USGS - science for a changing world

USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

Field Activity Details for field activity 2003-038-FA

Other ID: none

Status: Completed

Organization(s): USGS, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Funding Program(s):

Principal Investigator(s): John Bratton

Affiliate Investigator(s): David Krantz, Univ. of Toledo

Information Specialist(s): John Bratton

Data Type(s): Electro-Magnetic: Magnetics, Imagery: Photo, Sampling: Chemistry, Location-Elevation: Navigation

Scientific Purpose/Goals: Study of submarine ground water including borehole geophysics, porewater squeezing, sediment sampling and groundwater sampling.


Start Port/Location: Public Landing, MD

End Port/Location: Public Landing, MD

Start Date: 2003-08-14

End Date: 2003-08-22

Equipment Used: Downhole gamma and EM induction tools, data logger, Water sampler, Digital camera, Garmin GPS 76

Information to be Derived:

Summary of Activity and Data Gathered: On August 14-22 a USGS-led team undertook a complex subsurface field effort to study the occurrence and chemistry of submarine ground water beneath Chincoteague Bay, Maryland as a follow-up to earlier surface geophysical studies. The area was made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947 children's book (and later Disney movie), Misty of Chincoteague, about the wild ponies that live on the adjacent barrier islands, Chincoteague and Assateague. Chincoteague Bay is experiencing nutrient over-enrichment that is of concern to its primary managers, the National Park Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Submarine discharge of ground water recharged in agricultural areas on land is suspected to be a major contributor of nitrogen to the bay. Offshore work consisting of drilling, geophysical logging, and sampling was performed from a barge platform, and was augmented with onshore logging of existing wells. The maximum drilling depth reached by the barge rig was 72 feet beneath the sediment surface. The field team included John Bratton, Sarah Kelsey, and Dirk Koopmans (USGS-GD-Woods Hole and contractors); David Krantz and Abby Norton (University of Toledo); John Earle (USGS-WRD-Denver); and J.K. Bohlke and Craig Tobias (USGS-WRD-Reston). Drilling contractors from Hillis-Carnes Engineering and a barge/tug pilot provided by Hi-Tide Marine Construction consistently overcame difficult mechanical, geological, and meteorological conditions to get the science done. Special thanks go out to National Park Service colleagues from Assateague Island National Seashore, Brian Sturgis and Carl Zimmerman, who provided logistical support, shuttle boats, and lodging. The fieldwork was conducted safely and efficiently and produced excellent scientific results. Noteworthy discoveries included the presence of a plume of fully fresh ground water greater than 25 feet thick extending more than .5 mile offshore along the western side of the bay (Public Landing), a similar plume at the northern end of the bay (South Point), hypersaline brines underlying part of Assateague Island, and a widespread buried peat present at the base of the bay's Holocene sediments. Downhole gamma and electromagnetic induction logs were obtained from eight locations. Ground water samples were collected from nine temporary subestuarine wells, surface water was obtained from eight locations, and pore water was squeezed from 35 sediment samples. Additional analyses for age dating, nutrients, and stable isotopes will be performed over the coming months.

Staff: John Bratton, Dirk Koopmans, Sarah Kelsey

Affiliate Staff:
David Krantz and Abbie Norton
Univ. of Toledo
geophysics; JK Bohlke
water sampling and age dating; John Earle
USGS-WRD-Denver and Baltimore
field water quality parameters and pumps; Brian Sturgis and Carl Zimmerman
NPS-Assateague Island
logistical support (small boat) and technical assistance

Notes: Contact for barge: Denny Sharpe, 410-632-1426; Drill rig contact: Brian Siwinski, 410-880-4788; Hillis-Carnes Engineering; drillers = Mark Stawas and Kyle Plowman. Original Center People field contained: John Bratton, principal investigator, 8/13-8/22; Sarah Kelsey, mobilize, in field 8/13-8/15; Dirk Koopmans, in field, demobilize 8/20-8/22.
Project = Atlantic Coastal Groundwater Systems - Delmarva Bays, Atlantic Coastal Groundwater Systems - Delmarva Bays


Chincoteague Bay, Maryland, United States, North America, North Atlantic;

North: 38.5 South: 37.8 West: -75.45 East: -75.05


Hi-tide Barge


Bratton, J.F., 2007, The importance of shallow confining units to submarine groundwater flow, in Sanford, W., Langevin, C., Polemio, M., and Povinec, P., eds., A New Focus on Groundwater-Seawater Interactions: International Association of Hydrological Sciences, v. 312.

Bratton, J.F., 2010, The three scales of submarine groundwater flow and discharge across passive continental margins: The Journal of Geology, v. 118 no. 5, doi: 10.1086/655114.

Bratton, J.F., Bohlke, John Karl, Krantz, David E., and Tobias, Craig R., 2009, Flow and geochemistry of groundwater beneath a back-barrier lagoon; the subterranean estuary at Chincoteague Bay, Maryland, USA: Marine Chemistry, v. 113 no. 1-2, doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2009.01.004.


Data Acquired

Survey EquipmentSurvey InfoData Type(s)Data Collected
Downhole gamma and EM induction tools, data logger --- Magnetics
Digital camera --- Photo
Water sampler --- Chemistry
Garmin GPS 76 --- Navigation

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Questions or Comments? Contact CMGDS Team