The southeast Australian passive continental margin is narrow, steep and sediment-deficient, and characterized by relatively low rates of modern sedimentation. Upper slope (<1200m) sediments comprise mixtures of calcareous and terrigenous sand and mud. Three of twelve sediment cores recovered from geologically-recent, submarine landslides located offshore New South Wales/Queensland (NSW/QLD) are interpreted to have sampled failure surfaces at depths of between 85 cm and 220 cm below the present-day seabed. Differences in sediment physical properties are recorded above and below the three slide-plane boundaries. Sediment taken directly above the inferred submarine landslide failure surfaces and presumed to be post-landslide, returned radiocarbon ages of 15.8 ka, 20.7 ka and 20.1 ka. The last two ages correspond to adjacent slide features, which are inferred to be consistent with their being triggered by a single event such as an earthquake. Slope stability models based on classical soil mechanics and measured sediment shearstrengths indicate that the upper slope sediments should be stable. However, multibeam sonar data reveal that many upper slope landslides occur across the margin and that submarine landsliding is a common process. We infer from these results that: a) an unidentified mechanism regularly acts to reduce the shear resistance of these sediments to the very low values required to enable slope failure, and/or b) the margin experiences seismic events that act to destabilise the slope sediments.

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

International symposium on submarine mass movements and their consequences

Conference Date

Jul 4 - Jul 5, 2012

Publisher Place

Kiel, Germany

Document Type

Conference Proceeding