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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  April 2010  /  Mapping of sedimentation processes within the Scotia sea

Mapping of sedimentation processes within the Scotia sea

Matthew Owen returns from South Georgia research cruise

Mapping of sedimentation processes within the Scotia sea

Department of Geography research student Matt Owen and Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre researcher Simon Day have spent the last two months aboard the vessel RRS James Clark Ross participating in a British Antarctic Survey research cruise investigating the marine geology of the southern South Georgia margin and of the South Sandwich island arc (see news item, September 2009).

Off South Georgia, an extensively glaciated sub-Antarctic micro-continent, evidence has been found indicating the presence of submarine slope failures, a trough mouth fan and a variety of fault structures. The research has revealed a variety of sediment sources, pathways and processes, providing greater insight into the palaeo-environment of the sub-Antarctic, and especially South Georgia.

 

A key element of the cruise was to identify past occurrences of tsunamigenic submarine landslides from the steep slopes of the volcanoes and the glaciated margins of South Georgia.  Surprisingly, although landslide scars were found on the South Georgia margin and in the South Sandwich arc, the volcanic islands themselves appear to be free of these events.  Instead their submarine slopes are buried by spectacular dune-like sediment waves.  It may be that Southern Ocean storms and the islands’ glaciers eroded them away before they become steep enough to collapse, as the accumulation of sediment stabilised the lower slopes.

Matt and Simon’s participation was made possible by a NERC Antarctic Funding Initiative grant under the Cooperative Grant Scheme awarded to Dr Philip Leat (BAS Principle Scientific Officer for the cruise), Dr Simon Day and Professor Mark Maslin (UCL). They owe thanks to  the BAS scientists on the cruise; and to Captain Burgan and the crew of the James Clark Ross for their outstanding support to the research.


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