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Characterization of Sea Floor in Gulf of Mexico

B. A. McGregor, N. H. Kenyon, J. S. Schlee, R. E. Mattick, D. C. Twichell

In 1985, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted a mapping program in the Gulf of Mexico. Using the GLORIA (Geologic Long-Range Inclined Asdic) side-scan sonar system of the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, USGS mapped approximately 90,000 nmi2 of sea floor in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, seaward of the shelf edge. The Sigsbee Escarpment, the seaward edge of a salt front that extends from the western gulf to just west of the Mississippi Canyon, is marked by piles of debris along its base, and is breached by several submarine channels. One such meandering channel can be traced from the shelf edge, through the maze of diapirs on the slope, and out across the Sigsbee Abyssal Plain. This continuous transport pathway indicates the interaction of s lt tectonics on sediment pathways and distribution. Numerous bed forms seaward of the Sigsbee Escarpment suggest that strong bottom currents are present. The northern gulf has three major submarine fans, each with different surface morphologies. The Rio Grande Fan has a braided channel system. The Mississippi Fan has a main channel that can be traced for approximately 100 km across the midfan, but most of the surface of the upper and midfan as well as the channel are buried by submarine slides or debris flows. Desoto Canyon Fan also has a continuous channel that has been filled or overrun in places by massive debris flows. Based on the sonographs, mass wasting appears to be an important process in distributing sediments in the deep water of the central gulf.

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