, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 105–120 | Cite as

Evolution of contourite drifts in regions of slope failures at eastern Fram Strait

  • Giacomo OstiEmail author
  • Kate Alyse Waghorn
  • Malin Waage
  • Andreia Plaza-Faverola
  • Bénédicte Ferré
Original Article


Geotechnical characteristics of contouritic deposition often lead to preconditioning slope instabilities and failures along glaciated and formerly glaciated continental margins. However, internal depositional geometry is also an important factor in triggering instabilities. This work highlights the importance of the tectonic and oceanographic evolution of the Northwestern (NW) Svalbard margin in determining the buildup and the internal structure of contourite drifts and the subsequent type of slope instability. The analysis of seismic reflection data reveals that the presence of two contourite drifts on the flank of an active spreading ridge in the Fram Strait—NW Svalbard margin—in an area of extensive slope instability had a major impact on the evolution of slope failure. The presence of a slope sheeted drift (or plastered drift) led to the development of rotational/translational mass movement at water depth < 2500 ms, whereas at water depth > 2500 ms the presence of sediment waves facilitated the formation of planes of shear that led to internal deformation of the lower slope through a process of slump/creep. The well-documented high seismicity of the area might have provided the necessary energy to trigger the slope instability.


Contourite drift Submarine landslides Fram Strait Preconditioning factors Depositional geometry 



We thank the captain and crew of R/V Helmer Hanssen (former R/V Jan Mayen) for their excellent support during the acquisition of geophysical data. Steinar Iversen and Bjørn Runar Olsen are especially thanked for their professional technical assistance during our cruises. We thank Jürgen Mienert and Stefan Bünz for fruitful and constructive suggestions and discussion, and Sunil Vadakkepuliyambatta for the precious help during the early phases of the work. The work was supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Center of Excellence funding scheme, project number 223259.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geosciences, CAGE-Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and ClimateUiT The Arctic University of Norway in TromsøTromsøNorway

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