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Challenges in Imaging the Deep Seabed: Examples from Gulf of Mexico Cold Seeps

Carol Lutken, Marco D'Emidio, Michela Ingrassia, Leonardo Macelloni, and Martina Pierdomenico
[email protected]

Applying improved processing techniques to increasingly high resolution data can produce extremely high resolution results that reveal features invisible on standard resolution images. Increasing demand for resources from the deep sea demands imaging the seabed in ever-more remote areas with increased accuracy. For economic, safety, and legal reasons, lessors of offshore real estate survey the seafloor and shallow sub-seafloor prior to conducting seafloor operations. A standard geohazard survey includes multibeam bathymetry, side-scan sonar and chirp subbottom profiling and will yield useful data at 5-25m resolution. However, higher resolution surveys are now possible and, though more time-consuming (and costly), yield potentially critical information not visible in coarser resolution surveys: morphologic features, structure, biota, etc. Recovering such information has become increasingly important for reasons that include 1) Identification of natural seafloor features (i.e. fault traces, protected seafloor communities, seeps, mud volcanos), 2) Selection/elimination of target locations, 3) Identification of unnatural features (shipwrecks, instruments, pipelines), 4) Siting structures on the seafloor, 5) Instrument location/recovery. Using coarser resolution surveying for regional studies, then focusing higher resolution surveys on areas of particular interest, and applying meticulous processing of acoustic data, our team has produced 1m resolution seafloor images that have enabled us to identify a host of small-scale features not routinely imaged at coarser resolutions. Here we present significant results including small-scale morphologic features associated with seeps, instrument locations, and benthic fauna habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90167©2013 GCAGS and GCSSEPM 63rd Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana, October 6-8, 2013