A submarine canyon is a steep-sided valley cut into the sea floor of the continental slope, sometimes extending well onto the continental shelf, having nearly vertical walls, and occasionally having canyon wall heights of up to 5 km, from canyon floor to canyon rim, as with the Great Bahama Canyon. Just as above-sea-level canyons serve as channels for the flow of water across land, submarine canyons serve as channels for the flow of turbidity currents across the seafloor. Turbidity currents are flows of dense, sediment laden waters that are supplied by rivers, or generated on the seabed by storms, submarine landslides, earthquakes, and other soil disturbances. Turbidity currents travel down slope at great speed (as much as 70 km/hr), eroding the continental slope and finally depositing sediment onto the abyssal plain, where the particles settle out.
About 3% of submarine canyons include shelf valleys that have cut transversely across continental shelves, and which begin with their upstream ends in alignment with and sometimes within the mouths of large rivers, such as the Congo River and the Hudson Canyon. About 28.5% of submarine canyons cut back into the edge of the continental shelf, whereas the majority (about 68.5%) of submarine canyons have not managed at all to cut significantly across their continental shelves, having their upstream beginnings or "heads" on the continental slope, below the edge of continental shelves.
The formation of submarine canyons is believed to occur as the result of at least two main process: 1) erosion by turbidity current erosion; and 2) slumping and mass wasting of the continental slope. While at first glance, the erosion patterns of submarine canyons may appear to mimic those of river-canyons on land, due to the markedly different erosion processes that have been found to take place underwater at the soil/ water interface, several notably different erosion patterns have been observed in the formation of typical submarine canyons.
Many canyons have been found at depths greater than 2 km below sea level. Some may extend seawards across continental shelves for hundreds of kilometres before reaching the abyssal plain. Ancient examples have been found in rocks dating back to the Neoproterozoic. Turbidites are deposited at the downstream mouths or ends of canyons, building an abyssal fan.
Usage examples of "submarine canyon".
Though the submarine canyon had been formed geological ages ago, the tortured rocks had never reconciled themselves to their new positions.
Keeping his binoculars focused on Gerlock and Ed, through the corner of his eye Tommy saw the RUM hit the brink of the submarine canyon marking the Devil's Jaw channel, teeter there as the grinding treads sought purchase on the rocks, and then lunge forward and somersault out of sight inside the Devil's Jaw--in all probability landing upside down when it reached the bottom of the steep declivity.