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yS/ ; 

LAMONT GEOLOGICAL OBSERVATORY of COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 

Palisades, New York 



ACOUSTIC PROVINCES 

of the 

NORTH PACIFIC 
BASED ON DEEP-SEA CORES 

A Preliminary Survey 

by 

D. R. Horn, B. M. Horn, and M. N. Delach 


Technical Report No. 3 
CU-3-(>7 NAVSHIPS N00024-(i7-C-l 186 





December 1967 





















Lamont Geological Observatory of Columbia University 


Palisades, New York 


ACOUSTIC PROVINCES OF THE NORTH PACIFIC 
BASED ON DEEP-SEA CORES 


A PRELIMINARY SURVEY 


by 

D. R. Horn, B. M. Horn, and M. N. Delach 


Technical Report No. 3 
CU-3-67 NAVSHIPS N00024-67-C-1186 


December 1967 









C ON TEN TS 


Page 


Introduction. 1 

Methods. 5 

Surficial sediment distribution of the North Pacific and 

its bearing on the acoustic properties of the sea floor. . . 6 

Distribution of sub-bottom reflectors and acoustic 

provinces of the North Pacific. 12 

Japan Acoustic Province. 15 

Central North Pacific Acoustic Province. 16 

Aleutian-Alaska Acoustic Province. 17 

Conclusions. 18 

Acknowledgments. 19 

Appendix-Grain size data. 20 

References... 38 

ILLUSTRATIONS 

Figure Page 

1. Submarine physiographic provinces of the 

northern Pacific and location of coring stations. . . 3 

2. Mean grain size of surficial sediments-northem 

Pacific. 7 

3. Mean size versus sediment sound velocity through 

cores. 10 

4. Acoustic provinces of the northern Pacific based 

on deep-sea cores. 13 

5. Area 1 - Japan Acoustic Province. pocket 

6. Area 2 - Central North Pacific Acoustic Province. pocket 

7. Area 3 - Aleutian-Alaska Acoustic Province. pocket 


























IN TRODUC TION 


This report is a preliminary survey of 261 sediment cores 
collected north of 20 degrees latitude in the Pacific Ocean (see 
fig. 1 for location of coring stations). An additional 50 cores will 
be incorporated into the study prior to its completion in late 1968. 
The object of the investigation is to provide data which can be 
employed in the prediction of sound reflection and/or absorption 
by the sea floor of the North Pacific. 

It is known that certain bulk and textural properties of 
marine sediments have a direct bearing on the speed at which 
sound travels through these materials (Hamilton, 1956; Hamilton 
and others, 1956; Shumway, 1956, 1960a, 1960b; Sutton and others, 
1957; Nafe and Drake, 1957, 1961, 1963; Schreiber, 1966, 1967a, 
1967b, 1967c, 1968; Horn, 1967; Horn and others, 1967a, 1967b, 

19 68). In turn, sediment layers which have high velocity charac¬ 
teristics are good reflectors, whereas those with low velocity pro¬ 
perties absorb rather than reflect sound. The problem at hand 
then is to delineate the areas of the sea floor where reflectors or 
"absorbers" exist. In this survey the reflectors most commonly 
encountered are either turbidites (sand or coarse-grained silt 
deposited in deep water by turbidity currents) or ash (coarse- 


1 


2 


grained silt consisting of volcanic glass). These reflectors are 
restricted to a zone which follows the continental borders and 
extends 200 to 600 miles seaward. Beyond the regions where re¬ 
flectors occur are vast areas where only deep-sea clays have 
been accumulating on the sea floor. Sound travels through these 
deposits at lower speeds than through the overlying water; there is 
little velocity contrast at the sediment - water interface, and the 
sound is absorbed rather than reflected at the sea floor. 

An inspection of the cores reveals that the North Pacific can 
be divided into regions with distinct acoustic properties. First, 
areas can be distinguished where sub-bottom reflectors are 
either present or absent. Second, in those areas where reflectors 
do occur, it is possible to identify provinces in which a common 
set of properties occurs. 

