, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 441-453,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 Apr 2011

The Cenozoic western Svalbard margin: sediment geometry and sedimentary processes in an area of ultraslow oceanic spreading


The northeastern high-latitude North Atlantic is characterised by the Bellsund and Isfjorden fans on the continental slope off west Svalbard, the asymmetrical ultraslow Knipovich spreading ridge and a 1,000 m deep rift valley. Recently collected multichannel seismic profiles and bathymetric records now provide a more complete picture of sedimentary processes and depositional environments within this region. Both downslope and alongslope sedimentary processes are identified in the study area. Turbidity currents and deposition of glacigenic debris flows are the dominating downslope processes, whereas mass failures, which are a common process on glaciated margins, appear to have been less significant. The slide debrite observed on the Bellsund Fan is most likely related to a 2.5–1.7 Ma old failure on the northwestern Barents Sea margin. The seismic records further reveal that alongslope current processes played a major role in shaping the sediment packages in the study area. Within the Knipovich rift valley and at the western rift flank accumulations as thick as 950–1,000 m are deposited. We note that oceanic basement is locally exposed within the rift valley, and that seismostratigraphic relationships indicate that fault activity along the eastern rift flank lasted until at least as recently as 1.5 Ma. A purely hemipelagic origin of the sediments in the rift valley and on the western rift flank is unlikely. We suggest that these sediments, partly, have been sourced from the western Svalbard—northwestern Barents Sea margin and into the Knipovich Ridge rift valley before continuous spreading and tectonic activity caused the sediments to be transported out of the valley and westward.