GEOPHYSICS, VOL. 55, NO. 1 (JANUARY 1990); P. 92-96, 7 FIGS.

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Short Note

A vertical array method for shallow seismic refraction
surveying of the sea floor

J. A. Hunter* and S. E. Pullan*

INTRODUCTION although it need not be there. Seismic impulsive sources
(explosives, air or water guns, sparkers, etc.) can be placed
In recent years, specific requirements of offshore geotech- either on the sea floor or in the water column at an offset
nical site investigations, as well as detailed defense research from the vertical receiver array. In practice, several offsets
studies, have stimulated research interest in methods for may be required.
measuring seismic velocities of sea-floor sediments on the For a model consisting of a vertical array and a series of
continental shelves. Investigations have used wide-angle flat-lying subbottom refractors, the traveltimes of first-ar-
subbottom reflection measurements (McKay and McKay, rival events can be expressed by simple mathematical for-
1982), bottom-laid refraction cables (Hunter et al., 1979), mulas. The traveltime of the direct wave through the water
and towed refraction arrays, both on the surface (Hunter and from the source to one receiver of the array is
Hobson, 1974) and at depth (Fortin et al., 1987; Fagot, 1983).
In this note we discuss the concept of a vertical array of
hydrophones in the water column for the measurement of
compressional velocities of waves refracted through the
immediate sub-sea bottom. Our method is designed for use where V o is the velocity of water, x is the source-array
primarily in ice-covered waters of continental shelves, offset, h, is the height of the receiver above the bottom, and
where the ice provides a working platform; but it has h, is the height of the source above the bottom. The
potential applications in engineering and groundwater stud- traveltime of the wave refracted along the bottom is given by
ies in deep ice-covered rivers and lakes. It may be possible
to use the technique in open waters with a two-ship opera-
Until now, measurements of refraction velocities of bot-
tom sediments in ice-covered waters have been carried out where h,, h , , and V o are as given above and V , is the
by deploying bottom-laid arrays through available open velocity of the immediate subbottom layer (Telford et al.,
leads in sea-ice (Hunter et al., 1976) or by placing individual 1976, p. 281). The traveltime of a refracted wave returned
hydrophones of an array on the sea bottom through holes in from layer n is
the ice, a technique used in shallow water only (Kurfurst and
Pullan, 1985). The advantages of the vertical-array concept
lie in the relative ease in deploying the hydrophone array and
sources and in adjusting the array geometry to obtain the
desired depth of penetration and resolution.

where V , is the velocity and Zmis the thickness of layer m .
Figure l a illustrates the geometry of the field setup for a If the first-arrival traveltimes are plotted as a function of
vertical-array experiment. The diagram shows the lowest the height of the receiver above the bottom h, as shown in
receiver (hydrophone) to be at the water-bottom interface, Figure Ib, the form of the data, at first glance, is similar to

Manuscript received by the Editor February 8, 1989; revised manuscript received July 6, 1989.
*Geological Survey of Canada, 601 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ont., Canada KIA OE8.
This paper was prepared by an agency of the Canadian government.