In this report, the large area where sub-bottom reflectors 
are extremely rare is named the CENTRAL NORTH PACIFIC 
ACOUSTIC PROVINCE. East of Japan, the Kuril Islands^and the 
Kamchatka Peninsula, the cores contain multiple sub-bottom 
reflectors composed of ash. The latter is confined to a zone 
that parallels the coastlines and is referred to as the JAPAN 
ACOUSTIC PROVINCE. Off the Aleutians, Alaska, and British 
Columbia, there is another belt where reflectors are common. 

































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2020 with funding from 
Columbia University Libraries 


https://archive.org/details/acousticprovinceOOhorn 


5 


This area of the sea floor is tentatively named the ALEUTLAN- 
ALASKA ACOUSTIC PROVINCE. Near the Aleutian Islands, tur- 
bidites and ash offer good reflectors, whereas south of the Gulf 
of Alaska and west of British Columbia turbidites dominate. In 
subsequent reports it will be necessary to break down the Aleutian- 
Alaska Acoustic Province into subprovinces, because the sub¬ 
bottom reflectors have different properties and are restricted in 
aerial extent. 

METHODS 

At sea, the cores are extruded and shipboard geologists 
describe their lithology. Shear strengths are taken down the 
length of the cores using a fall-cone penetrometer (Hansbo, 1957', 
the number of readings depending upon the complexity of layering, 
texture, etc. Bulk property samples are collected from the 
freshly extruded cores using a plastic syringe which contains a 
small rubber-headed piston. These samples are placed in plastic 
vials, tightly sealed, and shipped to the laboratory. At Lamont, 
the following raw data are determined from the bulk property 
samples: 1) wet weight, 2) wet volume, 3) dry weight, and 4' 
dry volume. From this information the porosity, moisture con¬ 
tent, wet and dry densities, and void ratio of each sample are 


6 


calculated. 

When the oceanographic vessels return to Lamont, sound 
velocities are measured on those cores which are well preserved. 
The speeds at which sound travels through the cores are deter¬ 
mined using a sediment velocimeter (Underwater Systems, Inc. , 
Velocimeter Model No. 201A). The cores are split into halves, 
tagged, and photographed. Geologists redescribe the cores with 
emphasis placed on defining acoustic reflectors. Samples repre¬ 
sentative of the various layers in the cores are taken and analyzed 
for texture according to the procedure outlined by Folk (1965). 

In this preliminary report the results of textural analysis of 
the tops of the cores are given along with maps showing the 
location and thickness of acoustic reflectors. In later reports, 
the results of detailed core analyses will be given. 

SURFICIAL SEDIMENT DISTRIBUTION IN 
THE NORTH PACIFIC AND ITS BEARING ON 
THE ACOUSTIC PROPERTIES OF THE SEA FLOOR 

The tops of all cores from the North Pacific have been 
analyzed for texture. The results are presented in two ways: 

1) mean grain size has been plotted on figure 2 and contoured at 
a 1 micron interval; and 2) mean grain size, standard deviation 



120 

















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































9 


(sorting), skewness, and transformed kurtosis are listed in the 
Appendix. 

Mean grain size is the most important textural parameter of 
the four presented. There is a strong correlation between this 
property and the speed at which sound travels through a sediment 
(fig. 3). Therefore, mean grain size has an important bearing on 
the degree of absorption and/or reflection of sound at or near the 
sea floor. Figure 2 serves two important purposes: 1) It provides 
a quick picture of the average size of surficial sediments in the 
North Pacific; and 2) it illustrates the shortcomings of inter¬ 
preting the acoustic properties of the sea floor which might come 
from analyses of short cores and surface grab samples. 

The analyses reveal that the normal deep-sea sediments of 
the North Pacific are extremely fine-grained. Most are pelagic 
clays with mean grain sizes that range from 1 to 2 microns. 

Only in areas within 100 miles of the continents does the average 
size increase slightly, reflecting contributions of terrigenous 
materials. 

