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Abstract

Improvements in 3D seismic data and depth imaging of allochthonous salt bodies in the deep water Gulf of Mexico allow for detailed definition of individual salt allochthons, and an understanding of their number and distribution.

Single-tiered allochthons represent salt originating directly from Mesozoic salt layers. The family of single-tiered allochthons defines the present-day Sigsbee Escarpment. Triangular notches along the base of the allochthonous salt surface commonly characterize single-tiered allochthons. The notches are located between demonstrable vertical salt feeder regions, and are interpreted to represent early lateral suture regions with little associated sediment deformation. Perimeter sutures are located between the tapering, leading edge of the allochthon and its impingement with an adjacent allochthon. These sutures are most pronounced where the tapering leading edge of one allochthon impinges upon the source feeder region of the second allochthon.

Multi-tiered allochthons emanate from deformed precursors at deeper levels. They are typically rugose along their top salt surface, resulting in seismic ray path distortion and the consequent loss of and/or a poor subsalt image. Multi-tiered allochthons also display abundant internal reflectors and complex suturing.

Extensive lateral sutures are observed both in single-tiered and multi-tiered salt regions. Lateral sutures, in single-tiered allochthons, are associated with salt feeder regions and parallel or diverge slightly away from the base allochthon seismic event. These sutures are located in the lower third of the amalgamated salt body, suggesting an early origin. In multi-tiered allochthons, the lateral sutures are observed at any height within the allochthon and display less affinity to vertical salt sourcing regions.

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