can only be convergence to a best-fitting model is not difficult to obtain. 1988). and thicknesses 2. which are the velocities associated with water-saturated unconsolidated materials (clays and sands). The first arrivals are shown as solid lines. as dashed lines.. A Vertical Array Refraction Method 93 that of standard horizontal surface-array refraction plots. Geometry of a vertical-array refraction experiment Such deviation from vertical could occur in practice with a assuming flat-lying subbottom refractors. consisting of a 10 m thick sea-bottom layer with a velocity of late arrivals. which lend themselves tor velocity V. a nonvertical array. Refracted arrivals To illustrate the practical effect of the higher sensitivity of from bottom and subbottom layers appear as straight line segments (S. assuming a water velocity Vo = 1460 m/s. . The dashed lines indicate the apparent measured veloci- ties. experience has shown that Since the source offset x and the shot height h. Figure 3 shows a plot of the derivative of the slope of a straight-line segment as a function of V. estimated from measurements made on the ice surface. First-arrival traveltime plotted as a function of the obtain velocities of subbottom bedrock. by recording .178. In small h. Hence. or. while the water-wave arrival has a a vertical array in measuring sediment velocities. with dipping refractors and horizontal-array refraction data. on t versus h. Redistribution subject to SEG license or copyright. where the horizontal array becomes more efficient.) . have been determined for a given shot. and t I Y RECEIVERS recording a second shot using the same shot hole. This figure indicates that the sensitivity of the vertical array exceeds that of a horizontal array by a factor of 4 at very low refraction velocities. layer Refractors from bottom and subbottom layers appear as velocities V. unlike the conventional t-x plots produced from earth model and field situations. S 2 . angle of the array. Thus. but with SOURCES a the source located higher in the water column (h. la. lb.). for velocities less than 2000 m/s. the water-break analysis must also determine the able for the given source offset x and the shot height h. Modeling suggests that field opera- tions to test for dipping refractors can be accomplished either by shooting into the array from different directions. 1500 m/s (clay) overlying a semiinfinite layer with a velocity . occur for small changes in V. ical relationships (Lockhard. [equation (4)] with respect to velocity V.. whereas use of a horizontal array would be a more accurate approach if the objective is to FIG. > 0). . = 01. VERTICAL SENSITIVITY Figure 2 shows a plot of slope S. one shot with the source on the bottom (h. are from the deepest subbottom refractor observ. results in more cumbersome mathemat- plots of vertical-array data increases with increasing refrac. a vertical array should be employed if the objective of the survey is to obtain accurate velocities of sub-sea bottom RECEIVER HEIGHT ABOVE SEABOTTON (h. S. = O). . poorly weighted array in the presence of a strong water current.. These calculations are relatively straightforward for a model con- sisting of horizontal sub-sea bottom layers and a vertical Downloaded 06/16/16 to 180. height of the receiver above the bottom. This advantage rapidly dimin- ishes and disappears entirely at velocities above 2060 m/s. . the slope S. unconsolidated sediments.62. To compare the sensitivity of the vertical array with that of a horizontal array laid on the sea bottom. assuming that the array is off-vertical by + 10 degrees. this case.98. Large changes in S. Once x and h. the Analyses of dipping-refractor models have shown that vertical-array method requires an analysis of the arrival apparent velocities of refractors for downdip and updip times from the direct water wave (late events on the record) shooting are similar to those encountered in conventional to provide an accurate determination of these parameters. if only the component of dip in the vertical plane of the experiment is required. assuming a water velocity Vo of 1460 mls. a model hyperbolic shape. requiring the drilling of additional shot holes when working through the ice. see Terms of Use at http://library. for a vertical array (solid line). surface-refraction work. can be calculated from the straight-line segments having slopes given by slope measurements [equation (4)] and the intercept times of the straight-line segments [equation (3) for h. Extension of the analysis to a more realistic However. the events arriving earliest in time at to numerical modeling rather than analytical solutions. Figure 2 indicates that the errors involved in esti- mating refractor velocities for V. however. < 2000 m/s are small even if the angle of the array is not detected by the water-break I DIRECT WTER W V E traveltime analysis and is not taken into receiver array. FIG.

