Seabed ridges of salt and salt flows revealed in sonar data collected along the Red Sea in the 1970s
What is it about?
Rock salt occurs in the bed of the Red Sea, in places up to kilometres in thickness. Many researchers are curious about the Red Sea - it is a new ocean basin forming by the rifting or breaking up of a continent. The salt deposits there are similar to those that form deep rock salt in the ocean off Brazil and Angola, where they are accompanied by deposits filled with oil. We have scanned and re-examined seabed images collected with a sonar in the late 1970s from the British research vessel Discovery along the whole length of the Red Sea. Although these data are quite old, they are unique in covering so much of the Red Sea and areas where there is currently no public information. The images reveal ridges caused by salt rising up in straight lines ("salt walls"). In some areas we observe evidence for flows of the salt, which form round fronts with folded surfaces, much like a folded carpet.
Why is it important?
While these salt movements ("halokinetics") are well known in the Red Sea, the data show possible links with the shape of the basement underlying the salt deposits (which are revealed by the gravity field). Salt flows occur at where a major lineament crosses the Red Sea (Zabargad Fracture Zone), which is evidence that it has been extending.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Neil C. Mitchell