study of the Laptevs, East Siberian, and Chukchi sea shelves concentrates
mainly on the specific structure of the sedimentary cover and briefly
discusses age and structure of the basement. An elaboration of the
tectonic model for the entire Russian eastern Arctic shelf is accompanied
by discussions of the existing views on problems which have been hampered
by absence of deep offshore wells. The most relevant information was
obtained from deep seismic profiling, which provides data on thicknesses
and unconformities within the sedimentary cover, tectonic structures, and
structure of the basement surface. But without well control the age and
nature of the basement and sedimentary cover remain thus far, speculative
and will have to be verified by future research activities.
The Laptevs, East
Siberian, and Chukchi Sea shelves (Fig. 1) and their transition to deep
water basins are still in a very early stage of geological exploration.
All existing bathymetric, magnetic, gravimetric and geologic data,
including shallow wells in the New Siberian Islands area and deep wells in
the U.S. sector of the Chukchi Sea shelf, were recently summarized in the
process of compiling the State Geological Map of the Russian Federation at
a scale of 1:1,000,000. The work was carried out by the Geological Map
Division of the All Russian Scientific Research Institute for Geology and
Mineral Resources of the Worlds Oceans (VNIIOkeangeologia) during the last
7 years and includes a special geologic map index that unifies the entire
offshore area. The level of earth science exploration varies drastically
from one area to another, and even in the relatively better studied parts
it remains insufficient for unambiguous characterization of geological
structure and history, especially in places where subbottom geology is
imaged exclusively on the basis of geophysical evidence and cannot be
reliably correlated with island outcrops.
paper is based mainly on the State Geological Map at a scale of
1:1,000,000, every sheet of which presents a separate geoinformational
system (GIS) layer. All existing bathymetric, magnetic, gravimetric and
geologic data, including shallow wells in the New Siberian Islands area
and deep wells in the U.S. sector of the Chukchi Sea shelf, were used to
construct maps sheets. A set of maps consists of tectonic, deepstructural,
bedrock, Quaternary and bottom sediment, and geomorphologic maps. Onshore
portions of the digitized database come from geological mapping of the
eastern Arctic mainland and islands by the Russian Geological Survey in
the middle of the last century. Geological investigations of the offshore
area are rather poor. They include bottom sampling, piston cores and rare
shallow seismic profiles. Although several shallow boreholes were
collected around the New Siberian Islands and exploration wells were
drilled on the U.S. Alaska Shelf, the major source of offshore information
used in this study is from various geophysical methods of investigations
by the Marine Arctic Geological Enterprise (MAGE) of Murmansk (Sekretov,
1998; 1999a; 1999b; 1999c), Laboratory of Regional Geodynamics (LARGE) from Moscow (Drachev et
al., 1998), and joint research efforts by the oil company
Sevmorneftegeofizika of Murmansk and the Geological Institute BGR of
Hannover, Germany (Roeser et al., 1995; Hinz et al., 1998; Franke et a.l,
1999), and by the oil company Dalmorneftegeofizika of
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia and Halliburton (USA).
THE SEDIMENTARY COVER
provinces are distinguished on the Russian eastern Arctic Shelf. These two
provinces in the western Chukchi and East-Siberian seas are generally
underlain by basement of either late Mesozoic or Caledonian age. The
boundary between these is complex in some areas, with the former
overprinting the latter, but can generally be traced from Cape Lisburne in
western Alaska, northwest along the northern margin of the Herald Arch to
100-150 km north of Wrangel Island, and on across the East-Siberian Sea
to Vil`kistsky Island, southwest of the De-Long Archipelago.
