Morphology, processes and geohazards of giant landslides in and around Agadir Canyon, northwest Africa - Cruise MSM32 - September 25 - October 30, 2013 - Bremen (Germany) - Cádiz (Spain) (English)

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Agadir Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons in the World, supplying giant submarine sediment gravity flows to the Agadir Basin and the wider Moroccan Turbidite System. While the Moroccan Turbidite System is extremely well investigated, almost no data from the source region, i.e. the Agadir Canyon, are available. Understanding why some submarine landslides remain as coherent blocks of sediment throughout their passage downslope, while others mix and disintegrate almost immediately after initial failure, is a major scientific challenge, which was addressed in the Agadir Canyon source region during Cruise MSM32. We collected ~ 1500 km of seismic 2D-lines in combination with a dense net of hydroacoustic data. About 1000 km2 of sea floor were imaged during three deployments of TOBI (deep-towed sidescan sonar operated by the National Oceanography Centre Southampton). A total of 186 m of gravity cores and several giant box cores were recovered at more than 50 stations. CTD casts were collected at nine stations including one 13 hour Yo-yo CTD. The new data show that Agadir canyon is the source area of the world's largest submarine sediment flow, which occurred about 60,000 years ago. Up to 160 km3 of sediment was transported to the deep ocean in a single catastrophic event. For the first time, sediment flows of this scale have been tracked along their entire flow pathway. A major landslide area was identified south of Agadir Canyon. Landslide material enters Agadir canyon in about 2500 m water depth; the material is transported as debrite for at least another 200 km down the canyon. Initial data suggest that the last major slide from this source entered Agadir canyon at least 130,000 years ago. Living deep-water corals were recovered from a large mound field north of Agadir canyon. To our knowledge, these are the first living cold water corals recovered off the coast of Morocco (except for the Gulf of Cadiz). They represent an important link between the known cold-water coral provinces off Mauritania and in the Gulf of Cádiz.