In recent years, a new model for deposition of sand bodies in a shelf environment has appeared. This model, known as the shelf sand-plume model, is hypothesized to result from storm-driven currents that are deflected around a deltaic headland, stripping sand from the headland and redepositing it in a downcurrent ‘plume’ on the inner shelf. The modern analogue for this model is considered to be an arcuate shelf sand body located off the Damietta branch of the Nile Delta. However, the distribution of older deltaic and shoreline sands probably controls the arcuate outline of the sand body. The present current system has certainly reworked these sands into ridges and large-scale bedforms but is not responsible for the overall outline of the sand body. Grain-size range and distribution of sand on the shelf demonstrate that the source of sand in the Nile shelf sand body is not the modern Damietta headland as postulated by the shelf sandplume model.
In our view, the shelf sand-plume model is presently unsubstantiated and has orginated as a misapplication of the original Nile example. As a geological model, the shelf sand-plume model lacks a set of observable, consistently applicable criteria. The only common denominator to the model is the ‘plume’ geometry of a sand body located off a deltaic promontory. However, workers postulating the existence of shelf sand-plumes have neither clearly established a ‘plume’ geometry nor shown the juxtaposition of these bodies with respect to coeval deltaic headlands in their outcrop or subsurface examples. The model does not provide criteria to distinguish a ‘shelf sand-plume’ from other classes of shelf sand bodies, notably sand ridges and storm-generated sheet-like sands. Its application to the rock record should be re-evaluated.