These provinces are
generally characterized by unique sedimentary cover with distinct
stratigraphic ages and are traced using seismic reflection data and
borehole sections from northern Alaska and the Chukchi Shelf where
American investigators (Grantz et al., 1975; 1982; and 1990 and Thurston
and Theiss, 1987) identified two major types of sedimentary cover with
good confidence. They divide sedimentary cover into 2 main sequences, the
Ellesmerian and Brookian, separated by the regional Lower Cretaceous
unconformity (LCU) at the base of the Barremian Stage. Later researchers
have distinguished a third sequence in the U.S. Chukchi Seathe Rift
Sequence (Sherwood et al., 2004) which we have not mapped but may be
equivalent in part to our J-K1h sequence in Figure 3. This sequence underlies the Brookian and
represents the initial stage of opening of the Canada Basin. The second
major sequence is the Late Devonian to Early Cretaceous Ellesmerian
Sequence, which is generally found in the province with Caledonian
basement and had source rocks located to the north in the area of the
present day Arctic Ocean. The Early Cretaceous to Cenozoic Brookian
Sequence sediments are distributed in both provinces, covering the
Ellesmerian Sequence in one, and in the other, covering late Mesozoic
folded basement rocks and comprising the whole volume of the sedimentary
Sequence strata can be distinguished on seismic records in the North
Chukchi basin, where their thickness reaches 7-8 km, and where the total
thickness of the sedimentary cover is no less than 20 km. Grantz et al. (1975 and Grantz et al.,
1982) had reported the presence of older,
possibly Franklinian or Eoellesmerian Sequence in the North Chukchi
Basin at the base of the Ellesmerian cover but it is not clear what age
they are. We believe his data show lower Ellesmerian Endicott Group strata
in some grabens that may be as thick as 7 km, in the North Chukchi Basin.
Figure 2 shows our interpretation of a seismic profile collected by
Dalmorneftegeofizika Enterprise which divides the sedimentary cover
of the North Chukchi depression into 7 seismic units separated by
reflectors Ch-I-VII, and a correlation to the reflectors mapped by
Thurston and Theiss (1987). Older, basal sedimentary cover exists north of
the North Chukchi Basin, as evidenced from lower Paleozoic rocks dredged
on the continental slope, on the Mendeleev Ridge, and on the steep eastern
slope of the Northwind Escarpment, where a continuous stratigraphic
section beginning with Cambrian rocks was reported by Grantz et al. (1998). Similar data
were obtained by Russian investigators from the southern part of the
Mendeleev Ridge, where they dredged moderately lithified
carbonateterrigenous rocks exhibiting the occurrence of kaolinitic cement
in sandstones, and were paleontologically
dated as Upper Silurian to Lower Permian in age (Kabankov et al.,
East-Siberian shelf, Ellesmerian Sequence strata were recognized on a
LARGE seismic profile (Fig. 3) 170 km east-northeast of New Siberian
Island (Drachev et al., 2001). Here, two reflectors A and B
are distinguished beneath reflector B-1 (LCU). The strata between
these reflectors thin and are truncated by reflector B-1 to the north (toward
the De-Long rise), but to the south, they increase to 7 km in thickness.
Besides the increase in thickness, there is an increase in deformation of
the strata, which gradually becomes more intense until it is manifested as
a rather sharp transition to acoustic basement. We believe this transition
of Ellesmerian Sequence to the folded state marks the boundary between
late Mesozoic and Caledonian basement provinces.
On New Siberian
Island, drilling revealed late Mesozoic basement (folded Jurassic
terrigenous rocks) beneath PlioceneQuaternary sediments. Magnetic
anomalies over New Siberian Island are similar to the anomalies seen from
the cassiterite-bearing granites of Bolshoy Lyahovsky Island. (See Figure
1 Number 8). Placer cassiterite found on New Siberian Island, and grains
of molybdenite and sphalerite in the basal Pliocene layers overlying the
deformed Jurassic rocks suggest the presence of stanniferous granites in
basement is exposed on Henrietta Island (See Figure 1, Number 16) where
outcrops of folded volcanic and clastic rocks, bearing sills, dykes, and
sheets of basalts, andesite-basalts, and porphyritic diorite occur (Vinogradov et al.,
1974). Basalts and porphyritic diorite dated by the
potassiumargon method are 310-450 ma and porphyritic diorite dated
using the argonargon method are in the 400-440 ma interval. Fragments
of gneissic, granitic, and quartzitic rocks and schists in gritstone of
Henrietta Island are evidence that the Caledonian fold basement zones in
the De-Long rise province include blocks of older consolidation. More
evidence of these older rocks is the presence of flat-lying Cambrian and
Ordovician strata on Benetta Island (See Figure 1, Number 15), but these
lower Paleozoic rocks cannot be correlated to seismic reflection
signatures typical of sedimentary cover on nearby marine profiles.
