The use of direct arrivals and multiple reflections that have travelled completely in water from source to receiver to determine epicentral distances is a standard technique in the analysis of marine seismic profiles. The configuration of a source at the air–water interface and a seismometer at the water–sediment interface is investigated in the ray parameter – distance plane and the travel time – distance plane. Vertical component synthetic seismograms are computed by the Cagniard – de Hoop algorithm and are compared with seismograms recorded at the ocean bottom. The results explain the prominent features of the observed wavetrains, including the asymptotic behaviour of arrivals, the location of caustics and the variable observability of arrivals as a fu nction of distance.

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