Encyclopedia of Marine Geosciences

Living Edition
| Editors: Jan Harff, Martin Meschede, Sven Petersen, Jörn Thiede

Submarine Canyons

  • William W. Hay
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6644-0_150-3


A submarine canyon is a valley cut into the seafloor of the continental shelf, forming a notch in the shelf break and continuing as a steep-sided valley down the continental slope.


The discovery of submarine canyons can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. James Dana reported on soundings revealing the Hudson submarine river channel in 1890.

The Distribution of Submarine Canyons

Small submarine canyons are common along active continental margins. They are more widely separated along passive margins. Some submarine canyons have their heads on the continental shelf and are directly associated with large rivers. Others have their head near the break in the slope and have no obvious association with existing rivers.

Canyons cut into continental slopes can be traced down to depths of 2 km or more below sea level. They can continue as submarine channels on the continental rise extending for hundreds of kilometers.

Origin of Submarine Canyons

The origin of...


Continental Shelf Continental Margin Nova Scotia Continental Slope Shelf Break 
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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Daly, R. A., 1936. Origin of submarine “canyons”. American Journal of Science, 31, 401–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dana, J. D., 1890. Long Island sound in the quaternary era, with observation on the Hudson submarine river channel. American Journal of Science, 40, 425–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Emery, K. O., and Uchupi, E., 1984. The Geology of the Atlantic Ocean. New York: Springer, 1050 pp. + Map set.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Heezen, B. C., and Ewing, M., 1952. Turbidity currents and submarine slumps and the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake. American Journal of Science, 250, 849–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological SciencesUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA