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Frank Peel - A Lost World Rediscovered: 3D Seismic Data Reveal Spectacular Images of a Jurassic Landscape on the Eve of Louann Salt Deposition in the Gulf of Mexico, with Implications for Salt Deposition

AAPG Distinguished Lecture Series, 2022-23 Season

AAPG Distinguished Lecture Series, 2022-23 Season


A Distinguished Lecture talk given by Frank Peel during 2022-23 AAPG DL Season. Click here for abstract.

Around 170 million years ago, the Gulf of Mexico basin flooded catastrophically, and the pre-existing landscape, which had been a very rugged, arid, semi-desert world, was drowned beneath an inland sea of salt water. The drowned landscape was then buried under kilometers of salt, perfectly preserving the older topography. Now, with high-quality 3D seismic data, the salt appears as a transparent layer, and the details of the drowned world can be seen in exquisite detail, providing a unique snapshot of the world on the eve of the flooding event. We can map out hills and valleys, and a system of river gullies and a large, meandering river system. These rivers in turn fed into a deep central lake, whose surface was about 750m below global sea level. This new knowledge also reveals how the Louann Salt was deposited. In contrast to published models, the salt was deposited in a deep water, hypersaline sea. We can estimate the rate of deposition, and it was very fast; we believe that the entire thickness of several kilometers of salt was laid down in a few tens of thousands of years, making it possibly the fastest sustained deposition seen so far in the geological record.

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Frank Peel naturally begins his AAPG Distinguished Lecture about the Gulf of Mexico’s Louann Salt with a brief review of the history of the universe – an explanation expressed in terms of toilet tissue. Special focus goes to the evolution of the solar system, in a single roll. He then finds an empty parking space in the Jurassic and pulls in for a closer look at the pre-Louann basin landscape. It’s a dynamic scene. The magic that lets Peel “see” this landscape is high-quality 3-D seismic. Data from TGS Geophysical reveals the pre-Louann scene “frozen like a fly in amber.”

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American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Distinguished Lecturer

Frank J.

Frank J. Peel

Visiting Researcher

University of Texas, Austin

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