Did massive glacial dewatering modify sedimentary structures on the Amundsen Sea Embayment shelf, West Antarctica?
Multichannel seismic reflection lines collected in the western Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) provide an insight into the sedimentary cover on the shelf, which documents glacial processes. Numerous columnar, reflection-poor structures penetrating the sedimentary sequences on the middle shelf form the focus of this study. The features range between 50 and 500 m in width, and from a few metres up to 500 m in height. The columns originate and end at different depths, but do not seem to penetrate to the seafloor. They show well-defined vertical boundaries, and reflection signals can be identified below them. Hence, we exclude gas-bearing chimneys. Based on the general seismic reflection characteristics we suggest that the columns originate from dewatering processes which occur close to glaciated areas where fluids are pressed out of rapidly loaded sediments. Likely several mud-diapirs rise from water-rich mud layers within a mixed sedimentary succession and penetrate overlying denser and coarse-grained sediment strata. The presence of fluid-escape veins indicates a glacial origin and overprinting of the older sedimentary sequences on the ASE. The locations of the structures indicate that grounded ice sheets reached at least onto the middle shelf during former glacial periods.
Authors: Weigelt, Estella, Uenzelmann-Neben, Gabriele, Gohl, Karsten, Larter, Robert D.