It appears that the bulk of coarse detritus transported seaward 
is being very effectively trapped in the circum-Pacific trenches 
and ponded behind the seamounts off Alaska and California. The 
result is that only the finest of particulate matter is reaching the 




1850 

1800 

1750 

1700 

1650 

1600 

1550 

1500 

1450 

1400 


FIGURE 3 



MEAN GRAIN SIZE 







11 


deep areas of the North Pacific. In northern latitudes (north of 
40 degrees) there are a few cores with anomalously high mean 
grain sizes. The tops of these cores contain ice-rafted pebbles 
or sand. The erratic distribution of such material in the cores 
precludes the use of ice-rafted sediment in studies of the acoustic 
nature of the sea floor. 

The surface sediments of the North Pacific are characterized 
by low sound velocities. Based on the data presented in figure 3, 
the area within the 1 micron contour in figure 2 has a velocity of 
1500 m/sec, that between the 1 and 2 micron contours 1510 to 1515 
m/sec, and those sediments with average sizes of the order of 3 
microns should have velocities of approximately 1520 m/sec. 
Therefore, the majority of surficial sediments in the North 
Pacific are characterized by sediment velocities lower than that 
of the overlying sea water. 

If only the tops of the cores are considered, it would seem 
that the majority of the sea floor should have low velocity charac¬ 
teristics, high absorption values, and the reflectivity of the 
bottom would be minimal. However, these are erroneous con¬ 
clusions as the tops of the cores are only representative of the 
entire sediment section in a restricted portion of the North 
Pacific. In those cores that are uniform throughout, sediment at 






12 


the top of the core is representative of the entire sediment 
section. In figure 2, the areas of the Pacific where this 
situation exists are shown by shading. These areas are charac¬ 
terized by deep-sea clay sedimentation; the deposits have low 
velocities, and the sea floor should show high absorption values 
and low reflectivity. Beyond the limits of these regions, the 
tops of the cores are not an index of the acoustic nature of the 
sea floor. 

DISTRIBUTION OF SUB-BOTTOM REFLECTORS AND THE 
ACOUSTIC PROVINCES OF THE NORTH PACIFIC 

The occurrence of sub-bottom reflectors in the North Pacific 
is principally a function of proximity to land. Reflectors most 
frequently encountered are of two types: 1) ash horizons and 
2) turbidites. Both require that land be in the vicinity to serve 
as a source of large amounts of sedimentary material. Therefore, 
the major sub-bottom reflectors of the North Pacific are located 
along the edges of the continental masses (fig. 4). Thin ash 
layers are common in the cores collected off the east coast of 
Japan, the Kurils, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Aleutians. 

In the eastern Pacific (off the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, 
and California), turbidite sequences are the rule. Ash is dis- 






FIGURE 


LECTORS 


AREA 


AREA I 


(sub-bottom r-eflectors-Ash) 


AREA 2 


(No sub-bottom reflectors) 


150 


ACOUSTIC PROVINCES OF THE NORTHERN 
PACIFIC BASED ON DEEP-SEA CORES. 

DETAILS OF CORE DATA FOR INDICATED AREAS ARE 
GIVEN ON FIGURES 5,6,AND 7 


GOOD SUB-BOTTOM REF 


INTERMEDIATE SUB-BOTTOM REFLECTORS 


AREAS WHERE SUB-BOTTOM REFLECTORS 
ARE RARE OR ABSENT 


*V f *•*'V y-n'V 


r 




-r -1 



























































































15 


tributed along the east coast of Asia, whereas turbidites occur 
off the west coast of the American continent. As would be ex¬ 
pected, there is an area of overlap of the two types of reflectors. 
Both are found in cores taken in the region of the Aleutians. 

