Giant submarine landslide grooves in the Neoproterozoic/Lower Cambrian Phe Formation, northwest Himalaya: Mechanisms of formation and palaeogeographic implications

Draganits, Erich; Schlaf, Jurgen; Grasemann, Bernhard and Argles, Thomas (2008). Giant submarine landslide grooves in the Neoproterozoic/Lower Cambrian Phe Formation, northwest Himalaya: Mechanisms of formation and palaeogeographic implications. Sedimentary Geology, 205(3-4) pp. 126–141.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2008.02.004

Abstract

Giant groove casts have been found in the upper Proterozoic to Lower Cambrian Phe Formation (Haimanta Group), a siliciclastic sandstone/shale succession in the Tethyan Zone of the Higher Himalaya tectonic unit. The grooves are among the largest linear erosion structures related to submarine mass-movements observed in the geologic record. They are up to 4 m wide, about 0.2 m deep and can be traced for more than 35 m without changing their character. The grooves are straight, subparallel to cross-cutting striations with shallow semi-circular cross-sections and well-defined superimposed minor ridges and grooves. Groove casts exist on the soles of several sandstone beds within a 73 m thick logged section, commonly associated with flute casts. Their characteristics were compared with several other types of ancient and modern submarine linear erosion structures. A sand-rich, non-channelized basin floor depositional environment is inferred from the lithofacies, the combination of sedimentary structures, the lack of coarse-grained pebbly facies, the lateral continuity of beds, and the lack of channel structures. The grooves probably formed by laminar debris flows/concentrated density flows dragging blocks of already lithified sediment across the basin floor. When the bedding is structurally rotated back to horizontal, the groove casts show consistent North–South oriented palaeocurrent trends, with South-directed palaeocurrent directions indicated by flute casts. These palaeocurrent orientations contrast with previous palaeogeographic reconstructions of this area, which propose sediment delivery from the South. We therefore suggest a new “double provenance” model for the spatial relationship of late Proterozoic to Early Cambrian strata of the Himalaya, in which Lesser and Tethyan Himalayan age-equivalent sediment was deposited in a connected basin, where the former received detritus from the South, and the latter from a hitherto unknown source in the North. One possible candidate for this northern source is the South China Block and an associated Neoproterozoic volcanic arc.

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