The tectonic character of the eastern Aleutian Trench and some major events in its geologic history can be estimated from nine continuous seismic reflection records. A section of pre-trench, deep oceanic sediments rests on the down-warped crust that forms the trench. Nearly horizontal undeformed strata that unconformably overlie this deep oceanic section partially fill the trench. The trench fill is thickest near present sediment sources. A Pliocene age for development of the eastern Aleutian Trench is estimated from the thickness of deep oceanic sediment that accumulated after the trench began to fill. The eastern Aleutian Trench thus appears younger than the central Aleutian Trench—a relation which helps to explain the distribution of sediment along the two trench segments.
Depression of the eastern Aleutian Trench diminished or virtually ended soon after the trench began to fill. The undeformed fill provides no evidence for a large thrust fault zone at the base of the continental slope. Nor is there any evidence that oceanic sediments have disappeared beneath the continents in late Tertiary time. These observations are difficult to reconcile with the simple model of a continental margin advanced in the hypothesis of plate tectonics.