Imaging Active Mass-Wasting and Sediment Flows on a Fjord Delta, Squamish, British Columbia

  • John E. Hughes Clarke
  • Carlos R. Vidiera Marques
  • Danar Pratomo
Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 37)


An active fjord head delta in Squamish British Columbia, was selected as the location for a repetitive multibeam survey program to monitor temporal evolution of the prodelta morphology. Daily resurveys in 2011 established the style and extent of submarine mass movements, their typical periodicity and the conditions associated with the most active periods. This has now been followed by an hourly resurvey program in 2012 during those most active periods to actually witness the progression of activity immediately preceding, during and subsequent to a singular event.

The delta front in depths of 20–50 m is often the apparent start point for trains of sequential erosive and depositional events associated with upslope bedform migration along prodelta channels. Heavy targets on the channel floors were monitored in 2011 and indicated rare, abrupt down channel displacements of a few hundred metres, indicating that a small subset of events involved bulk translation of the seabed. In 2011, a bottom-mounted ADCP beyond one channel mouth recorded clear turbidity current events for a subset of the channel bedform migration periods.

In 2012, using multibeam water column imaging and a rapidly dipping towed optical backscatter probe, the evolution of a descending suspended sediment plume below the overlying river plume was monitored on an hourly basis. Towards low water, that descending plume was seen to occasionally feed a near seabed higher suspended sediment layer. On the development of this layer, the water column imaging revealed a thin basal flow that lasted about an hour and corresponded directly with the period of migration of the channel floor bedforms. Delta-lip failures are associated with the upslope end of about half of the bedform trains suggesting an alternate initiating mechanism.


Prodelta mass wasting Surface differences Cyclic steps Bedform translation Turbidity current Water column imaging 



This research has been funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant “Precise Seabed Change Monitoring” to the first author as well as research sponsorship of the Chair in Ocean Mapping at UNB from Rijkswaterstaat and Kongsberg Maritime. The professional operation of the CSL Heron was undertaken by Gordon Allison. The implementation of much of the survey component was undertaken by Steve Brucker, Ian Church, Doug Cartwright, James Muggah, Travis Hamilton and Pim Kuus. This paper significantly benefited from reviews by Peter Talling and Phil Hill.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Hughes Clarke
    • 1
  • Carlos R. Vidiera Marques
    • 1
  • Danar Pratomo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geodesy and Geomatics EngineeringUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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