Submarine Landslides in French Polynesia

  • V. Clouard
  • A. Bonneville


Landslides are common features of oceanic islands and playa key role in their evolution. Caused by caldera collapse or flank collapses, they can be classified into three types: (1) rock falls, (2) slumps or (3) debris avalanches (Moore et al. 1989). Rock falls, or superficial landslides, are mainly related to erosion processes of the subaerial parts of the island. The pieces of debris are less than 1 m in size, and their surface is rippled. Flank collapses generally produce giant submarine landslides, with a horseshoe-shaped feature at their head (Moore et al. 1989). The landslides due to a deep listric fault are cataclysmic events producing fast moving debris avalanches. Deposits can extend over several hundred kilometers away from an island and are characterized by thicknesses less than 2 km, with a hummocky terrain at their lower part. Side-slip over deep fault is termed slump Fig. 6.1. Slumps are slow-moving slope instabilities. The thickness of the deposits can be as much as 10 km, since the primitive volcano flank is less shattered and disrupted than in the case of a debris avalanche. The causes of major lateral collapses are still a matter of debate, but in most cases they are thought to be related to magma intrusion in the rift zones (Denlinger and Okubo 1995; Keating and McGuire 2000).


Rift Zone Debris Avalanche Submarine Landslide Landslide Deposit Sediment Wave 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

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  • V. Clouard
  • A. Bonneville

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