Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Structure and petroleum potential of the continental margin between Cross Sound and Icy Bay, northern Gulf of Alaska

January 1, 1982

Major structural features of the Yakutat segment, the segment of the continental margin between Cross Sound and Icy Bay, northern Gulf of Alaska, are delineated by multichannel seismic reflection data. A large structural high is centered on Fairweather Ground and lies generally at the edge of the shelf from Cross Sound to west of the Alsek Valley. A basement uplift, the Dangerous River zone, along which the seismic acoustic basement shallows by up to two kilometers, extends north from the western edge of Fairweather Ground towards the mouth of the Dangerous River. The Dangerous River zone separates the Yakutat segment into two distinct subbasins. The eastern subbasin has a maximum sediment thickness of about 4 km, and the axis of the basin is near and parallel to the coast. Strata in this basin are largely of late Cenozoic age (Neogene and Quaternary) and approximately correlate with the onshore Yakataga Formation. The western subbasin has a maximum of at least 9 km of sediment, comprised of a thick (greater than 4.5 km) Paleogene section overlain by late Cenozoic strata. The Paleogene section is truncated along the Dangerous River zone by a combination of erosion, faulting, and onlap onto the acoustic basement. Within the western subbasin, the late Cenozoic basin axis is near and parallel to the coast, but the Paleogene basin axis appears to trend in a northwest direction diagonally across the shelf. Sedimentary strata throughout the Yakutat shelf show regional subsidence and only minor deformation except in the vicinity of the Fairweather Ground structural high, near and along the Dangerous River zone, and at the shoreline near Lituya Bay.

Seismic data across the continental slope and adjacent deep ocean show truncation at the continental slope of Paleogene strata, the presence of a thick (to 6 km) undeformed or mildly deformed abyssal sedimentary section at the base of the slope that in part onlaps the slope, and a relatively narrow zone along the slope or at the base of the slope where faulting may have occurred. Observed deformation at the base of the slope is primarily related to the late Cenozoic uplift of Fairweather Ground, and to Quaternary folding perpendicular to the Pacific-North America relative convergence vector. No accretionary section or major deformation is observed along the continental slope. The absence of these features suggests that no major subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Yakutat margin has occurred during the late Cenozoic. However, transform faulting along the base of the slope has occurred, because probable Oligocene oceanic basement is juxtaposed against Mesozoic and Paleogene sedimentary strata of the Yakutat slope. This juxtaposition most likely occurred during late Oligocene and Miocene time. During much of the late Cenozoic, and especially during Pliocene-Pleistocene time, the Yakutat segment has apparently been moving northward with the Pacific plate.

Dredge samples from the continental slope recovered potential hydrocarbon source and reservoir rocks from the Paleogene sedimentary sequence. Most of the organic matter from these samples is immature to marginally mature. Lopatin calculations suggest that rocks beneath the shelf are likely to be thermally mature at a depth of 4 to 5 km and deeper. In general, the strata at these depths are largely of Paleogene age. Thus, the Paleogene strata may have significant resource potential if source and reservoir rocks similar to those dredged at the slope are present below the shelf. The Paleogene strata are contained primarily within the western subbasin; strata in the east subbasin appear to have little resource potential. Structural traps are apparently present in parts of the basin near and along the Dangerous River zone. These traps are in an updip position from potentially mature strata of the western subbasin, and may hold commercial accumulations of hydrocarbons, if sufficient hydrocarbon generation and migration has occurred

Publication Year 1982
Title Structure and petroleum potential of the continental margin between Cross Sound and Icy Bay, northern Gulf of Alaska
DOI 10.3133/ofr82929
Authors T. R. Bruns
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 82-929
Index ID ofr82929
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse