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Holocene Sand Shoals Offshore of the Mississippi River Delta Plain
Shea Penland (1), John R. Suter (1,2), Randolph A. McBride (1), S. Jeffress Williams (3), Jack L. Kindinger (4), Ron Boyd (5)
Offshore of the Mississippi River delta plain lies a series of Holocene sand shoals marking the position of ancient submerged shorelines associated with younger shelf-phase delta plains. These submerged shorelines represent positions when sea level stood lower than present. Short periods of rapid sea level rise during the Holocene transgression, in combination with subsidence, led to the submergence of these sandy shorelines, which can be recognized at the -33 ft (-10 m) and -66 ft (-20 m) isobaths on the Louisiana continental shelf
The -33 ft (-10 m) shoreline trend is represented by Trinity Shoal and Ship Shoal, which are associated with the late Holocene Mississippi River delta plain. Trinity Shoal is derived from the Cypremont-Sale delta complex and is located 12 mi (20 km) offshore of Marsh Island. This shoal is 22 mi (35 km) long, 5 mi (8 km) wide, and 16 - 20 ft (5 - 6 m) thick. The facies relationships indicate that Trinity Shoal is a submerged barrier system in the initial stages of shoreface reworking. To the east is Ship Shoal which is associated with the Maringouin-Teche delta complex. This shoal is located 12 mi (20 km) offshore of the Isles Dernieres and is 31 mi (50 km) long, 5 - 6 mi (8 - 10 km) wide, and 13 - 20 ft (4 - 6 m) thick. The facies relationships indicate that Ship Shoal is a marine sand body derived from shoreface reworking of a submerged barrier island.
The -66 ft (-20 m) shoreline trend is represented by the Outer Shoal and St. Bernard Shoals, which are associated with the early Mississippi River delta plain. The Outer Shoal is a low relief sand body, which lies seaward of Ship Shoal immediately west of the Mississippi Canyon. The eastern continuation of the -66 ft (-20 m) shoreline trend is the St. Bernard Shoals, which lie 16 mi (25 km) offshore of the Chandeleur Islands. In contrast to the other shoal systems, the St. Bernard Shoals form a shore-parallel zone of more than seven smaller sand shoals which, in many respects, are similar to a shore-oblique sand-ridge field.
Collectively, these sand shoals represent a large potential source of aggregate for shoreline restoration and erosion control as well as possible hard mineral resources. Scientifically, these shoals provide insight into the processes which control coastal evolution and shelf sand development under the condition of relative sea level rise.
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