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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A seismic refraction study of the hecate sub-basin, British Columbia Pike, Christopher James


The Hecate sub-basin is one of two similar sedimentary structures comprising Queen Charlotte Basin, which is located between the British Columbia mainland and the Queen Charlotte Islands. The Queen Charlotte Basin was the locale of an active but unsuccessful exploration program, including drill holes, in the 1960's. However, recent studies incorporating modern concepts of plate tectonics have indicated a re-evaluation of the resource potential of the area is warranted. The Hecate sub-basin and its southern counterpart, the Charlotte sub-basin, are filled with Tertiary sediments that are underlain by a thick sequence of Tertiary volcanics. Penetration of the latter unit using the reflection method has been difficult. Thus the thickness of the volcanics and the existence or not of more sediments below them has not been established. To address this problem an airgun/ocean bottom seismograph (OBS) refraction survey was carried out across the Hecate sub-basin in 1983. Data from the airgun shots at approximately 160 m spacings were recorded on four OBSs deployed at 20 km intervals to provide a series of reverse profiles extending over 60 km. The principal interpretation procedure involved calculation of theoretical seismograms and travel-time curves for 2-D velocity structure models and comparisons with observed record sections. The interpreted structure model shows significant lateral variations. Low velocity Pleistocene and Pliocene sediments form an upper layer varying between 0.5 and 1.0 km thick. The principal sedimentary unit is the Tertiary Skonun Formation with interpreted velocities of 2.7 km/s and a gradient averaging 0.4 km/s/km, values that are consistent with well log data. These sediments are generally thicker (approximately 2.5 km) on the western side of the sub-basin although they reach their maximum thickness of 3 km in a depression near the central part of the basin. Toward the eastern side of the basin, the Tertiary sediments thin to about 1 km as the underlying Tertiary volcanics rise toward the mainland. The maximum sediment thickness in the basin is about 4 km. The upper surface of the volcanic unit shows a pronounced topography which is consistent with the erosional nature of this surface. Velocities for the volcanics vary between 4.8 and 5.0 km/s; thickness of the unit ranges from about 0.2 km to 1.8 km. Below the Tertiary volcanics on the eastern 20 km of the model, a low velocity zone less than 1 km thick had to be introduced to satisfy the data. This zone is inferred to contain Upper Cretaceous sediments. A unit with a poorly constrained velocity of 5.9 km/s which underlies the Tertiary volcanics and low velocity zone on the eastern side is interpreted to be the Paleozoic Alexander Terrane. Most of the characteristics of this model are similar to those determined from an earlier study in the Charlotte sub-basin. An additional component of this thesis project was the development of an interactive procedure for the inversion of densely spaced seismic refraction data by wavefield continuation to derive a l-D velocity-depth profile, and its application to data derived from 2-D structures. The procedure consists of two steps: a slant stack followed by a downward continuation. The method was found to yield velocity-depth structures which, when compared with an average velocity-depth structure from the 2-D model, have very similiar gradients and velocity increases. In general the velocity depth curve from the inversion had lower velocities at deeper depths than the averaged 2-D structure.

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