International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 98, Issue 4, pp 865–884 | Cite as

Sediment dynamics of a sandy contourite: the sedimentary context of the Darwin cold-water coral mounds, Northern Rockall Trough

  • V. A. I. HuvenneEmail author
  • D. G. Masson
  • A. J. Wheeler
Original Paper


Grainsize, mineralogy and current-meter data from the Northern Rockall Trough are presented in order to characterise the sandy contourite that forms the sedimentary environment of the Darwin cold-water coral mounds, and to investigate the impact of this environment on the mound build-up. Large clusters of small cold-water coral mounds, 75 m across and 5 m high, have been found southwest of the Wyville Thomson Ridge, at 900–1,100 m water depth. Their present-day sedimentary environment consists of a subtly sorted sandy contourite, elongated NE–SW, roughly parallel to the contours. Critical erosional and depositional current speeds were calculated, and trends in both the quartz/feldspar and foraminifera fractions of the sands show a bi-directional fining from bedload/erosion-dominated sands in the NE to suspension/deposition-dominated sediments in the SW and towards the S (downslope). This is caused by a gradual reduction in governing current speed, linked to a reduction in slope gradient, and by the increasing distance from the current core in the downslope direction. No specific characteristics were found distinguishing the mound sediments from the surrounding sands: they fit in the overall spatial pattern. Some mound cores show hints of a fining-upward trend. Overall the mound build-up process is interpreted as a result of sediment baffling.


Cold-water corals Sandy contourites Sediment transport Continental margin Northern Rockall Trough 



The authors would like to thank the captain, crew and scientific party of the RRS Discovery cruise 248, during which the main dataset was gathered. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), in the person of C. Pudsey and P. Morris, is thanked for the provision of and help with the TOPAS data. The cores were sampled and stored in the BOSCORF National Marine Facility. We would like to thank Tj. van Weering and B. Pratt for their helpful reviews. We also gratefully acknowledge the support from the EC FP5 RTN EURODOM (EC contract no HPRN-CT-2002-00212), from the FWO-Flanders (Belgium), and from the EC FP6 IP HERMES (EC contract no GOCE-CT-2005-511234, funded by the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme under the priority ‘Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems’) during the course of this research. At the moment of submission, V. Huvenne was holder of a EC FP6 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (project SEDCoral, EC contract no MEIF-CT-2004-009412) and had a honorary post-doctoral mandate of the FWO-Flanders (Belgium).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. A. I. Huvenne
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. G. Masson
    • 1
  • A. J. Wheeler
    • 2
  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.University College CorkCorkIreland

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