Three major bathymetric features exist in the Bering Sea: Shirshov Ridge, Bowers Ridge, and Umnak Plateau. New refraction data over Umnak Plateau and previous geophysical data across Bowers Ridge indicate that a thickened welt of crustal material is present beneath both features. The crustal structure is transitional between oceanic and continental types.

Various models for the origin of these features have been investigated. One that has not been proposed previously assumes that the protostructures of Bowers Ridge and Umnak Plateau could have formed outside of the present Bering Sea. According to this model, before formation of the Aleutian Ridge in late Mesozoic or earliest Tertiary time, these protostructures moved into their present Bering Sea positions.

Prior to the arrival of these two structures in the Bering Sea, oceanic crust was subducted along the Bering continental margin connecting Alaska and Siberia. The collision of the Umnak Plateau protostructure with the southeastern edge of the margin may have caused subduction to terminate here and move southward. The new southerly position of subduction beneath the Aleutian Ridge was therefore controlled by late Mesozoic or early Tertiary locations of Umnak Plateau, Bowers Ridge, and possibly, the north-trending Shirshov Ridge farther to the west.

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