Geologische Rundschau

, Volume 85, Issue 3, pp 438–451 | Cite as

Current controlled sediment deposition from the shelf to the deep ocean: the cenozoic evolution of circulation through the SW pacific gateway

  • R. M. Carter
  • L. Carter
  • I. N. McCave
Original Paper


The circulation of cold, deep water is one of the controlling factors of the Earth’s climate. Forty percent of this water enters the world ocean through the Southwest Pacific as a deep western boundary current (DWBC) flowing northwards at bathyal to abyssal depths, east of the New Zealand microcontinent. South of latitude 50°S, the DWBC is intimately linked with the Antarctic circumpolar current (ACC), which is the prominent force for the shallow-water circulation. The Pacific DWBC is presently the largest single contributor of deep ocean water, and deciphering its evolution is of fundamental importance to understanding ocean and climate history, and global ocean hydrography. The evolution of the DWBC system, and of related circum-Antarctic currents, has taken place since 30–25 Ma when plate movements created the first oceanic gaps south of Australia and South America. The stratigraphic record preserved in sediment drifts of the Southwest Pacific, in eastern New Zealand, is the best available for deciphering the Neogene history of Southern Ocean water masses, and of the circulation of the ACC, DWBC and their precursor systems. Major current activity commenced on the New Zealand margin in the late Eocene or early Oligocene (Hoiho Drift; early ACC) and was widespread by the mid-late Oligocene (Marshall Paraconformity and Weka Pass Limestone drift; ACC). During the Neogene the eastern South Island continental shelf built seawards by accretion at its outer edge of large Miocene current drifts up to tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres thick (Canterbury drifts). Also commencing in the mid-Cenozoic, but in depths >2000 m, the DWBC emplaced large deep-water sediment drifts. Rates of drift deposition accelerated considerably in the late Neogene, when climatic change (and particularly glacial sea-level falls) caused the delivery of large volumes of turbiditic sediment into the path of the DWBC via the Bounty and Hikurangi channels.

Key words

DWBC Pacific Ocean, Paleoceanography Southern Ocean Sediment drifts 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. M. Carter
    • 1
  • L. Carter
    • 2
  • I. N. McCave
    • 3
  1. 1.James Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, NIWAWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Cambridge UniversityUK

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