Present-day sediment dynamics, combined with lowerings of sea level during the Pleistocene, have created a mixture of sediments on the outer continental shelf of the southern Bering Sea that was derived from the Alaskan Mainland, the Aleutian Islands, and the Pribilof ridge. Concentrations of finer-grained, higher-organic sediments in the region of the St. George basin have further modified regional distribution patterns of sediment composition. Q-mode factor analysis of 58 variables related to sediment size and composition - including content of major, minor, and trace elements, heavy and light minerals, and clay minerals - reveals three dominant associations of sediment: 1. (1) The most significant contribution, forming a coarse-grained sediment scattered over most of the shelf consists of felsic sediment derived from the generally quartz-rich rocks of the Alaskan mainland. This sediment contains relatively high concentrations of Si, Ba, Rb, quartz, garnet, epidote, metamorphic rock fragments, potassium feldspar, and illite. 2. (2) The next most important group, superimposed on the felsic group consists of andesitic sediment derived from the Aleutian Islands. This more mafic sediment contains relatively high concentrations of Na, Ca, Ti, Sr, V, Mn, Cu, Fe, Al, Co, Zn, Y, Yb, Ga, volcanic rock fragments, glass, clinopyroxene, smectite, and vermiculite. 3. (3) A local group of basaltic sediment, derived from rocks of the Pribilof Islands, is a subgroup of the Aleutian andesite group. Accumulation of fine-grained sediment in St. George basin has created a sediment group containing relatively high concentrations of C, S, U, Li, B, Zr, Ga, Hg, silt, and clay. Sediment of the Aleutian andesite group exhibits a strong gradient, or "plume", with concentrations decreasing away from Unimak Pass and toward St. George basin. The absence of present-day currents sufficient to move even clay-size material as well as the presence of Bering submarine canyon between the Aleutian Islands and the outer continental shelf and slope, indicates that Holocene sediment dynamics cannot be used to explain the observed distribution of surface sediment derived from the Aleutian Islands. We suggest that this pattern is relict and resulted from sediment dynamics during lower sea levels of the Pleistocene. ?? 1980.
Additional publication details
Sedimentology and geochemistry of surface sediments, outer continental shelf, southern Bering Sea