Results from a recent marine geophysical survey demonstrate the importance of the process of flank collapse in the growth and evolution of volcanoes along an island arc. The Aguadomar cruise, aboard the French RN L'Atalante, surveyed the flanks of the Lesser Antilles Arc between the islands of Montserrat and St. Lucia. Analysis of the data shows that flank collapse events occurred on active volcanoes all along the arc and resulted in debris avalanches, some of them being of large magnitude. The debris avalanche deposits display hummocky topography on the swath bathymetry, speckled pattern on backscatter images, hyperbolic facies on 3.5 kHz echosounder data and chaotic units on air gun seismic profiles. They extend from horseshoe-shaped structures previously identified on the subaerial part of the volcanoes. In the southern part of the are, large-scale debris avalanche deposits were identified on the floor of the Grenada Basin west of active volcanoes on Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia. The extent of debris avalanche deposits off Dominica is about 3500 km(2). The debris avalanches have resulted from major flank collapse events which may be mainly controlled by the large-scale structure of the island are and the presence of the deep Grenada Basin. In the northern part of the arc, several debris avalanche deposits were also identified around the island of Montserrat. With smaller extent (20-120 km(2)), they are present on the east, south and west submarine flanks of Soufriere Hills volcano which has been erupting since July 1995. Flank collapse is thus a recurrent process in the recent history of this volcano. The marine data are also relevant for a discussion of the transport mechanisms of debris avalanches on the seafloor surrounding a volcanic island arc. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science BN. All rights reserved.
Earth and planetary science letterspdf