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A detailed bathymetric survey of the Rhone deep-sea fan and its feeder canyon using Sea-Beam, reveals morphologic features such as very tight meanders of the canyon and channel courses, cutoff meanders, and downslope narrowing of the inner channel floor. Striking similarities exist between these deep-sea features and some continental landforms, especially in alluvial plain areas or desert environments. Sea-Beam also reveals evidence of huge slump scars affecting the slope and fan. The superficial structure of the Rhone Fan results from the stacking of numerous lenticular acoustic units displaying specific seismic characters in which we recognized channel and levee facies. Except in the upper fan area, these units have not been constant; they have generally migrated, owing to shifting of the channel throughout fan evolution. Construction of the fan probably began as early as the early Pliocene and continued to the close of the Wurmian (late Wisconsinian). In our opinion, the fan's growth pattern could be associated with climatic fluctuations. The principal sedimentary mechanism responsible for the growth of the fan appears to be turbidity currents, but mass gravity flows have also been an important factor in building the fan by occasionally blocking the main channel and forcing it to migrate.
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