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Marine Geology of the Turnagain Area

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posted on 2021-11-08, 20:08 authored by Lewis, Keith Brian

The Turnagain Area covers the continental shelf and slope off the east coast of North Island, New Zealand between Napier and Castlepoint. Its late Quaternary stratigraphy, tectonic history, sedimentation and foraminiferal distribution are described with the aid of continuous seismic profiles, sediment samples and cores. Results are presented in seven papers and a chart. The first three papers deal mainly with sub-bottom layers revealed by continuous seismic profiles; the next three papers describe dried sediment samples and cores and the last paper is a study of foraminifera in alcohol-preserved sediment samples. The topics discussed in each of the seven papers are as follows: 1. stratigraphy, sedimentation rates and origin of present topography on the continental shelf and upper slope; 2. rates of tectonic processes; 3. slumping; 4. distribution of sediments; 5. ages of indurated sediments; 6. ash horizons and rates of deposition on the lower part of the continental slope. 7. the distribution of living and dead foraminifera. The chart shows bathymetry and nature of sediment at the seabed. The sediments beneath the sea have been folding since Miocene times in the same way as marine sediments on the adjacent land. On the seabed anticlinal crests are preserved as ridges and banks and synclines form depressions. The present land area is rising and much of the seabed is sinking; the zero isobase between then is situated on the inner continental shelf. It has been at about the same position throughout Late Quaternary times, being always close to the dividing line between net erosion and net deposition. Rates of tilting have ranged from 2 to 36 microdegrees/thousand years and rates of vertical movement from +1.7 to -1.5 m/thousand years. Seaward of the zero isobase the continental shelf and upper slope has been built upwards and outwards by prisms of sediment, each prism representing a phase either of low sea level or of high sea level. Prisms deposited during periods of glacially lowered sea level are at their thickest beneath the upper slope; prisms deposited during periods of relatively high sea level are at their thickest beneath the continental shelf. Parts of the youngest prism on the upper slope have slumped on gradients as low as 1 [degree]. The topography and sediments formed during the last 20 thousand years have received the most attention. The present continental shelf if a composite feature. The inner part has been formed by wave-planation of hard rock near shore and deposition of the latest prism of sediment offshore. The outer part and the shelf break were formed by wave-planation and by deposition during the last low sea level about 20 thousand years ago. At that time the shelf break ranged in depth from about 40m to about 70m, being shallowest where eroded into soft sediment and deepest where deposited beyond the seaward edge of erosion. In adjacent areas the shelf break was probably formed at depths of less than 20m being eroded into hard rock. The inner part of the wave-planed surface formed at that time is now deeply buried by the latest prism of sediment but the outer part is covered by only a thin veneer. The outer shelf is still essentially a drowned low sea level feature. At the thickest part of the prism on the mid continental shelf, rates of deposition above an 8 thousand year old seismic reflector range from about 1 to about 4 m/thousand years, being most rapid south of major rivers. Rates are too slow to be measured at some places near the shelf break and at ridges on the continental slope. In depressions on the continental slope, sedimentation rates are indicated by the depth of the 3.4 thousand year old Waimihia ash and range from 0.36 m/thousand years in a depression relatively near land to 0.02 m/thousand years in the depression furthest from land. Sediments range from fine sand near shore to clayey fine silt on the lower slope. Many sediments are bimodal because they were deposited as a mixture of floculated and unfloculated grains. Rapidly deposited sediment on the continental shelf is predominantly detrital sand and silt; slowly deposited sediment near the shelf break and on ridges consists mostly of volcanic ash, foraminifera, and glauconite Muddy sediment in continental slope depressions contains sandy turbidite layers. Different environments are characterised by sediment types and foraminiferal faunas that can be matched in Tertiary Rocks.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Vella, P; Brodie, J W