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Carbonates and Evaporites

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 193–206 | Cite as

Geology and karst geomorphology of San Salvador Island, Bahamas

  • John E. Mylroie
  • James L. Carew
Article

Abstract

The exposed carbonates of the Bahamas consist of late Quaternary limestones that were deposited during glacio-eustatic highstands of sea level. Each highstand event produced transgressive-phase, stillstand-phase, and regressive-phase units. Because of slow platform subsidence, Pleistocene carbonates deposited on highstands prior to the last interglacial (oxygen isotope substage 5e, circa 125,000 years ago) are represented solely by eolianites. The Owl's Hole Formation comprises these eolianites, which are generally fossiliferous pelsparites. The deposits of the last interglacial form the Grotto Beach Formation, and contain a complete sequence of subtidal, intertidal, and eolian carbonates. These deposits are predominantly oolitic. Holocene deposits are represented by the Rice Bay Formation, which consists of intertidal and eolian pelsparites deposited during the transgressive-phase and stillstand-phase of the current sea-level highstand. The three formations are separated from one another by well-developed terra-rossa paleosols or other erosion surfaces that formed predominantly during intervening sea-level lowstands.

The karst landforms of San Salvador consist of karren, depressions, caves, and blue holes. Karren are small-scale dissolutional etchings on exposed and soil-covered bedrock that grade downward into the epikarst, the system of tubes and holes that drain the bedrock surface. Depressions are constructional features, such as swales between eolian ridges, but they have been dissolutionally maintained. Pit caves are vertical voids in the vadose zone that link the epikarst to the water table. Flank margin caves are horizontal voids that formed in the distal margin of a past fresh-water lens; whereas banana holes are horizontal voids that developed at the top of a past fresh-water lens, landward of the lens margin. Lake drains are conduits that connect some flooded depressions to the sea. Blue holes are flooded vertical shafts, of polygenetic origin, that may lead into caves systems at depth.

The paleokarst of San Salvador is represented by flank margin caves and banana holes formed in a past fresh-water lens elevated by the last interglacial sea-level highstand, and by epikarst buried under paleosols formed during sea-level lowstands. Both carbonate deposition and its subsequent karstification is controlled by glacio-eustatic sea-level position. On San Salvador, the geographic isolation of the island, its small size, and the rapidity of past sea level changes have placed major constraints on the production of the paleokarst.

Keywords

Blue Hole Regressive Phase Transgressive Phase Amino Acid Racemization North Point 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Mylroie
    • 1
  • James L. Carew
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesMississippi State UniversityMississippi State
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of CharlestonCharleston

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