The Ellesmerian Sequence is divided by American authors (Grantz et al., 1975; 1990 and Thurston and Theiss, 1987) into two parts: the Lower Ellesmerian and the Upper Ellesmerian Sequences, separated by a Permian unconformity (PU) at the base of Upper Permian strata. In the wells drilled on the Alaska coast, the highest stratigraphic interval is the Upper Ellesmerian Sequence, and the PU reflector marks the acoustic basement. However, in deep depressions where the PU horizon separates subparallel reflectors of the Lower and Upper Ellesmerian sequences, it may be lost. This is what we believe happened on the seismic profile in Thurston and Theiss (1987) Plate 5, published before the wells in the Chukchi Sea were drilled. Within the Ellesmerian Sequence below the Lisburne Group, there is a well expressed reflector identified as an unconformity between Endicott Group (D3-C1) and Lisburne Group (C2-3). On the southern slope of De-Long rise, the presence of Lisburne Group rocks is confirmed by dredge samples that contained fragments of siliceous limestone with C2-3 fauna in Neogene volcanics of Zhokhov Island.
The Brookian Sequence (Barremian
Stage to Cenozoic) is divided by American scientists into Lower Brookian
and Upper Brookian (K2-KZ) sequences. In our interpretation, based on
seismic data analysis across the whole eastern Arctic Shelf (from the
Laptevs to Chukchi seas), we propose dividing the stratigraphic section
into Cretaceous (K1br-K2) and Cenozoic parts. The lower sequence is much
thicker and is characterized by numerous plastic and disjunctive
deformations as a result of fragmented topography of the basement surface.
The upper sequence is a continuous but less thick mantle type deposit. It
is seismically transparent and is not disturbed by syndepositional
It has been
previously argued that the sedimentary cover of the Laptevs shelf ranged
in age from Proterozoic to Cenozoic. However, new multichannel seismic
data collected by the Marine Arctic Geological Expedition (MAGE, Murmansk,
Russia) and by Regional Geodynamic Laboratory (LARGE, Moscow) reveals that
the sedimentary cover on the Laptevs shelf (along Oleneksky Bay and
Buor-Khaya Bay; Fig. 1 numbers 4 and 6) is continuous with that of the
East Siberian shelf described above (Drachev et al., 1998; Vonogradov and
Drachev, 2000; Gusev et al., 2002). It is composed of Cretaceous to
Cenozoic strata deposited on folded Early Cretaceous and older rocks.
On a seismic
profile along the Khatanga Bay (Fig. 1 number 1) there is a sharp change
in the character of folding at the Late Mesozoic fold front, which can be
traced from the eastern coast of Bolshoi Begichev Island to Tsvetkov Cape
(Fig. 1 numbers 2 and 3) on the southern-eastern coast of the Taimyr
Peninsula (Vinogradov and Drachev, 2000). Horizontal seismic reflectors,
typical for the thick sedimentary cover of the northern flank of the
Siberian Platform are sharply terminated at this boundary. On the
northeastern end of the seismic profile the reflection character becomes
chaotic and looks similar to the acoustic basement along all the profile.
Therefore, it appears that the cover sequences of the Siberian Platform do
not continue beyond Khatanga Bay in the Laptevs Sea. Rather, the Laptevs
Shelf is part of the Mesozoides of Northeastern Russia. There is still a
difference between the west and central parts of the Laptevs Sea and its
eastern part. In the eastern part the main stage of folding is connected
with Early Cretaceous time because coal-bearing molasse rocks of
Aptian-Albian age on Kotel`ny Island (Fig. 1 number 9) overly folded
Paleozoic and Mesozoic formations with a sharp unconformity. On the
central and western part of the Laptevs Shelf, riftogenous processes were
superimposed at the final stage of the Early Cretaceous deformation
resulting in rather weakly deformed basement rocks being buried under rift
Cretaceous sedimentary and stratigraphic history of the Laptevs Shelf is
characterized by intense denudation of the area northeast of the Lena
River mouth. This is supported by the presence of erosional products in
Paleocene strata from granite batholiths emplaced at the end of Early
Cretaceous to the beginning of Late Cretaceous in northeast Russia.
