The formation of whitings on the Little Bahama Bank

Hector Bustos-Serrano, John W. Morse, Frank J. Millero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Whitings (patches of suspended fine-grained calcium carbonate) on the Great Bahama Bank (GBB) have been studied since the 1940s. The source and cause of these whitings have been hotly debated for a number of years. Recent studies have shown that resuspension of underlying sediments act as seed crystals for the slow precipitation of CaCO3. Similar studies have not been conducted on the nearby more northerly Little Bahama Bank (LBB) where satellite photographs indicate the presence of extensive whitings north of the Grand Bahama Island. Research cruises were made to the LBB in July 2003 and May 2005. On board measurements were used to examine the distribution of the components of the carbonic acid system in LBB waters. The distribution of suspended calcium carbonate was also determined and samples of the suspended material and underlying sediments were collected for analyses, including 14C age determinations. The maximum residence time for waters on the LBB is a little over half (∼ 144 d) that on the GBB. A ∼ 20% decrease was found in the salinity-normalized titration alkalinity for inner bank waters. This yields a carbonate precipitation rate similar to waters on the GBB. However, unlike the waters in the whitings on the GBB where no changes in carbonic acid system parameters have been detected, large changes in the carbonic acid system parameters were found in the whiting waters of the LBB. These results clearly indicate that active precipitation was occurring in these waters. These observations are interpreted as indicating that there is a much slower mixing of waters associated with whitings and surrounding bank waters on the LBB than on the GBB. The more closed nature of whitings on the LBB makes them better targets for study of the processes taking place in whitings. Suspended carbonate mineralogy and geochemistry closely matched those of the fine-grained portion of the underlying sediments. These results support a close relationship between carbonates found in whitings and those in underlying sediments. This is further evidenced by a similar age for whiting carbonates (∼ 700 y) and easily resuspended sediment carbonates (∼ 1000 y) and is what was previously observed on the GBB. These observations indicate that the processes leading to whiting formation and associated calcium carbonate precipitation along with changes in water chemistry are quite similar in these two shallow carbonate bank environments in the Bahamas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Chemistry
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 30 2009


  • Inorganic carbon
  • Suspended calcium carbonate
  • Whitings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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