98. the crossover = l/V" between these layers when using a vertical array is. The dashed lines FIG. This suggests that the vertical-array approach would result in less interpretation VERTICAL ARRAY error in analyzing traveltimes and in the selection of seg.178. Seawater velocity was assumed to be 1460 d s . Redistribution subject to SEG license or copyright. =IV. assuming the velocity model shown in the inset. it was possible to obtain velocity structure to depths in excess of 40 m below bottom. 100. 94 Hunter and Pullan of 1600 d s (sand) was examined. in comparison. Plot of the derivative of the slope of refracted arrival line segments as a function of the refractor velocity for both the horizontal and vertical arrays. (m/ms) FIG.4a. A 12-channel array with 3 m spacing between hydrophones was deployed in 40 m of water through a hole in the ice. (m) showing the high sensitivity of the data to small changes in velocity for velocities below 2000 d s . In diifering field REFRACTOR VELOCITY V. see Terms of Use at http://library. RECEIVER HEIGHT OFF BOTTOM h .62. array. the plot is centered on the subtle crossover SLOPE :A ~ / A X between 1500 d s and 1600 d s .3. small dynamite charges were detonated on the river bottom. SLOPE =~t/~hr ments corresponding to subbottom layers. Calculated t-h. The field geometry and layer interpretation are shown in Figure 5. for a shot offset x of 150 m (Figure 4a). .2. At three shot-hole locations.2-Vo'/CV"xVo) FIELD EXAMPLE A field test of the vertical array was carried out on the ice-covered Ottawa River near Ottawa. With this field setup. This figure shows that the sensitivity of the vertical array in measuring refractor veloc- ities exceeds that of the horizontal array for velocities below 2060 d s .seg. versus refractor velocity V. much more pronounced. For a vertical array. The corresponding plot of traveltime against source-receiver offset x for a horizontal sea-bottom array is shown in Figure 4b. For the horizontal array HORIZONTAL ARRAY (Figure 4b). Plot of refractor slope similar abscissa and ordinate scales. Both plots have Downloaded 06/16/16 to 180. and 150 m from the array. However. offset 50. traveltime was plotted against receiver height off the bottom h. water FIG. plot for a vertical array in the water indicate the errors in measurement if an array that was column and a source at the sea bottom offset 150 m from the deployed at angles of +lo0 was assumed to be vertical.

versatile as conventional on-land refraction surveying.178. Calculated t-x plot for a horizontal sea-bottom array the Ottawa River site. later arrivals are clipped due to amplifier saturation. Recording instruments with greater dynamic range would be necessary to preserve the precise onset of the hr (m) SHOT OFFSET water-wave event. see Terms of Use at http://library. The outputs of Mark Products P-44 the two straight line segments is much less pronounced than hydrophones were recorded without filters using an EG & G in the case of the vertical array. Field setup for the Ottawa River vertical-array experiment. the array and shot geometry can be designed to be as in the use of this technique.. 33 WATER ARRIVAL A ICE ARRIVAL' WIT& ARRIVAL 1 4 6 0 m/s SEABOTTOM 0 . This is important because primary array. Geometrics ES-1210F seismograph set at 30 dB gain. Water depth beneath the ice is thus a limiting factor words. The crossover between detonated on bottom.4b. Three seismograms recorded with a vertical array at FIG. low. river bottom x-11- \ t I 2.85m / I t FIG. 5.seg. The source was a 9 g primer charge assuming the same velocity model. 1. seismograph water V.. Redistribution subject to SEG license or copyright. it is possible to alter An ice-arrival. Low-amplitude. from waves which travel up through the both shot offsets and vertical positions of the array to obtain water column and are then refracted through the surface ice. deeper water).62. In other phones.6.98. both shallow and deeper subbottom penetration without can be seen as an interfering event on near-surface hydro- substantial alteration of the design of the array. x = 50m positioning information is derived from the water-wave arrivals . with the best-fit velocity model determined by computer frequency refractors can be observed at first arrivals on all records. . The velocities and thicknesses of the subbottom layers were derived from an interpretation of the results obtained at this site. =1475mls I 40m & + . A Vertical Array Refraction Method 95 situations (for example. Because of the limited dynamic range of the instru- ment (8 bits).RECEIVER OFFSET X (m) FIG. Figure 7 shows the traveltime versus hydrophone height Downloaded 06/16/16 to 180. along engineering seismograph at the site. y 10m 1 5 0 0 m/s I x=150m 1 6 0 0 m/s 33 1 1 1 I l l 1 1 1 1 1 0 20 40 60 80 (00 I TRAVELTIME (ma) 100 110 120 150 SOURCE . The water-wave arrival can be seen as a high- 0 frequency event superimposed on the clipped low-frequency Figure 6 shows a set of field seismograms recorded with an data obtained from the field records shown in Figure 6. t .

. Burns and Mr. Acoustics and the seabed: Bath Univ. especially in deeper waters of continental shelves.. M.. .. hydrophone array was weighted at intervals over its active R. Arctic Institute of North America.178. iterations involved in model fitting. and McKay. Press. Bums.. 1985. A deep-towed sound source and hydrophone array system: Performance prediction analysis and hardware description. see Terms of Use at http://library. Am. Hunter and Pullan events at h. A. P. G. A. of Earth Sciences. 1976. Good of rq2**. S.. of Paleozoic dolostone overlie Precambrian granite gneiss in Hunter. off vertical. and Pullan. M. 1976.. Sheriff. Gagn6. it might be advantageous to use this technique in open-water areas if the recording ship and the shooting ship can maintain station during deployment of both the array and the source. Press. applications in a number of engineering-geophysics prob- lems in ice-covered waters of northern latitudes. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We wish to thank Mr. J. 281-287. Judge. Permafrost and frozen sub- seabottom materials in the southern Beaufort Sea: D. 1640 m/s and 1740 m/s probably represent glacial till or The use of a 12-channel eel for shallow refraction surveying of ice bearing sediments in the Canadian Beaufort Sea: Proc... R. Geldart... deployed. A. An evaluation of a field test of a vertical Because of current drift while the shots were lowered to seismic arrav: un~ublishedrevort. FIG. J.. Redistribution subject to SEG license or copyright. Beau- length so that it would stream in a straight line when fort Sea Project Tech. G. no.E. R. Fagot. Traveltime versus hydrophone height data from the REFERENCES records shown in Figure 6. A. on Ground Freezing. A. J. 1987. T. Since there is a current flowing in the Ottawa River. * . 1983. G. A seismic refraction the area.. E. Devt. 1982.. the Hunter. A. A. the surface positions of the dynamite sources of waterloo: McKay. analysis. A. D. since tills are present on shore at the Offshore Tech.. E. L. site. Symp.. Two velocity layers (5300 rn/s and 6500 mls) were Hunter. 1988). S.7. J. P.. of Beaufort lithologic interpretation of both units at this site. R. 101-102. 255-262. interpreted for bedrock. Paper 79-IC.. SUN. N. Norminton. Field and laboratory measure- data indicated that the array was at an angle of 5. Conf. Lockhard of the Univer- sity of Waterloo for the development of modeling software (Lockhard.. D. 4th Intemat. Univ. Rep. A.62.O. Good. 71. 1974.25' the Geological Survey of Canada for their technical support during field operations. The best-fit model from water-wave and refractor Kurfurst. MacAulay. Ed. J.. R. M. Hence. R. R. of the 19th till-derived materials. CONCLUSIONS data point The vertical-array concept is a novel approach to seismic- refraction surveying of seafloor sediments. and the two derived velocities are consistent with a method to detect sub-seabottom permafrost: Proc. and Harrison.25 degrees ments of seismic and mechanical properties of frozen ground: Proc. G. Acoust..seg.. while the refractor velocity is obtained through slope analysis. This note documents our initial work which was limited to relatively shallow water and shallow-penetration tests in the Ottawa River. Soc. since the derived offset Telford. and Bums. A.. L. the bottom.. and M. Testing on ice-covered continental shelves has just been successfully carried out and will be reported later. M. angle of array from vertIcab5. Good. J. 22.. Lockhard.98. and Hunter. 401-416. Compressional-wave could only be used as a guide in the determination of the velocity measurement in seabed materials by use of equipment actual shot-array offset.. 1988. A. Can. C. R. H. The vertical array has a much better sensitivity or potential resolving power to discriminate velocity variations in low-velocity sediments than does a horizontal bottom-laid array.. 871-878. and is thus less sensitive to picking errors.. Good.. = 0. A. L. and Keys. 1979. . M. This is not a serious problem in the deployed near. Sea Coastal and Shelf Research Symp.. It has potential Downloaded 06/16/16 to 180. R. The lines correspond to the model that best fits the data. in Pace. must fit both first-amval refractor velocity and water-arrival Applied geophysics: Cambridge Unlv.. A. but above the bottom: J. P. It is known that varying thicknesses Seabottom seismic refraction array designs: Geol. and Hobson. E. The bottom-sediment layers with velocities of Fortin.