Marine geophysical surveys in the Barents Sea have provided new data on the main structural elements and the distribution of sediments. The area is divided into four main regions on the basis of the sediment distribution and the seismic velocities: (1) The area between Svalbard, Bear Island, and Hopen — the Svalbard Platform — is underlain by high-velocity sediments (sea-floor velocities of 3.8 to 4.4 km/s) probably of early Mesozoic and late Paleozoic age. (2) There are two regional sedimentary basins — the east-west North Cape Basin between Bear Island and Norway and the southwest-trending Novaya Zemlya Basin between Hopen and Novaya Zemlya. The basins appear to merge into an extension of the Pechora Basin in the southeastern Barents Sea. The sea-floor velocity is generally in the range of 2.5 to 3.1 km/s, and the sediments are probably of Mesozoic and late Paleozoic age. The main structural fabric is southwest-northeast. (3) On the western continental margin there is a low-velocity wedge (1.8 to 2.4 km/s) of Cenozoic material deposited on top of the layers found in the basins. (4) A region of outcropping basement is found adjacent to the southern coastline.
The area developed as an epicontinental shallow sea that was connected with the sedimentary basins now found on the margins of Norway and Greenland. The major part of the Barents Sea was above sea level during most of the Tertiary Period. The data indicate that the basins are of interest for commercial exploration.