Holocene sedimentation in the shallow nearshore zone off Nauset Inlet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

David G. Aubrey, David C. Twichell, Stephanie L. Pfirman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Present conditions and sedimentary evolution of the shallow offshore region near Nauset Inlet on Cape Cod, Massachusetts were clarified using high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, sidescan-sonar records, surface grab samples and current meter measurements. The study area contains three provinces: (1) a nearshore province (shallower than 18 m) with a relatively steep slope (0.6°) and a cover of medium sand; (2) a northern offshore province covered with coarse sand, gravel, and boulders, interpreted to be glacial drift; and (3) a southern offshore province with a gentle seaward-dipping slope (0.3°) and a surface sediment of coarse sand. The glacial drift exposed in the northern offshore province can be traced southward under the coarse sand province. The overlying fill is comprised of either outwash sediment derived from the Pleistocene South Channel ice lobe to the east or Holocene-aged marine sediments eroded from seacliffs to the north. Latest Holocene sediment appears to be limited to the zone shoreward of 18 m where the medium sand occurs. Near-bottom mean flows (measured over two winter months in 10 m water depth) average 6 cm sec-1 to the south. Mean flows exceeded 20 cm sec-1 approx. 23% of the time. Ninety percent of the flows exceeding 20 cm sec-1 were directed to the south, reflecting the dominant atmospheric forcing during these winter months. Waves had an average variance of 650 cm2 with variance exceeding 5000 cm2, 3% of the time, indicating moderate wave activity. Present processes are actively reshaping the nearshore province, which is characterized by many east to northeast-trending shore-oblique channels that do not extend seaward of the 18-m contour. Coarse sand in the floors of these channels suggests they may be erosional features, and the presence of megaripples oriented perpendicular to the channel axes indicates active transport in these channels. Megaripple orientation and the current and wave regime of the study area support a rip-current origin for these channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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