Marine geology of the East London continental shelf.
Dlamini, Nontuthuzo Patricia.
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This dissertation examines the marine geology of the continental shelf offshore East London, on the east coast of South Africa. High-resolution seismic, multibeam bathymetric and backscatter tools are employed to reveal the stratigraphic, geomorphic and oceanographic controls on the shelf development. Eight seismic units (A-H) are revealed and comprise Campanian-age limestones of the Igoda Formation at their base, with an overlying transgressive stratigraphic package associated with the last deglaciation. A subaerial unconformity transects the shelf and is infilled by Late-Pleistocene to Holocene-age material of Unit C. Overlying the subaerial unconformity in other places are isolated shoreface deposits of Unit B. Unit D comprises a series of aeolianites and beachrocks which form palaeo-shorelines at -100 and -60 m. They are mantled to landward by the back-barrier deposits of Unit E, and to seaward by the disaggregated barrier deposits of Unit F. Unit G comprises shoreface deposits and is interfingered with Unit H, a series of rhodoliths that mantle the modern day seafloor. Multibeam data reveal extraordinarily preserved palaeo-shorelines which are the outcrop expression of Unit B. The most seaward of these form barrier islands and associated back-barrier segmented coastal waterbodies that evolved to planform equilibria before being overstepped. These are bordered by large, well-preserved parabolic dunefields that signify planform equilibrium with high-rates of sediment supply. These shorelines formed during the Bǿlling-Allerod stillstand and were overstepped by Melt Water Pulse (MWP) 1-A. A -60 m shoreline is preserved as an isolated drumstick barrier, and a series of cuspate spits that are welded onto palaeo-embayments in Gondwana-aged bedrock. These formed during the Younger Dryas slowstand and were overstepped by MWP-1B. Underfilled incised valleys are still exposed at the seafloor along these palaeo-embayments and formed due to rapid transgression and limited marine sediment supply during the conditions associated with MWP-1B. They are currently being filled by the submerged prodeltas of the contemporary drainage systems. Backscatter data reveal eight acoustic facies (A-H). These units all show marked current sweeping of the shelf, with dredge samples revealing gravels that fill in erosional furrows, or form streamers and ribbons. The AMS C14 dating of the rhodolith fields of Unit H indicates that the vigorous Agulhas Current has continuously swept the shelf since ~7400 years BP, post MWP 1-B. This has caused the sediment starvation of most of the shelf, and has transported much of the available sediment to the deep sea via the shelf-indenting canyon systems of the area.