The geology of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is dynamic, driven not by plate tectonics but by the movement of subsurface bodies of salt. Salt deposits, a remnant of an ocean that existed some 200 million years ago, behave in a certain way when overlain by heavy sediments. They compact, deform, squeeze into cracks, and balloon into overlying material.
Such salt tectonics continue to sculpt the geologic strata and seafloor in the GOM like few other places on Earth. Because of this salt tectonism and a steady supply of sediment delivered to the basin by rivers, the GOM’s seafloor is a terrain continually in flux. Bathymetry is ripe with active faults and escarpments, slump blocks and slides, canyons and channels, sediment waves, pockmarks and mud volcanoes, and other natural oil and gas seeps.
Now a new regional seafloor data set created by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) reveals that dynamic environment with stunning new clarity. The data include detailed seismic surveys originally shot by 15 different companies involved in the oil and gas industry. BOEM gained permission to release the relevant proprietary data publicly in a freely downloadable aggregate map of the seafloor.