JAPAN ACOUSTIC PROVINCE 

Cores taken from the waters east of Japan, the Kurils, and 
the southern half of the Kamchatka Peninsula consist of deep-sea 
mud and clay interlayered with thin horizons of white ash. They 
occur within a zone of irregular width which ranges from 100 miles 
to 600 miles from shore (figs. 4 and 5). The ash layers that are 
greater than 5 cm thick are shown in figure 5. Although the 
ash horizons are relatively thin, they are coarser than the 
sediments with which they are associated and occur as distinct 
layers with sharp boundaries. They are characterized by higher 
velocities and higher wet densities than the sediments with which 
they are intercalated. Therefore, they provide a series of 
velocity contrasts close to the sediment-water interface. Reflect¬ 
ivity in the Japan Acoustic Province should be higher than that of 
the Central North Pacific Acoustic Province, but lower than that 
of the Aleutian-Alaska Acoustic Province. 


No cores have been recovered from the waters within 100 to 




16 


200 miles of the Asian shoreline. Presumably, if cores were 
available, they would contain a far greater number of ash layers 
and the ashes would be slightly coarser in texture. As a conse¬ 
quence, bottom reflectivity should increase as land is approached. 

CENTRAL NORTH PACIFIC ACOUSTIC PROVINCE 

Sub-bottom reflectors are rare in the north central Pacific 
(figs. 4 and 6). The majority of cores from this area are uni¬ 
form throughout and consist of monotonous sequences of deep-sea 
clay. Such sediments are characterized by very low compression- 
al velocity, low wet density, and are extremely fine-grained. Re¬ 
flection should be minimal within this province, whereas absorp¬ 
tion values should be correspondingly high. 

There are two areas of the sea floor within the province where 
sub-bottom reflectors exist but are limited in aerial extent. 

Within 100 miles of the shores of the Midway and Hawaiian Islands 
good sub-bottom reflectors occur. They consist of sand and 
gravel layers. The sands are generally carbonate detritus which 
has moved downslope from shallow waters through turbidity 
current activity. The layers of gravel are made up of basalt 
pebbles. Presumably these coarse volcanic ejecta represent 
periods of explosive volcanism on the Hawaiin Islands. 


L 


17 


Cores taken in the vicinity of the Emperor Seamount Chain 
contain layers of volcanic silt. They are brown in color, 
generally thicker, and coarser-grained than the ashes within the 
Japan Acoustic Province. They offer good sub-bottom reflectors 
and will be described in detail in future reports. 

ALEUTIAN - ALASKA ACOUSTIC PROVINCE 

The Aleutian-Alaska Acoustic Province is shown in figure 7. 

It is the most complex area of the North Pacific. In subsequent 
reports it will be necessary to sub-divide this region into three 
separate acoustic areas: 1) Aleutian Province, 2) Alaska Province, 
and 3) British Columbia Province. 

Only a brief description of the Aleutian-Alaska Province is 
given at this time. Sub-bottom reflectors include turbidites, 
brown ash layers, current winnowed sands, and possibly diatom 
ooze. In figure 7, all turbidites and ash layers which are greater 
than 10 cm in thickness are shown as solid black sections within 
the cores. The writers consider the Aleutian-Alaska Province to 
be characterized by high bottom reflectivity within the area desig¬ 
nated. The turbidite and ash layers are thick and considerably 
coarser than any sediments elsewhere in the Pacific. These high 


velocity layers provide excellent sub-bottom reflection of sound. 


18 


The most recent cruise of the R/V Robert D. Conrad included 
a series of traverses and coring stations within the Aleutian- 
Alaska Acoustic Province. The cores collected during this 
cruise will add greatly to the information on sub-bottom reflectors 
south of the Aleutian Islands and within the Gulf of Alaska. 

C ONC LUSIONS 

The North Pacific contains distinct acoustic provinces which 
can be effectively delineated and described by studies of deep-sea 
cores. The central North Pacific has been an area of clay depo¬ 
sition for several million years. Sub-bottom reflectors within 
this province are rare and occur only in areas within 100 miles of 
the Midway and Hawaiian Islands. They are turbidites and coarse 
volcanic detritus derived from the Islands. 

