Sedimentology, structure and age estimate of five continental slope submarine landslides, eastern Australia

S. Clarke*, T. Hubble, J. Webster, D. Airey, E. De Carli, C. Ferraz, P. Reimer, R. Boyd, J. Keene

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Sedimentological and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C data provide estimates of the structure and age of five submarine landslides (∼0.4–3 km3) present on eastern Australia's continental slope between Noosa Heads and Yamba. Dating of the post-slide conformably deposited sediment indicates sediment accumulation rates between 0.017 m ka–1 and 0.2 m ka–1, which is consistent with previous estimates reported for this area. Boundary surfaces were identified in five continental slope cores at depths of 0.8 to 2.2 m below the present-day seafloor. Boundary surfaces present as a sharp colour-change across the surface, discernible but small increases in sediment stiffness, a slight increase in sediment bulk density of 0.1 g cm–3, and distinct gaps in AMS 14C ages of at least 25 ka. Boundary surfaces are interpreted to represent a slide plane detachment surface but are not necessarily the only ones or even the major ones. Sub-bottom profiler records indicate that: (1) the youngest identifiable sediment reflectors upslope from three submarine landslides terminate on and are truncated by slide rupture surfaces; (2) there is no obvious evidence for a post-slide sediment layer draped over, or burying, slide ruptures or exposed slide detachment surfaces; and (3) the boundary surfaces identified within the cores are unlikely to be near-surface slide surfaces within an overall larger en masse dislocation. These findings suggest that these submarine landslides are geologically recent (<25 ka), and that the boundary surfaces are either: (a) an erosional features that developed after the landslide, in which case the boundary surface age provides a minimum age for the landslide; or (b) detachment surfaces from which slabs of near-surface sediment were removed during landsliding, in which case the age of the sediment above the boundary surface indicates the approximate age of landsliding. While an earthquake-triggering mechanism is favoured for the initiation of submarine landslides on the eastern Australian margin, further evidence is required to confirm this interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Early online date20 Sep 2016
Publication statusEarly online date - 20 Sep 2016


  • continental margin
  • continental slope
  • mass-failure
  • multibeam
  • passive margin
  • seafloor geomorphology
  • sedimentation rates
  • southeast Australia
  • submarine landslide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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