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Surficial geology of the sea floor in Central Rhode Island Sound Southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island

July 12, 2011

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working together to study sea-floor environments off the northeast coast of the United States. During 2008, NOAA survey H11996 collected multibeam echosounder data in a 65-square kilometer area in central Rhode Island Sound, southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island. During 2010, the USGS collected bottom photographs and sediment samples from 25 stations in this study area. The bathymetry, photography, and sediment data are used to interpret sea-floor features including scour depressions, sand waves, trawl marks, and dredge spoils. Scour depressions cover the bathymetric highs in much of the study area. Sand waves are located mostly in the southwest, and trawl marks tend to be in the northern regions. Dredge spoils are located at a disposal site in a bathymetric low in the western end of the study area. Most stations have a sea-floor surface of sand or silty sand, but eight of the stations have boulders to pea-sized gravel or gravelly sediment on the surface. Photographs show sandy areas typically have scattered burrows, shells, amphipod communities, and worm tubes. Boulders and cobbles are commonly overgrown with hydrozoans and anemones.