, Volume 24, Issue 1-2, pp 1-40

Geologic evolution of the Canarian Islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and La Gomera and comparison of landslides at these islands with those at Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro

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Abstract

In this paper we discuss the results of a swath bathymetric investigation of the Canary archipelago offshore area. These new data indicate that volcanism is pervasive throughout the seafloor in the region, much more that would be suggested by the islands. We have mapped tens of volcanic edifices between Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria and offshore Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma. Volcanic flows are present between Tenerife and La Gomera and salic necks dominate the eastern insular slope of La Gomera. This bathymetry also supports land geologic studies that indicate that the oceanic archipelago has acquired its present morphology in part by mass wasting, a consequence of the collapse of the volcanic edifices. In the younger islands, Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro, the Quaternary (1.2 to 0.15 Ma) debris avalanches are readily recognizable and can be traced offshore for distances measured in tens of km. Off the older islands, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and La Gomera (<20 to 3.5 Ma), the avalanches have been obscured by subsequent turbidity current deposition and erosion as well as hemipelagic processes. The failure offshore western Lanzarote is in the form of a ramp at the base of the insular slope bound on the seaward side by a scarp. Its size and the lack of evidence of rotation along its landwards side precludes the possibility that it is a slump. It probably represents a slide whose outer scarp is caused by break-up of the slide. Mounds on the ramp’s surface may represent post-displacement volcanic structures or exotic blocks transported to their present locations by the slide. The failures offshore Fuerteventura are so large that, although they occurred in the Miocene-Pliocene, exotic blocks displaced from upslope are still recognizable in the insular margin morphology. The Canary Island insular margin appears to be a creation of Miocene-Pliocene mass wasting and more recent turbidity current deposition and erosion, and hemilepagic deposition. Failures offshore La Gomera are due to debris flows and/or turbidity currents. These events have obscured earlier mass wasting events.

An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11001-005-4766-6.