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Clay Mineralogy of Lower Cretaceous Deep-Sea Fan Sediments, Western North Atlantic Basin

Mary Anne Holmes

The Lower Cretaceous of the eastern North American continent was a time of extensive deltaic progradation. The effects of deltaic deposition on sedimentation in the western North Atlantic were unknown until May 1982, when, at Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 603 off Cape Hatteras, over 260 m of micaceous, muddy turbidites were recovered that correlate with deltaic progradation on eastern North America.

The results of clay mineral studies from onshore and offshore equivalents indicate that during the Cretaceous, some sorting of clay minerals by transport processes occurred. Kaolinite tends to accumulate in continental environments, illite in transitional to marine environments, and smectite in deep sea sediments as pelagic clay. In the sediments from the western North Atlantic, illite tended to be more abundant in thick bedded sandy muds, whereas kaolinite tended to be more abundant in thin bedded muddy sands.

Although the occurrence of illite and kaolinite in pelagic sediments indicates a general increased terrigenous influence, the results of this study indicate that these two clays behave independently in these sediments. The presence of large amounts of kaolinite at certain levels in these sediments corresponds to phases of maximum deep-sea fan development, and so indicates a more direct input of continental material, with less sorting of sediments by continental and shelf processes (pericontinental fractionation) prior to redeposition.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.