Abstract

Circular depressions, or pockmarks, cover the sea floor in many estuarine regions of the western Gulf of Maine. In Belfast Bay, Maine, they are found in densities up to 160/km2, are up to 350 m in diameter and 35 m in relief, and are among the largest and deepest known. The pockmarks appear to form from the escape of biogenic natural gas and pore water and are far larger than features associated with thermogenic gas elsewhere. These pockmarks are thought to have formed (1) catastrophically during an earthquake, tsunami, or storm, or (2) slowly over thousands of years. Recent observations of bubble releases suggest continuing activity and a potential geologic hazard. The pockmarks involve a poorly documented coastal process of sediment redistribution and methane release, largely unrecognized in the rock record but widespread in middle- to high-latitude embayments.

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