Computer-aided interpretation of side-looking sonar images from the eastern intersection of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge with the Kane Transform

Dengliang Gao, Stephen D. Hurst, Jeffrey A. Karson, John R. Delaney, Fred N. Spiess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Approximately 600 km2 of Deep-Tow side-looking sonar data were collected at the eastern intersection of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge with the Kane Transform. The merged digital image mosaic provides a synoptic view of the oceanic crust exposed across major escarpments at this ridge-transform intersection (RTI). We characterized this large acoustic data set using textural attributes extracted from the backscatter image by means of a gray level co occurrence matrix method and Fourier fractal analysis. False-color texture attribute maps created from these methods aid in the interpretation and discrimination of surficial deposits and bedrock units on the seafloor. Principal components analysis performed on the textural attributes reduced the dimensionality of the textural feature vector and optimized image texture discrimination. The textural attributes were calibrated to ground truth geologic data and extrapolated to regions with no ground data. The resultant texture and classification maps are consistent with the results of submersible studies but reveal more details of the seafloor geology than the conventional visual interpretation of the backscatter image and ground geologic observations. The inferred distribution of gabbros, basalts, surficial sediments, and rubble deposits shown in the classification map provides new constraints on seafloor geology at the eastern Kane RTI. Over 60% of the southern transform valley wall is covered by pelagic sediments and talus or rubble deposits, with intermittent exposures of coarse-grained gabbroic rocks and basaltic volcanic rocks. The western rift valley wall is classified as mainly massive outcrops of gabbroic rocks. The contact between the gabbroic outcrops on the western rift valley wall and the pillow basalt terrane on the rift valley floor can be traced for several kilometers along the base of the median valley wall. This new perspective supports the interpretation of the "inside-corner massif" as an "oceanic core complex" which is being degraded by mass wasting along tectonically active escarpments of the bounding median valley and transform valley walls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20997-21014
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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