Further evidence is deep ersional truncation and weathering crust reported
in the Tiksi Bay area, where Paleocene sediments, including quartz
siltstones, cover the greenshist Verkhoyan suite. Considering the area of
uplift (Figure 4-I; and number 6), and assuming a depth of emplacement of
granitic intrusives of 3 km or less, a volume of eroded rocks over
Northeast Russia during Late Cretaceous time, may be up to 6.5 million km3. On the adjacent shelf, continental slope and deep Eurasian Basin,
nearly 7.5 million km3 of sediments were deposited.
A quiescent stage
set in between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic manifested by Paleocene peneplain
facies in the areas of Tiksi Bay, Yano-Indigirskaya lowland, and New
Siberian Islands. On seismic records this boundary is expressed by a high
contrast reflection representing a regional unconformity between Upper
Cretaceous strata. These strata exhibit numerous reflectors that show
syndepositional deformation, filling rift grabens, and they are overlain
by continuous seismically transparent Paleocene strata.
In the North
Chukchi Basin, Upper Cretaceous strata with widely spread clinoforms
attain the importance an independent sequence (Upper Brookian Sequence),
separated from BarremianAlbian rocks by a sharp angular unconformity (Thurston
and Theiss, 1987, Plate 7).
The structure of
the sedimentary cover of the eastern Arctic shelf of Russia is generally
an assemblage of large basins and rises that separate zones of persistent
depressions such as the Laptev basin (Fig. 4, I), New Siberian System of
horsts and grabens (Fig. 4, II), Chukchi-East Siberian basin (Fig. 4 IV),
De-Long rise (Fig. 4, III), and a series of perioceanic depressions along
the Shelf margin (Fig. 4, V).
The Laptev Basin
(Fig. 4, I) occupies the central and western parts of the Laptevs Sea. It
is about 400 km wide at its northern end near the continental slope, and
is less than 100 km wide to the south-southeast in the Buor-Khaya Bay area.
On the south and west, the Laptev Basin is bounded by mountainous, folded
Mesozoides, and on the east by the Lazarev fault that separates the basin
from the New Siberian System of horsts and grabens. The internal structure
of the Laptev basin is rather complex due to numerous faults, uplifts and
troughs. Sedimentary strata reach thicknesses of 10-12 km in troughs and
thin to 5-6 km over horsts.
The New Siberian
System of horsts and grabens extends from the continent to the shelf
margin between the Laptev and Chukchi-East Siberian basins. It is 600 km
wide in the south and about 400 km in the north. Overall, it is an
uplifted province with reduced and discontinuous sedimentary cover, except
in Novosibirsky and Anisinsky grabens, where sedimentary cover is thickest
(Fig. 4, numbers 1 and 2). The structural expression of the western and
the eastern slopes of the New Siberian System are dissimilar with the
western slope being highly dissected by horsts and grabens and the eastern
slope rather gentle with sparse grabens. The axial zone of the New
Siberian System, can be regarded as a submeridional horst that is a direct
continuation of the Lomonosov Ridge basement is exposed along it length.
The western slope of the Lomonosov Ridge is also dissected by numerous
horst and grabens, and the eastern slope is relatively gentle with rare
grabens. This resemblance between the New Siberian System and Lomonosov
Ridge suggests that they are part of a transregional positive tectonic
feature that trends from the continent, through the shelf, to the Arctic
Ocean basin. The axial zone of this transregional feature is traced
further on land in the Yano-Indigirskaya lowland as a series of basement
protrusions, including several granite massifs of Cretaceous age
collectively named the Chokhchuro-Chekurdakhsky row. (Fig. 4, number 25)
Chukchi-East-Siberian Basin is the largest structural province of the
eastern Arctic shelf (Fig. 4, IV). It extends in latitudinal direction
over 1300 km, widening from 450 km in the west to 900 km in the east (in
the U.S. Chukchi Sea). From the west, the basin is bounded by the New
Siberian System of horsts and grabens, from the north by De-Long Rise,
from the south by mountainous Mesozoides of North-East Russia. The coastal
lowlands are part of the southern flank of the basin. To the east in
Alaska, the basin is bounded on the south by the Herald Arch, Lisburne
Hills, and Brooks Range and in the north by the Barrow Arch.
