We present results from the first three-dimensional (3D) marine seismic dataset ever collected over volcanic landslide deposits, acquired offshore of the Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles. The 3D data enable detailed analysis of various features in and around these mass wasting deposits, such as surface deformation fabrics, the distribution and size of transported blocks, change of emplacement direction and erosion into seafloor strata. Deformational features preserved on the surface of the most recent debris avalanche deposit (Deposit 1) reveal evidence for spatially-variant deceleration as the mass failure came to rest on the seafloor. Block distributions suggest that the failure spread out very rapidly, with no tendency to develop longitudinal ridges. An older volcanic flank collapse deposit (Deposit 2) appears to be intrinsically related to large-scale secondary failure of seafloor sediments. We observe pronounced erosion directly down-slope of a prominent headwall, where translational sliding of well-stratified sediments was initiated. Deep-reaching faults controlled the form and location of the headwall, and stratigraphic relationships suggest that sliding was concurrent with volcanic flank collapse emplacement. We also identified a very different mass wasting unit between Deposit 1 and Deposit 2 that was likely emplaced as a series of particle-laden mass flows derived from pyroclastic flows, much like the recent (since 1995) phase of deposition offshore Montserrat but at a much larger scale. This study highlights the power of 3D seismic data in understanding landslide emplacement processes offshore of volcanic islands.
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