ABSTRACT

This study documents the growth of a megaflap along the flank of a passive salt diapir as a result of the long-lived interaction between sedimentation and halokinetic deformation. Megaflaps are nearly vertical to overturned, deep minibasin stratal panels that extend multiple kilometers up steep flanks of salt diapirs or equivalent welds. Recent interest has been sparked by well penetrations of unidentified megaflaps that typically result in economic failure, but their formation is also fundamental to understanding the early history of salt basins. This study represents one of the first systematic characterizations of an exposed megaflap with regards to sub-seismic sedimentologic, stratigraphic, and structural details. The Witchelina diapir is an exposed Neoproterozoic primary passive salt diapir in the eastern Willouran Ranges of South Australia. Flanking minibasin strata of the Top Mount Sandstone, Willawalpa Formation, and Witchelina Quartzite, exposed as an oblique cross section, record the early history of passive diapirism in the Willouran Trough, including a halokinetically drape-folded megaflap. Witchelina diapir offers a unique opportunity to investigate sedimentologic responses to the initiation and evolution of passive salt movement. Using field mapping, stratigraphic sections, petrographic analyses, correlation diagrams, and a quantitative restoration, we document depositional facies, thickness trends, and stratal geometries to interpret depositional environments, sequence stratigraphy, and halokinetic evolution of the Witchelina diapir and flanking minibasins. Top Mount, Willawalpa, and Witchelina strata were deposited in barrier-bar-complex to tidal-flat environments, but temporal and spatial variations in sedimentation and stratigraphic patterns were strongly influenced from the earliest stages by the passively rising Witchelina diapir on both regional (basinwide) and local minibasin scales. The salt-margin geometry was depositionally modified by an early erosional sequence boundary that exposed the Witchelina diapir and formed a salt shoulder, above which strata that eventually became the megaflap were subsequently deposited. This shift in the diapir margin and progressive migration of the depocenter began halokinetic rotation of flanking minibasin strata into a megaflap geometry, documenting a new concept in the understanding of deposition and deformation during passive diapirism in salt basins.

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