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The continental slope and rise seaward of the Totten Glacier and the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica features continental margin depositional systems with high sediment input and consistent along-slope current activity. Understanding their genesis is a necessary step in interpreting the paleoenvironmental records they contain. Geomorphic mapping using a systematic multibeam survey shows variations in the roles of downslope and along slope sediment transport influenced by broad-scale topography and oceanography. The study area contains two areas with distinct geomorphology. Canyons in the eastern part of the area have concave thalwegs, are linked to the shelf edge and upper slope and show signs of erosion and deposition along their beds suggesting cycles of activity controlled by climate cycles. Ridges between these canyons are asymmetric with crests close to the west bank of adjacent canyons and are mostly formed by westward advection of fine sediment lofted from turbidity currents and deposition of hemipelagic sediment. They can be thought of as giant levee deposits. The ridges in the western part of the area have more gently sloping eastern flanks and rise to shallower depths than those in the east. The major canyon in the western part of the area is unusual in having a convex thalweg; it is likely fed predominantly by mass movement from the flanks of the adjacent ridges with less sediment input from the shelf edge. The western ridges formed by accretion of suspended sediment moving along the margin as a broad plume in response to local oceanography supplemented with detritus originating from the Totten Glacier. This contrasts with interpretations of similar ridges described from other parts of Antarctica which emphasise sediment input from canyons immediately up-current. The overall geomorphology of the Sabrina Coast slope is part of a continuum of mixed contourite-turbidite systems identified on glaciated margins.
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- Continental slope and rise
- Totten Glacier
- Submarine canyons