines in combination with a dense net of hydroacoustic data. About 1000 km2 of sea floor were imaged during three deployments of TOBI (deep-towed sidescan sonar operated by the National Oceanography Centre Southampton). A total of 186 m of gravity cores and several giant box cores were recovered at more than 50 stations. The new data show that Agadir canyon is the source area of the world’s largest submarine sediment flow, which occurred about 60,000 years ago. Up to 160 km3 of sediment was transported to the deep ocean in a single catastrophic event. For the first time, sediment flows of this scale have been tracked along their entire flow pathway. A major landslide area was identified south of Agadir Canyon. Landslide material enters Agadir canyon in about 2500 m water depth; the material is transported as debrite for at least another 200 km down the canyon. Initial data suggest that the last major slide from this source entered Agadir canyon at least 130,000 years ago. A large field of living deep-water corals was imaged north of Agadir canyon. To our knowledge, these are the first living cold water corals recovered off the coast of Morocco (except for the Gulf of Cadiz). They represent an important link between the known cold-water coral provinces off Mauritania and in the Gulf of Cádiz.