Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Marine geology and bathymetry of nearshore shelf of Chukchi Sea, Ogotoruk Creek area, northwest Alaska

January 1, 1994

During July and August 1958 the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study in behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission of the oceanography, bathymetry, and marine geology of the nearshore shelf of the Chukchi Sea off the Ogotoruk Creek area, northwest Alaska. Ogotoruk Creek enters the Chukchi Sea about 32 miles southeast of the large cuapate spit of Point Hope at long 165 degrees 4446 W. and lat 68 degrees 0551 N. The Ogotoruk Creek area extends approximately 10 miles west and 7 miles east of the creek mouth. Knowledge of the marine geology and oceanography is confined primarily to the nearshore shelf, which includes about 70 square miles of the shelf and is defined as the sea floor lying shoreward of the 50-foot submarine contour. The 50-foot contour generally lies from 2 to 4 miles from shore. Submarine topography was studied to a distance of 15 miles from shore over an area of approximately 340 square miles.

A northwest coastal current flows past the Ogotoruk Creek area and during July and August averaged 0.5 mile per hour. Persistent northerly winds cause general upwelling near shore and at times of pronounced upwelling the coastal current was reversed or appreciably reduced in speed. Longshore currents shoreward of the breaker zone averaged 0.3 mile per hour and moved to the east for the greater part of the time of the study.

The overall seaward slope of the inner 15 miles of the Chukchi shelf from a depth of 40 to 135 feet is approximately 0 degrees 04, or about 6 feet per mile. Slopes near shore to depths of 15-20 feet are steep and average 2 degrees 30. Beyond these depths they increase gradually out to a depth of 40-45 feet. Seaward of this point the shelf is flattest and slopes are as low as 0 degree 01. This terrace or flat part of the nearshore shelf is about 2 miles wide and descends to a depth of 50-55 feet beyond which the gradient increases to about 0 degree 06. At depths greater than 85 feet the submarine declivity gradually decreases to 0 degree 03 at a distance of 15 miles from shore.

A flat-bottomed trough, Ogotoruk Seavalley, heads about a quarter of a mile from shore off the mouth of Ogotoruk Creek. The shallow seavalley averages only 6 feet in relief and extends 15 miles from shore to a depth of 135 feet. A number of smaller channels also indent the gentle sloping inner Chukchi shelf east of the seavalley and nearshore west of it.

Many outcrops of Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations on the nearshore shelf indicate that it is a wave-planed platform. Wave planation is thought to have taken place primarily in Sangamon and rpre-Sangamon time (approximately 100,000 to 1,000,000 years ago). Ogotoruk Seavalley is believed to be a drowned subaerial valley which was excavated by Ogotoruk Creek during periods of glacially depressed sea level.

Unconsolidated sediments overlying the nearshore shelf are chiefly slightly rounded residual gravel which have been derived from submerged outcrops. Detrital sand and silt, contributed from the nearby coastal area during Recent time, overlie the shelf near shore and at depth as much as 50 feet seaward of segments of the coast underlain by fine-grained clastic rocks of Mesozoic age. Owing to a small volume of detrital clasts contributed by the coastal area detrital sedimentation is not prominent over the nearshore shelf.

Beaches fronting the Ogotoruk Creek area are 30-260 feet wide, range from less than 10 to about 25 feet thick, and are composed of sandy gravel having a median diameter of about 10 mm. Rounded clasts of greywacke, siltstone, limestone, and chert are the principal constituents of the gravel. Longshore currents accompanying moderate storms transport gravel and sand parallel to shore at rates of 5 cubic yards per hour. Sediment transported by longshore currents accumulates as spits at stream mouths and as areas of new beach below rocky headlands.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1960
Title Marine geology and bathymetry of nearshore shelf of Chukchi Sea, Ogotoruk Creek area, northwest Alaska
DOI 10.3133/ofr60123
Authors D. W. Scholl, C. L. Sainsbury
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 60-123
Index ID ofr60123
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization