The Plio-Pleistocene Whalers Bluff Formation (WBF) of the offshore Otway Basin is composed of mixed siliciclastic-carbonate sediments. In seismic cross sections, this formation includes an interval that consists of higher amplitude seismic reflections that display alternating depressional ponds and raised ridges. This interval is shallowly buried and lies between 40 and 150 ms two-way traveltime below the present-day seafloor. In this study, we have used 2D and 3D seismic data sets in combination with the available shallow subsurface well logs to characterize the geomorphology and investigate the origin of these enigmatic features. The ponds are expressed as densely packed, circular to polygonal, and in some cases, hexagonal-shaped features in time-slice maps, and they closely resemble previously documented honeycomb structures. In our study area, the honeycomb-like structures (HS) are comprised of large (200–800 m diameter range) depressed ponds that are separated by narrow (approximately 20 m at the top) reticulate ridges. In total, these HS cover an area of 760 km2. Geospatial analysis shows that the ponds of HS, especially those in the northeast of the study area, are aligned along the northwest–southeast trend lines. There are several possible origins for the HS. The most probable mechanism is that the HS resulted from the bulk contraction of soft sediment, associated with shallow-burial diagenesis processes such as subaqueous dewatering of the fine-grained successions within the WBF. Interestingly, irregular furrows of various lengths on the seafloor correspond to the ridges of the HS, and we hypothesize that these furrows may have formed due to differential compaction of the underlying alternating ponds and ridges. Our results demonstrate the benefits of using seismic reflection data sets in combination with geospatial analysis to investigate the buried paleogeomorphologic features and their impact on the present-day seafloor physiography.

  • Geological feature:

    Honeycomb-like, soft sediment deformation associated with shallow-burial diagenesis, Otway Basin, southeastern Australia

  • Cross-section appearance:

    Alternating depressional ponds and raised ridges

  • Map view appearance:

    Densely packed, oval to polygonal-shaped features

  • Features with a similar appearance:

    Acquisition footprints, carbonate mounds/dissolution features, polygonal faults, pockmarks, opal-A to opal-CT transition

  • Formation:

    Whalers Bluff Formation, offshore Otway Basin

  • Age:

    Pliocene to recent

  • Location:

    Continental shelf of the Otway Basin, southeastern Australia

  • Data sets:

    2D and 3D seismic reflection data, borehole data, from Geological Survey of Victoria, Australia

  • Analysis tools:

    Interpretation and visualization (Petrel 2019 and DUG Insight, v.4.7, 2020), Geospatial analysis (ESRI‘s ArcMap 10.5)

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