Marine Geophysics and Hydroacoustics

Rio de la Plata, offshore Uruguay


The waters off Uruguay and Northern Argentina offer the possibility to study sediment transport processes from ‘source-to-sink’ in a relatively small area.  Quickly accumulated sediments are potentially unstable and might be transported downslope in canyons and/or on the open slope. Strong contour currents result in along-slope sediment transport. Within the scope of Meteor-Cruise M78/3 more we investigated sediment transport and depositional patterns by means of hydroacoustic and seismic mapping as well as geological sampling with conventional coring tools and the new MARUM seafloor drill rig (MeBo). Geotechnical investigations were carried out with the aim to analyze the controlling parameters for the destabilization of the slope and the succeeding failure of a sediment body. Various types of sediment instabilities have been imaged in geophysical and core data, documenting particularly the continental slope offshore Uruguay to be locus of frequent submarine landslides. Apart from individual landslides, however, gravitational downslope sediment transport along the continental slope is restricted to the prominent Mar del Plata Canyon  and smaller canyons identified in the bathymetric data. In contrast, many  morphological features reveal that sediment transport is predominantly  controlled by strong contour bottom currents. This suggests a significant impact of the western boundary currents on the overall architectural evolution of the margin. The investigations are related to projects of the DFG Research Center / Excellence Cluster 'The Ocean in the Earth System', University of Bremen, as well as the Excellence Cluster 'The Future Ocean', University of Kiel.

seismic and bathymetry along the Argentine continental shelf

persons to contact:  Sebastian Krastel

participants: Katja Lindhorst

scientific cruise:

  • FS Meteor - M78/3a: Sediment Transport off Uruguay and Argentina: from the shelf to the deep sea, May 19th - July 6th 2009


respective publications:

  • Krastel, S., Lehr, J., Winkelmann, D., Schwenk, T., Preu, B., Strasser, M., Wynn, R., Georgiopoulou, A., Hanebuth, T., 2014. Mass wasting along Atlantic continental margins: a comparison between NW-Africa and the de la Plata River region (northern Argentina and Uruguay), Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences. Springer, pp. 459-469.
  • Preu, B., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Violante, R., Piola, A.R., Paterlini, C.M., Schwenk, T., Voigt, I., Krastel, S., Spiess, V., 2013. Morphosedimentary and hydrographic features of the northern Argentine margin: the interplay between erosive, depositional and gravitational processes and its conceptual implications. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 75, 157-174.
  • Krastel, S., Wefer, G., 2012. Report and preliminary results of RV METEOR Cruise M78/3. Sediment transport off Uruguay and Argentina: from the shelf to the deep sea; 19.05. 2009–06.07. 2009, Montevideo (Uruguay)–Montevideo (Uruguay).
  • Krastel, S., Wefer, G., Hanebuth, T.J.J., Antobreh, A.A., Freudenthal, T., Preu, B., Schwenk, T., Strasser, M., Violante, R., Winkelmann, D., 2011. Sediment dynamics and geohazards off Uruguay and the de la Plata River region (northern Argentina and Uruguay). Geo-Marine Letters 31, 271-283.