A New Look at Northwind Ridge: Implications for the History of the Canada Basin


Researchers from the US and Canada are conducting collaborative seismic, multibeam, and sampling studies in the mostly ice-covered regions of the Canada Basin (CB) of the Arctic Ocean. Recently acquired data sets, together with older acoustic and coring data, yield new details about the stratigraphic and structural history of CB, particularly regarding its boundary with Northwind Ridge (NR). As previously interpreted, NR represents the eastern edge of a rifted, submerged continental block known as Chukchi Borderland. Gradients along the remarkably linear slope are generally between 10o and 30o, but can be locally as high as ~70o. Water depths across the ridge vary from ~1000 m to ~3800 m. The new data reveal perched half grabens within the escarpment, and numerous complex reflection packages, including at least one possible talus deposit. These deeper reflection packages continue east for ~ 100 km (off northern NR) to ~200 km (off central NR) beneath the oldest on-lapping deposits of CB. This continuity suggests that the shallow basement extending east of NR consists of rocks that may be similar to those on NR, but more highly stretched and therefore more deeply subsided. A low-amplitude positive gravity anomaly coincides with this inferred continental-basement remnant. The profound unconformity at the top of these oldest reflection packages is generally highly reflective, gently sloping, and low relief. This reflection character of basement changes abruptly to high-relief and minimally reflective adjacent to and beneath a distinctive curvilinear gravity low that extends most of the length of CB, previously interpreted as a possible seafloor spreading center. The transition in basement reflection character can be mapped on multiple seismic lines and may represent the basement expression of the final breakup position of the continent (west) to ocean (east) boundary. Two consequences of this possible buried and subsided continental-basement fragment are that (1) models of the opening of CB may not require complete closure and therefore (2) NR may not overlap the continental margin of northern Canada, a problem with previous reconstructions. The northeast orientation of NR is subparallel to the inferred orientation of a deeply buried graben complex that is characterized by a northeast-trending negative gravity anomaly and offset ~250 km to the east of NR. Three northeast-trending bathymetric ridges also occur in the Sever Spur area or CB. Although the ages of rifting for either NR or the deeply buried graben complex are not well constrained, their subparallel orientation suggests this northeast direction is a preferred tectonic fabric either inherited prior to or created during the rifting and opening of the basin.

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

Dec 13 - Dec 17, 2010

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type