The Magellan mound province is one of the three known provinces of carbonate mounds or cold-water coral banks in the Porcupine Seabight, west of Ireland. It has been studied in detail using a large and varied data set: 2D and 3D seismic data, sidescan sonar imagery and video data collected during ROV deployment have been used to describe the mounds in terms of origin, growth processes and burial. The aim of this paper is to present the Magellan mounds and their setting in an integrated, holistic way.
More than 1,000 densely spaced and mainly buried mounds have been identified in the area. They all seem to be rooted on one seismic reflection, suggesting a sudden mound start-up. Their size and spatial distribution characteristics are presented, together with the present-day appearance of the few mounds that reach the seabed. The underlying geology has been studied by means of fault analysis and numerical basin modelling in an attempt to identify possible hydrocarbon migration pathways below or in the surroundings of the Magellan mounds.
Although conclusive evidence concerning the processes of mound initiation proves to be elusive, the results of both fault analysis and 2D numerical modelling failed to identify, with confidence, any direct pathways for focused hydrocarbon flow to the Magellan province. Diffuse seepage however may have taken place, as drainage area modelling suggests a possible link between mound position and structural features in the Hovland-Magellan area. During mound development and growth, the interplay of currents and sedimentation seems to have been the most important control. Mounds which could not keep pace with the sedimentation rates were buried, and on the few mounds which maintained growth, only a few corals survive at present.