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Throughout June 2022, the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Sea Floor Mapping Group will map the seafloor and subseafloor of Nantucket Sound as part of a long-term collaboration with the State of Massachusetts.

Two people on boat in the middle of body of water, rigging equipment
Eric Moore and Alex Nichols deploy the chirp subbottom profiler. The chirp is the device that allows us to see underneath the seafloor. Those data help us resolve sand resources, ancient lakes, and glacial tunnels.

Throughout the month of June, Dr. Laura Brothers and her team will be collecting geophysical data to map the seafloor and subseafloor of Nantucket Sound, offshore of Massachusetts. Three to four members of the Sea Floor Mapping Group will partake in daily excursions on the research vessel Rafael to collect the data, while others process it onshore. By examining the data right after collection, necessary adjustments can be made to optimize the survey. 

Dale Oakley, Jr., the Assistant Director of the Natural Resources Department for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, will join the Seafloor Mapping Group for a few days of the research cruise. 

You can get updates about and see images and videos from the Nantucket Sound seafloor mapping cruise all month long by following us on Facebook (USGS Coastal and Ocean Science) and Twitter (USGS Coastal Change). 

This work is part of a long-term collaboration, first initiated in 2003, between the USGS and the State of Massachusetts to determine the geologic framework of the seafloor within the Massachusetts coastal zone using high-resolution geophysical mapping, sediment samples, and seafloor photography. The State will use the Nantucket Sound data to learn more about the proposed wind energy area and determine where to put cables for wind energy farms. They are also interested in finding different shoals (mounds of sand under the water’s surface) to nourish various beaches. 

The products and knowledge developed by this collaborative project have broad applications to regional science and resource management issues. Maps of the Massachusetts coastal zone’s geology and bathymetry improve our understanding of the processes that shape the coast and how it has evolved over time. This helps evaluate the vulnerability of coastal environments to storms, sea-level rise, and long-term climate change. 

Learn more about the USGS partnership with the State of Massachusetts on the project page, Geologic Mapping of the Massachusetts Seafloor.  

 

Person sitting at desk looking at computer screen with text and colors on the screen
While a crew is at sea collecting new data, geographer Brian Andrews is processing seafloor mapping data from the previous day.
colorful map of Nantucket Sound seafloor
The Nantucket Sound seafloor. It is dominated by sand waves. Data are collected at such quality that we can even resolve the ripples on top of the sand waves. These bedforms indicate a very mobile and sandy seafloor.
 
Computer screen displaying lines of data
A seismic reflection profile showing layers of sediment deposited during a glacial period.

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