Stratigraphy of a proposed wind farm site southeast of Block Island: Utilization of borehole samples, downhole logging, and seismic profiles

Dane P.H Sheldon, University of Rhode Island


Seismic stratigraphy, sedimentology, lithostratigraphy, downhole geophysical logging, mineralogy, and palynology were used to study and interpret the upper 70 meters of the inner continental shelf sediments within a proposed wind farm site located approximately two to three nautical miles to the southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island. Core samples and downhole logging collected from borings drilled for geotechnical purposes at proposed wind turbine sites along with seismic surveys in the surrounding area provide the data for this study. ^ Cretaceous coastal plain sediments that consist of non-marine to marine sand, silt, and clay are found overlying bedrock at a contact depth beyond the sampling depth of this study. The upper Cretaceous sediments sampled in borings are correlated with the Magothy/Matawan formations described regionally from New Jersey to Nantucket. An unconformity formed through sub-aerial, fluvial, marine, and glacial erosion marks the upper strata of the Cretaceous sediments separating them from the overlying deposits. ^ The majority of Quaternary deposits overlying the unconformity represent the advance, pulsing, and retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet that reached its southern terminus in the area of Block Island approximately 25,000 to 21,000 years before present. The sequence consists of a basal glacial till overlain by sediments deposited by meltwater environments ranging from deltaic to proglacial lakefloor. A late Pleistocene to early Holocene unconformity marks the top of the glacial sequence and was formed after glacial retreat through fluvial and subaerial erosion/deposition. ^ Overlying the glacial sequence are sediments deposited during the late Pleistocene and Holocene consisting of interbedded gravel, sand, silt, and clay. Sampling of these sediments was limited and surficial reflectors in seismic profiles were masked due to a hard bottom return. However, two depositional periods are interpreted as representing fluvial and estuarine/marine environments respectively. One sample recovered at five meters contained shell fragments within a gray fine to coarse sand possibly representing a shallow estuarine to marine environment. A coarse near surface deposit described but not recovered in all borings may represent a transgressive unconformity and resulting lag deposit however due to lack of sampling and seismic resolution in the upper 5 meters, the nature of this deposit is merely speculation. In areas where depth to the glacial surface increased, sediments ranging from sand to fine-grained silt and clay were encountered in borings. ^ In summary, the upper 70 meters of the inner continental shelf section within the study site consists of unconsolidated sediments spanning three major depositional periods. Sediments derived from glacial activity represent the bulk of samples collected. The glacial sequences represent various depositional environments, although most samples are interpreted to be the product of glacial meltwater deposition with distribution determined by source as well as highs and lows present in the antecedent topography. Finely laminated (varved) sediment to the south of Block Island indicates the presence of proglacial lakes in the area during the time of glacial retreat. Overlying sediments represent environments ranging from fluvial to marine.^

Subject Area

Geology|Geophysics|Sedimentary Geology

Recommended Citation

Dane P.H Sheldon, "Stratigraphy of a proposed wind farm site southeast of Block Island: Utilization of borehole samples, downhole logging, and seismic profiles" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1516163.