The limited availability of onshore sand deposits for use in construction appears to be a future major problem in Puerto Rico (U.S. Bureau of Mines, 1972; Committee on Puerto Rico and the Sea, 1974). Consequently, the mining of offshore sand deposits as supplemental sources of construction aggregate may becom e necessary. For this reason, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Natural Resources of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have conducted investigations of potential offshore sand deposits on the Puerto Rico insular shelf. This report provides information on the composition of surficial sediments on the southwestern Puerto Rico shelf (fig. 1), an area that may be one of the more favorable potential sites for offshore sand resources.
Water depths over most of the study area are less than 22 meters (m). The sea floor is composed of live and dead patch and fringing reefs, areas of rock exposures, and sedim ent-covered areas. The adjacent coastline includes prominent embaym ents and a conspicuous rock promontory (Cabo Rojo) connected by a tombolo to the mainland of Puerto Rico. The study area is in the belt of northeast trade winds. Waves approach the coast predominantly from the southeast, resulting in a predominantly westward littoral drift along the south coast (Grove and Trumbull, 1978). Local sand movement on the southern shelf is shown by an active sand wave field south of Bah1a Sucia in which the sand wave crests have migrated toward the southwest (Grove and Trumbull, 1978). The presence of the sand wave field suggests that large volumes of sand having potential for mining are locally present in the study area.