Patricia L. Manley,2 Carlos Pirmez,3 William Busch,4 and Adrian Cramp5


Prior to Ocean Drilling Program Leg 155, the architecture of the Amazon Fan, as well as those of other modern submarine fans, had been investigated primarily by seismic reflection profiles. The acoustic facies and stratal patterns observed on these profiles provided a wealth of information that allowed deciphering fan growth patterns and the geometry of fan deposits. However, lithofacies could only be inferred from the seismic reflection data. Here we analyze grain-size data from 13 sites drilled during Leg 155, and place the results in the context of the stratigraphic units interpreted from seismic reflection data. Clay, silt, and fine sand are the dominant grain sizes of all cores retrieved from the Amazon Fan. In this mud-rich fan, sand is concentrated within the channel thalweg, at the base of channel-levee systems within the middle fan, and forms a significant fraction of the lower fan deposits drilled. All channel-levee deposits drilled are characterized by a fining-upward trend and by an overall coarsening in the downfan direction. Downfan coarsening of the levee deposits probably results from very efficient sorting associated with the channelized flow of turbidity currents together with the overall decrease in channel relief downfan. Fining-upward cycles within a channel-levee system are observed in the middle fan where multiple phases of levee development are stacked upon each other. Each growth phase is marked by an abrupt coarsening that marks a channel bifurcation occurring downslope, followed by a fining-upward sequence of levee aggradation. Channel bifurcation results in the reworking of older channel deposits, and the formation of laterally widespread units. High-amplitude reflections (HARs) beneath the channel axis and high-amplitude reflection packet (HARPs) units are composed of two distinct grain-size populations. HARs and HARPs are the coarsest units that form the fan, with sizes up to 0 . Both units display an overall coarsening downfan. These characteristics are likely the result of multistep transport of sand downfan. Thick acoustically transparent units on seismic profiles are correlated to large mass-transport deposits, displaying grain-size characteristics similar to levee deposits with an overall fining-upward and downfan-coarsening trend.

1Flood, R.D., Piper, D.J.W., Klaus, A., and Peterson, L.C. (Eds.), 1997. Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 155: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program).
2Geology Department, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, U.S.A.
3Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, U.S.A.
4Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148, U.S.A.
5Department of Geology, College of Cardiff, University of Wales, Cardiff CF1 3YE United Kingdom.