Surficial sediment failures due to the 1929 Grand Banks Earthquake, St Pierre Slope

Schulten, Irena, Mosher, David C., Krastel, Sebastian, Piper, David J. W. and Kienast, Markus (2018) Surficial sediment failures due to the 1929 Grand Banks Earthquake, St Pierre Slope Geological Society, London, Special Publications . SP477.25. DOI 10.1144/SP477.25.

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A Mw 7.2 earthquake centred beneath the upper Laurentian Fan of the SW Newfoundland continental slope triggered a damaging turbidity current and tsunami on 18 November 1929. The turbidity current broke telecommunication cables, and the tsunami killed 28 people and caused major infrastructure damage along the south coast of Newfoundland. Both events are believed to have been derived from sediment mass failure as a result of the earthquake. This study aims to identify the volume and kinematics of the 1929 slope failure in order to understand the geohazard potential of this style of sediment failure. Ultra-high-resolution seismic reflection and multibeam swath bathymetry data are used to determine: (1) the dimension of the failure area; (2) the thickness and volume of failed sediment; (3) fault patterns and displacements; and (4) styles of sediment failure. The total failure area at St Pierre Slope is estimated to be 5200 km2, recognized by escarpments, debris fields and eroded zones on the seafloor. Escarpments are typically 20–100 m high, suggesting failed sediment consisted of this uppermost portion of the sediment column. Landslide deposits consist mostly of debris flows with evidence of translational, retrogressive sliding in deeper water (>1700 m) and evidence of instantaneous sediment failure along fault scarps in shallower water (730–1300 m). Two failure mechanisms therefore seem to be involved in the 1929 submarine landslide: faulting and translation. The main surficial sediment failure concentrated along the deep-water escarpments consisted of widely distributed, translational, retrogressive failure that liquefied to become a debris flow and rapidly evolved into a massive channelized turbidity current. Although most of the surficial failures occurred at these deeper head scarps, their deep-water location and retrogressive nature make them an unlikely main contributor to the tsunami generation. The localized fault scarps in shallower water are a more likely candidate for the generation of the tsunami, but further research is needed in order to address the characteristics of these fault scarps.

Document Type: Article
Research affiliation: Kiel University > Kiel Marine Science
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Kiel University
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1144/SP477.25
ISSN: 0305-8719
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2018 08:26
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2018 08:26

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