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Determining subsea permafrost characteristics with a cone penetrometer — Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Cold Regions Science and Technology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0165-232x(79)90014-4
  • Design
  • Engineering


Abstract Sediments beneath the Beaufort Sea near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, were probed at 27 sites using a static cone penetrometer to determine engineering properties and distribution of material types, including ice-bonded sediments. The probe, designed and constructed at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, provided both point and casing resistance data and thermal profiles. At five sites these data were correlated with information from adjacent drilled and sampled holes. These control data and the quality of the probe information permitted profiles of sediment type and occurrence of ice-bonded material to be developed along three lines that included various geological features and depositional environments. Material properties were quite variable in the upper 14 m of sediments probed. In general, softer, finer-grained sediments occurred in the upper layers, while penetration refusal was met in stiff gravels 10 to 12 m below the seabed. Seabed temperatures during the study were all below 0°C. However, because of uncertainties in freezing point values caused by brines, evaluation of the penetration resistance data was required to identify the occurrence of ice-bonded sediments. The coupling of thermal and penetration resistance data revealed that seasonally ice-bonded sediments occurred where the sea ice froze back to or near the seabed. Deeper, perennially frozen sediments also appeared to be present at several probe sites.

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