Submarine Landslides on the Upper Southeast Australian Passive Continental Margin – Preliminary Findings


The southeast Australian passive continental margin is narrow, steep and sediment-deficient, and characterized by relatively low rates of modern sedimentation. Upper slope (<1,200 m) 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 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, 20.7 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 shear-strengths 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.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research




Springer Netherlands

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Conference Proceeding