Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Structure and evolution of Bering Sea shelf south of St. Lawrence Island

January 6, 1976

The virtually featureless Beringian shelf south of St. Lawrence Island is underlain structurally by at least 14 basins. Encompassing a total area of more than 300,000 sq km, most of the basins are either elongate structural sags, grabens, or half (asymmetric) grabens beneath the outer shelf. The regional trend of these basins is northwest, parallel with that of the continental margin. Two of the basins, St. George and Navarin, contain 7 to 10 km of Upper Cretaceous(?) and Cenozoic sedimentary strata. A major divergence in dip of beds in the upper half of the sedimentary section may reflect an abrupt shelf-wide change in the rate of sedimentation and/or subsidence, probably during the Miocene. The outer sub-shelf basement grabens and adjacent ridges (horsts) are bounded by high-angle normal faults that exhibit growth-type structure.

St. Matthew basin, an elongate, southwest-trending feature of the inner shelf, lies along the offshore expression of the Kaltag fault of western Alaska. The Kaltag fault, like the Denali fault in southwestern Alaska, does not extend to the outer Bering Sea shelf but ends or turns parallel with the margin within the inner shelf.

The inner shelf is underlain by a broad basement high, Nunivak arch, the seaward half of which is characterized by an arcuate belt of high-frequency and high-amplitude magnetic anomalies. This zone of intense magnetic anomalies along the shelf is probably the signature of a Mesozoic magmatic arc that extends from southwestern Alaska to eastern Siberia and consists of Jurassic to Cretaceous plutonic and volcanic rocks. We speculate that this magmatic arc resulted from oblique convergence and subduction in the Mesozoic between the Kula(?) and North American plates along the eastern Beringian margin. Folding and uplift in the area of the present outer shelf occurred contemporaneously with magmatism along the inner shelf. Plate convergence apparently ceased by the end of the Mesozoic or t e beginning of the Cenozoic. Subsequently, the foldbelt underlying the outer shelf was eroded extensively and rifted extensionally to form large, deep basins. On the average, the shelf has subsided more than 1.5 km. Subsidence and sediment burial of the eroded orogen formed the modern Beringian shelf.

Publication Year 1976
Title Structure and evolution of Bering Sea shelf south of St. Lawrence Island
DOI 10.1306/83D92299-16C7-11D7-8645000102C1865D
Authors Michael S. Marlow, David W. Scholl, Alan K. Cooper, E. C. Buffington
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title AAPG Bulletin
Index ID 70207697
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program; Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center