The Queen Charlotte Fault, British Columbia: seafloor anatomy of a transform fault and its influence on sediment processes
The Queen Charlotte Fault Zone (QCFZ) off western Canada is the northern equivalent to the San Andreas Fault Zone, the Pacific-North American plate boundary. Geomorphologic expression and surface processes associated with the QCFZ system have been revealed in unprecedented detail by recent seabed mapping surveys. Convergence of the Pacific and North American plates along northern British Columbia is well known, but how the QCFZ accommodates this convergence is still a subject of controversy. The multibeam sonar bathymetry data reveal, for the first time, evidence of a fault valley with small depressions on the upper slope, offshore central Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). The depressions form where strike-slip right-step offsets have realigned the fault due to oblique convergence. Core stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating of sediments within the fault valley and small depressions suggest that these features are recent in origin. In addition, the development of the fault valley and dislocation of submarine canyons control sediment migration from the continental shelf through to the lower slope. This interpretation of the geomorphic expression of major plate tectonic processes along the QCFZ can now be tested with new surveys subsequent to the October 2012 magnitude 7.7 earthquake.