Channel and inter-channel morphology resulting from the long-term interplay of alongslope and downslope processes, NE Rockall Trough, NE Atlantic

Aggeliki Georgiopoulou, Michael Owens, Peter D.W. Haughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With this contribution we use a pair of overlapping 3D seismic surveys and two exploration wells to document the response of long-lived slope channels to the onset of bottom currents sweeping the lower slope in the NE Rockall Basin, offshore Ireland. Downslope gravity current activity, linked to a phase of uplift, prevailed throughout the Eocene and led to the formation of multiple channels, most notably a large-scale sinuous channel complex (Channel 4 Complex) tied to a persistent sediment entry point on the margin. Channels fed lobes on the floor of the basin, with increased axial tilting forcing gravity currents to flow parallel to the base of slope. A phase of margin-wide differential subsidence and basin deepening in the Late Eocene then activated bottom current circulation across the basin. Northward-flowing bottom currents first erosionally refashioned the lower slope creating a prominent unconformity with contourites that then initially forming infill drifts. Bottom currents swept along and obliquely upslope, building plastered drifts that straddled the lower sections of the still active channels. The drifts modified and amplified the spurs separating the active channels, with interaction between along and downslope processes accreting sediment that built and maintained channel relief and allowed the channel mouths to extend further basinward over and across the earlier lobes. Contourite-forced channel extension on account of lower slope depositional re-profiling represents another manifestation of the interplay between slope channels and bottom currents. In the case of NE Rockall, the accreted base of slope wedge and mounded geometry resembles similar features elsewhere along the eastern Rockall margin. Those have previously been ascribed to mass-transport and base-up channel initiation, however, the similarities are so striking that we propose that these also are the result of lower slope re-profiling by bottom currents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106624
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
There is funding acknowledgement in the Funding was from Serica Energy. We are also grateful to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications of the Irish Government and the formerly known as the Petroleum Affairs Division for access to data. Graham Prichard and Clara Altobell are acknowledged for entrusting us with the project. We are grateful to Dr. Marco Fonnesu and one anonymous reviewer for their constructive reviews which helped improve the manuscript significantly.


  • 3D seismic
  • Antarctic Bottom Water
  • Canyons
  • Channels
  • Contourites
  • Mixed systems
  • Sediment thieving
  • Turbidites


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