East of Japan, the Kuril Islands, and the Kamchatka 
Peninsula, airborne ash has been blown seaward during periods of 
volcanism and now forms distinct, thin, white layers of silt-sized 
ash. The cores reveal that the frequency of ash layers increases 
toward the Asian coastline. Bottom reflectivity in this region 
should be higher than in the more central areas of the North 
Pacific and presumably will increase in a landward direction. 


19 


North and south of the Aleutian Islands, at the southern limit 
of the Gulf of Alaska, and off British Columbia, reflectivity 
should be greater than other areas of the North Pacific. Here 
thick turbidite sequences and coarse-grained brown ash layers 
are common. Sound reflection at the sea floor should be maxi¬ 
mum within this province. 

Acknowledgment 

We gratefully acknowledge the U. S. Naval Ship Systems 
Command for providing financial support for the investigation 
(Contract N00024-67-C-1186). Laboratory and technical assistance 
was given by S. Jones, S. Walker, B. Bush, D. Liebesberger, 

D. Ultsch, L. Murphy, M. Parsons, V. Jones, and D. Hogge. 
Drafting and typing of the manuscript were done by M. Seely and 
B. Brown, respectively. Thanks are also due members of the 
Core Laboratory at Lamont for their cooperation. 







































20 


APPENDIX 


SURFACE SEDIMENT SAMPLES FROM NORTH PACIFIC CORES 

GRAIN SIZE DATA 





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SURFACE SEDIMENT SAMPLES FROM NORTH PACIFIC CORES 


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R EF ER ENCES 


38 


Folk, R. L. , 1965, Petrology of sedimentary rocks: Austin, Texas, 
Hemphill's, 154 p. 

Hamilton, E. L. , 1956, Low sound velocities in high-porosity 

sediments: Jour. Acoust. Soc. America, v. 28, p. 16-19. 

Hamilton, E. L. , Shumway, G. , Menard, H. W. , and Shipek, C. J. , 

195 6, Acoustic and other physical properties of shallow water 
sediments off San Diego: Jour. Acoust. Soc. America, v. 28, 
p. 1-15. 

Hansbo, Sven, 1957, A new approach to the determination of the shear 
strength of clay by the fall-cone test: Royal Swedish Geotech. 

Inst. Proc. no. 14, 46 p. 

Horn, D. R. , 1967, Correlation between acoustical and physical 

properties of deep-sea cores, Norwegian Basin: Tech. Rept. 
no. 1, Texas Instruments Inc. , PO #58029-55154, Palisades, 

N. Y. , Lamont Geol. Observatory of Columbia University, 88 p. 

Horn, D.R., Delach, M. N. , and Horn, B. M. , 1967a, Correlation 
between acoustical and other physical properties of deep-sea 
cores, northeast Atlantic: Tech. Rept. no. 3, Texas 
Instruments Inc., PO #58029 - 55154, Palisades, N. Y. , Lamont 
Geol. Observatory of Columbia University, 115 p. 

Horn, D. R. , Horn, B. M. , and Delach, M. N. , 1967b, Correlation 

between acoustical and other physical properties of Mediterranean 
deep-sea cores: Tech. Rept. no. 2, Texas Instruments Inc., 

PO #58029-55154, Palisades, N. Y. , Lamont Geol. Observatory 
of Columbia University, 152 p. 

_ 19 68, Correlation between acoustical and other physical 

properties of deep-sea cores: Jour. Geophys. Research, v. 73 
(in press). 

Nafe, J. E. , and Drake, C. L. , 1957, Variation with depth in shallow 
and deep water marine sediments of porosity, density and the 
velocities of compressional and shear waves: Geophysics, 
v. 22, p. 523-552. 





39 


_1961, Physical properties of marine sediments: Tech. Rept. 

no. 2, CU-3-61 NObsr 85077 Geology, Palisades, N. Y. , 

Lamont Geol. Observatory of Columbia University, 29 p. 

_ 1963, Physical properties of marine sediments, in_ The sea, 

v. 3, p. 583-619: New York, John Wiley and Sons, 963 p. 

