Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 223–237 | Cite as

Stratigraphic model of the Quaternary sediments of the Western Irish Sea Mud Belt from core, geotechnical and acoustic data

  • Mark CoughlanEmail author
  • Andrew J. Wheeler
  • Boris Dorschel
  • Mike Long
  • Paul Doherty
  • Tobias Mörz


A new geotechno-stratigraphic model for Quaternary deposits in the Western Irish Sea Mud Belt area is presented. This area, located in the North Irish Sea, has been heavily influenced by the advance and retreat of the British and Irish Ice Sheet during the last glaciation and subsequent Holocene marine transgression. This study uses a synthesis of lithostratigraphy, geotechnical data (from in situ cone penetration testing) and seismic profiles to generate a stratigraphic framework describing the geometry, distribution and characteristics of Quaternary deposits in an area of the Western Irish Sea Mud Belt at increased resolution. Within a regional context, this stratigraphy is compared with other established offshore stratigraphies in the Irish Sea and terrestrial successions. Four stratigraphic units are identified consisting of a basal subglacial (lodgement) till (Unit 4) emplaced by the Irish Sea Ice Stream. Unit 4 overlies irregular bedrock and is overlain in turn by glaciomarine to glaciolacustrine, ice-proximal outwash and glaciomarine ice-proximal sand and sandy muds (Units 3 and 2 respectively; previously undifferentiated). A thick succession (up to 27 m) of Holocene marine muds (Unit 1) caps the sequence up to the contemporary seabed. Results show that these deposits, and their geotechnical properties, have significant implications for the anthropogenic use of the area, such as the development of offshore renewable energy infrastructure. Revealed are relatively thick (up to 30 m) weak, under-consolidated sediments at the surface and highly heterogeneous, often over-consolidated, sediments that have limited groundtruthing at depth. Furthermore, localised shallow gas is imaged on seismic profiles. The influence on the geotechnical properties of the sediments by this gas revealed no significant effect on shear strength values from cone penetration testing data, although it may have implications for the long-term behaviour of the sediments.



The authors would like to thank Daniel Belknap and one anonymous reviewer for much valued constructive criticism that greatly improved the manuscript. The authors would gratefully like to acknowledge the Irish Marine Sea Assessment (CV0926) and Developing Geotechno-stratigraphies (CE14001) shipboard crew and scientists onboard RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer for assistance gathering the geophysical, geotechnical and sample data used in this study. Special thanks to Johannes Brock for processing of the CPT data.

Funding information

Ship time on the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer was funded by the Marine Institute under the 2009 and 2014 Ship Time Programme of the National Development Plan. This project received funding from the Geological Survey of Ireland (under the auspices of the INFOMAR Programme), Gaelectric Development Ltd. and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland through the Ocean Energy Prototype Research and Development Programme 2014.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Coughlan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Andrew J. Wheeler
    • 2
    • 4
  • Boris Dorschel
    • 5
  • Mike Long
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul Doherty
    • 3
  • Tobias Mörz
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Civil EngineeringUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, O’Brien Centre for Science EastUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.Gavin and Doherty GeosolutionsDublin 14Ireland
  4. 4.School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences/Environmental Research Institute/Centre for Marine and Renewable EnergyUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  5. 5.Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)D-27568 BremerhavenGermany
  6. 6.MARUM–Center for Marine Environmental SciencesUniversity of Bremen28359 BremenGermany

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