The basin can be
divided into northern and southern parts based on basement age. The
northern province is underlain by Caledonian basement, the southern
province by late Mesozoic basement. The provinces are separated by large
highangle faults. In the northern province on northeast Russia shelf,
two deep depressionsZhokhovsky (Fig. 4 number 3) and North-Chukchi (Fig.
4 numbers 5)-are separated approximately along 174 degree west longitude
by the Jannetsky transverse uplift (Fig. 4 number 3a).
depression extends for 600 km from the east, where it is 200 km wide, to
the west where it gradually narrows and disappears in the boundary zone
between the New Siberian System of horsts and grabens and De-Long Rise.
Upper PaleozoicCenozoic strata in the axial zone of the depression
reach 10-12 km in thickness.
Basin within the Russian shelf is also traced for 600 km and its width
varies from 250 km on the east to 160 km on the northwest (Fig. 4 number
5). This basin is notable for its great sedimentary thickness. On seismic
records, acoustic basement is reliably recognized at the depth of 18 km (Fig.
3). It has an asymmetrical structure with its southern flank dipping
steeper than its northern flank. The northern flank and axis of the basin
is crossed by the transverse Andrianovsky uplift along the 170º
meridian (Fig. 4 number 5a). The uplift has up to 3000 m of relief at the
level of the Barremian-Albian strata (LCU), but has practically no
expression on the top of the Upper Cretaceous strata (mBU). Twenty to
twenty five kilometers north, the axial zone of the North Chukchi basin
shifts to younger strata.
basin is dissected by sublatitudinal and younger submeridional faults.
Sublatitudinal faults often bound half grabens on the southern flank of
the basin. Submeridional faults offset Upper Cretaceous rocks and bound
grabens and horsts, which sea floor expression. In the north, the basin is
bounded by the arch-like North Chukchi rise (Fig.4 number 4), which
extends west-northwest for 500 km and varies from 50 to 75 km in width. To
the northwest, the North Chukchi rise conjugates with the southeastern
flank of De-Long rise (Fig. 4, III), and on east-southeast probably with
the Barrow Arch. Stratigraphic thickness over the North Chukchi rise is
estimated at 6-7 km.
The southern part
of the Chukchi-East-Siberian basin (Fig. 4, IV) differs from its northern
part by the presence of predominantly submeridional structural trends
inherited from the late Mesozoic basement. Features with sublatitudinal
strike, typical of the northern part, are partly preserved only on the
Chukchi Shelf, such as the Herald Arch (Fig. 4 number 14) with thin
sedimentary cover and basement projections (Wrangel Island; Fig.1 number
20), and the South Chukchi depression (Fig. 4 number 15) with up to 4-6 km
of overlying Cretaceous-Cenozoic strata.
Over most of the
East-Siberian shelf the structural trend is predominantly submeridional
with symmetrical features. The axial zone of the structural assemblage is
characterized by the Melvillian graben (Fig. 4 number 8), where
Aptian-Cenozoic strata reach 10 km in thickness. This graben structure is
actually a zone of extension, flanked by uplifts of the Chukchi and
East-Chersky (Fig. 4 numbers 7 and 9), and then flanked again by
subsidence features of the South-Denbarsky and Ambarchiksky garbens (Fig.
4 numbers 6 and 10). The basement fault zones, responsible for origin of
these structures extend to the north, dissecting Zhokhov depression and
De-Long rise. It is very likely that submerged parts of the East-Siberian
shelf have riftogenous nature, similar to the Laptev basin.
The De-Long rise
has a block-like round-to-triangular form (Fig. 4, III), elongated in a
west-northwest direction for 800 km. It is 400 km wide in the west and
narrows to the east to 150 km. For the most part it is covered by thin (less
than 1 km) Cretaceous-Cenozoic mantle type deposits with several
projections of Caledonian and probably older basement. On the slopes of
De-Long rise the cover is 3-4 km thick, underlain by Mesozoic and
Paleozoic strata. The rise is dissected by faults, and bounded grabens and
We draw four main
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