Schreiber, B.C., 1966, Core, sound velocimeter, hydrographic, and 

bottom photographic stations-cores, area 1: U. S. Naval Oceanog 
Office SP-96-1-8, Norwood, N. J. , Alpine Geophys. Associates. 

_ 1967a, Core, sound velocimeter, hydrographic and bottom 

photographic stations-cores, area 11: U. S. Naval Oceanog. 

Office SP-96-II-8, Norwood, N. J. , Alpine Geophys. Associates. 

_ 1967b, Sound velocity in deep-sea sediments (abstract): Am. 

Geophys. Union Trans. , v. 48, p. 144. 

_ 1967c, Core, sound velocimeter, hydrographic, and bottom 

photographic stations-cores, area SF: U. S. Naval Oceanog. 
Office SP-96-SF-8, Norwood, N. J. , Alpine Geophys. Associates 

_ 1968, Sound velocity in deep-sea sediments: Jour. Geophys. 

Research, v. 73 (in press). 

Shumway, G. , 1956, A resonant chamber method for sound velocity 
and attenuation measurements in sediments: Geophysics, 
v. 21, p. 305-319. 

_ 1960a, Sound speed and absorption studies of marine 

sediments by resonance method, part I: Geophysics, v. 25, 
p. 451-467. 

_ 1960b, Sound speed and absorption studies of marine 

sediments by a resonance method, part 11: Geophysics, 
v. 25, p. 659-682. 

Sutton, G. H. , Berckhemer, H. , and Nafe, J. E. , 1957, Physical 
analysis of deep-sea sediments: Geophysics, v. 22, 
p. 779-812. 












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la. REPORT SECURITY C U ASSl PIC A TlON 

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3. REPORT TITLE 


ACOUSTIC PROVINCES OF THE NORTH PACIFIC BASED ON DEEP-SEA CORES \ 


i 4- DESCRIPTIVE NOTES (Type ot report and Inclusive dates) 


Technical Report 

>. AUTHOAfJJ (Last name, tlret name, Initial) 

Horn, David R. , Horn, Barbara M. , Delach, Marilyn N. 


jj 6. REPO RT DATE 

< December ]qft7 

7p. total no. op PACES 

39 

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N00024-67-C-1186 

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Technical Report No. 3 CU-3-67 

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tJ. abstract 


A preliminary survey of sub-bottom reflectors contained in 261 sediment 
cores from the North Pacific reveals that they are restricted to certain areas 
of the sea floor. Their distribution is given. Because they are of limited 
extent and possess different sonic properties, they are considered acoustic 
provinces. The sea floor of the North Pacific includes 3 such regions: 

1) the Japan Acoustic Province, 2) the Aleutian-Alaska Acoustic Province and 
3) the Central North Pacific Acoustic Province 

Off Japan and the Kurils, sub-bottom reflectors are ash layers; south and 
west of the Aleutians and Alaska they are silts and sands deposited by turbidity 
currents; whereas in the central North Pacific reflectors are rare. Surficial 
sediment is only useful as an index to the relectivity of the bottom within the 
|1 Central North Pacific Acoustic Province. 




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14- 


KEY WORDS 


North Pacific, deep-sea cores 
Acoustic provinces 
Surficiai sediments 


LINK A 


WOLE 


WT 


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WOLE 


WT 


LINK C 


ROLE 


WT 



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RCI0-I80 

NC 


RCI0-I79 


RCI0-I78 

A 


RC10-177 


u 


V20-I06 

NC 


-I-1-1-h 


H-1-h 


V10-I04 


V20-I03 


n 


V20-97 


V20-99 

A 


n 


H-l-B 


-\ -1-1- 


30° 


V20-I00 

A 


U 


V2I-1 


T 

L 

u 


~.j 


V2I-64 


V21-63 


FIGURE 6. AREA 2-CENTRAL NORTH PACIFIC ACOUSTIC PROVINCE 


SUB-BOTTOM REFLECTORS ARE EXTREMELY RARE- 


|| 


I I I I I I I I 1 I I I 


Jl5° 
165° 


I80 c