Sedimentary framework of Penobscot Bay, Maine

Marine Geology
By:  and 



Analyses of seismic-reflection profiles, along with previously collected sediment samples and geologic information from surrounding coastal areas, outline the characteristics, distribution, and history of the strata that accumulated within Penobscot Bay, Maine, during the complex period of glaciation, crustal movement, and sea-level change since late Wisconsinan time. Sediments that overlie the rugged, glacially eroded surface of Paleozoic bedrock range in thickness from near zero to more than 50 m and consist of four distinct units.

  1. Massive to partly stratified, coarse-grained drift forms thin (< 15 m) isolated patches along the walls and floors of bedrock troughs and constitutes a thick (up to 30 m), hummocky end moraine in the central part of the bay. The drift was deposited by the last ice sheet between 12,700 and 13,500 years ago during deglaciation and coastal submergence (due to crustal depression).
  2. Well-stratified, fine-grained glaciomarine deposits are concentrated in bedrock depressions beneath the main passages of the bay. During the period of ice retreat and marine submergence, these sediments settled to the sea floor, draped the irregular underlying surface of bedrock or drift, and accumulated without disturbance by physical or biologic processes.
  3. Heterogeneous fluvial deposits fill ancestral channels of the Penobscot River beneath the head of the bay. The channels were incised during a −40 m postglacial low stand of sea level (due to crustal rebound) and later were filled as base level was increased during Holocene time.
  4. Muddy marine sediments, which are homogeneous to weakly stratified and rich in organic matter, blanket older deposits within bathymetric depressions in the middle and lower reaches of the bay and cover a pronounced, gently dipping, erosional unconformity in the upper reach. These sediments were deposited during the Holocene transgression as sea level approached its present position and the bay became deeper.

Late Wisconsinan and Holocene sedimentation in Penobscot Bay has smoothed the sea floor, but it has not completely obscured the ice-sculptured bedrock topography.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sedimentary framework of Penobscot Bay, Maine
Series title Marine Geology
DOI 10.1016/0025-3227(85)90061-1
Volume 65
Issue 3-4
Year Published 1985
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 20 p.
First page 305
Last page 324
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