Tectono-stratigraphic evolution of the Cenozoic Great Australian Bight

  • Alexander Sharples

Student thesis: Phd


The Great Australian Bight (GAB) is an extensive W-E striking continental margin basin that drifted northwards during the Cenozoic following rifting and separation from Antarctica in the mid/late Cretaceous. Seafloor spreading accelerated in the mid-Eocene and was associated with local volcanism. The mid-Eocene succession of the GAB is conspicuously mounded and separates a dominantly siliciclastic succession below from a fully marine carbonate succession above. The mounded succession was penecontemporaneous with major changes in global climate, oceanographic conditions and tectonic re-organization in the region, and thus may hold important clues as to the palaeo-environmental changes associated with these changes. The mid Eocene has so far only been described locally or in passing, usually by studies focused on either the siliciclastics below or the carbonates above. It was therefore chosen as a major focus point for the research project reported herein. Exploration activity in the GAB has been limited despite the presence of a working petroleum system and large target structures, but industry interest has increased over the past few years leading to 3D seismic surveys being acquired in the GAB. The focus for exploration is the Cretaceous succession beneath the relatively thin Cenozoic cover, which however, is still important in terms of shallow hazards and as overburden to the anticipated productive sections. As is often the case, the new 3D seismic data shows many overburden features in great detail and thus affords new insights to be gained that improve our understanding of the post-rift evolution of the marginThis thesis expands upon and reinterprets a pre-existing sequence framework in the Cenozoic GAB based from ODP Leg 182 results. A vast database of 2D and 3D seismic surveys has been integrated with exploration wells and borehole data and several surfaces have been calibrated to borehole and well constraints, then mapped to the maximum lateral extent across the available dataset. Surface mapping provided new insight into sequence deposition and palaeoenvironmental settings. Structure maps and thickness maps highlight key depocentre locations and trends over the Cenozoic GAB as well as stacked mass debris aprons. The newly discovered sequences raise new questions regarding trigger mechanisms in a-seismic areas and feed into industry geohazard perception models.The base surface of the Cenozoic framework hosts a plethora of mounded features across shelf and basinal section. All mounds within the dataset have been mapped. A set a bryozoan reef mounds have been interpreted lying parallel to the margin as linear complexes over 500 km. They coincide with the underlying siliciclastic delta clinoform breakpoints and provide insight into the changing palaeoenvironment at the 43 Ma mark, cessation of siliciclastics and regional marine transgression. Further mound mapping aided by 3D attribute extractions along the base Cenozoic unconformity led to the interpretation of a series of enigmatic igneous-based mounded features. The discoveries have been included in a comparative study, comparing all mounded features (igneous or carbonate) and contrasting their individual characteristics of geometry, seismic facies, dimension in order to understand mound origin and emplacement. A new grouping of mounds in the GAB has been established, the origin and emplacement mechanisms of which contribute to the global knowledge base.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMads Huuse (Supervisor), Neil Mitchell (Supervisor) & Catherine Hollis (Supervisor)


  • Great Australian Bight, Ceduna, Eyre, Southern Ocean, Bryozoans, Carbonate Reefs, Cool-water Carbonates

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