Analyses of side-scan sonar records along with previously published bathymetric, textural and subbottom data reveal the sedimentary environments on the inner Continental Shelf south of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. The bottom topography in this area is characterized by a broad central depression bordered by shallow, irregular sea floor on the north and east and by a discontinuous, curvilinear ridge on the south and west. Four distinct environments were identified: 1. (1) Pre-Mesozoic coastal rocks are exposed on the sea floor at isolated locations near the shore (waterdepths <32 m). These exposures have pronounced, irregular topographic relief and produce blotchy patterns on side-scan sonographs. 2. (2) Glacial moraine deposits form the discontinuous offshore ridge. These deposits have hummocky sea-floor relief, are covered by lag gravel and boudlers, and appear as predominantly black (strongly reflective) patterns on the side-scan records. 3. (3) Over most of the shallow, irregular bottom in the northeast, on the flanks of the morainal ridge, and atop bathymetric highs, the sea floor is characterized as a mosaic of light and dark patches and lineations. The dark (more reflective) zones are areas of coarse sands and megaripples (wavelengths = 0.8-1.2 m that either have no detectable relief or are slightly depressed relative to surrounding (light) areas of finer-grained sands. 4. (4) Smooth beds that produce nearly featureless patterns on the sonographs occupy the broad central bathymetric depression as well as smaller depressions north and east of Block Island. Within the broad depression, sonographs having practically no shading indicate a central zone of modern sandy silt, whereas records having moderate tonality define a peripheral belt of silty sand. The sedimentary environments that are outlined range from erosional or non-depositional (bedrock, glacial moraine) to depositional (featureless beds), and include areas that may reflect a combination of erosional and depositional processes (textural patchiness). The distribution and characteristics of the environments reveal the general post-glacial sedimentary history of this area and provide a guide to future utilization of the shelf surface. ?? 1982.
Additional publication details
Modern sedimentary environments on the Rhode Island inner shelf, off the eastern United States