Permafrost Beneath the Beaufort Sea: Near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

[+] Author and Article Information
P. V. Sellmann, E. J. Chamberlain

U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, N. H. 03755

J. Energy Resour. Technol 102(1), 35-48 (Mar 01, 1980) (14 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3227847 History: Received August 28, 1979; Online October 22, 2009


The occurrence and properties of subsea permafrost near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, were investigated by drilling and probing. Nine holes were drilled and 27 sites were probed with a cone penetrometer. The deepest drill hole was 65.1 m below the seabed, while a depth of 14.1 m was reached with the cone penetrometer. Engineering and chemical properties were determined from core samples and point penetration resistance data were obtained with the penetrometer. Thermal profiles were acquired at both the drill and probe sites. Temperatures below 0° C were observed in all the drill and penetrometer holes logged, although frozen sediments were encountered only occasionally. Seasonally frozen sediments were observed near the seabed at each site. The degree of ice bonding, or strength, could be related to seabed temperature and was greatest in shallow water (<2 m). The penetrometer resistance and thermal data indicated that deeper ice-bonded sediments occur, for example approximately 12.7 m below the seabed in 2 m of water off the Sagavanirktok delta. Of eight holes drilled offshore, it appeared that four encountered bonded permafrost. In general, the position of the ice-bonded permafrost interface was extremely irregular. The depth below the seabed to this interface at various distances from shore along the line studied was 28.8 m at 1 km, 65.1 m at 3.5 km, 44.1 m at 6.8 km, and 29.5 m at 17.2 km. Shallow, over-consolidated marine sediments were found in the upper fine-grained section at all of the drill sites investigated; the degree of over-consolidation varied considerably among the sites. This fine-grained section was up to 10 m thick and covered sands and coarse gravels.

Copyright © 1980 by ASME
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