Holocene Reworking of a Sand Sheet in the Merrimack Embayment, Western Gulf of Maine

TitleHolocene Reworking of a Sand Sheet in the Merrimack Embayment, Western Gulf of Maine
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHein, CJ, FitzGerald, DM, Barnhardt, W
JournalJournal of Coastal Research
IssueSI 50
Date Published2007
ISBN Number0749-0208
Keywordsbackscatter, bedforms, shallow seismic, shelf sediment transport

Recent bathymetric, backscatter, and seafloor sediment samples demonstrate that a large sand sheet was formed in the inner shelf by the reworking of the Merrimack River lowstand delta (deposited 12 kya; currently at 45 m depth) and braid plain during the Holocene transgression. Asymmetric bedforms and distinct grain size distributions suggest the sand sheet is actively being reworked by inner-shelf processes.Bottom sediments range from silty sand at the submerged delta to coarse sand and fine gravel in the innermost shelf (depth: 10-50 m). Coarse-grained sand comprises an expansive (32 km(2)) featureless sand sheet centered off the Merrimack River. Fine-grained sand discontinuously overlies this sand sheet in many locations and forms long wavelength (100 - 800 m), low amplitude (1-2 m), asymmetrical bedforms. Sets of these bedforms are oriented from slightly oblique offshore to onshore; several bedform sets are located within I km and oriented orthogonally to one another. Along the paleo-delta front north-northwest oriented bedforms are dominant. Inshore of these features, the bedforms become more closely spaced and have orientations to the west and west-southwest. Preliminary data suggest that the combined forces of instantaneous storm-wave generated shear stress and storm-induced currents associated with high energy northeast storm events may be responsible for sand sheet reworking and bedform development.