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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 87, No. 6 (June 2003),

P. 935-963.

Seismic stratigraphy of a large, Cretaceous shelf-margin delta complex, offshore southern Australia

Andrew A. Krassay,1 Jennifer M. Totterdell2

1Petroleum amp Marine Division, Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia; email: [email protected]
2Petroleum amp Marine Division, Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia; email: [email protected]


Andrew Krassay received his Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Adelaide on the Cretaceous sequence stratigraphy of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory. He joined Geoscience Australia in 1994, where he has worked on basin analysis and the resource potential of the Isa, Carpentaria, Bowen-Gunnedah-Surat, and Bight basins. His current research interests include integrated sequence stratigraphy, biostratigraphy, and geochemistry of the Otway Basin and other basins of southeastern Australia.

Jennifer Totterdell is a graduate of the Australian National University. She has worked on a range of regional, thematic, and basin studies at Geoscience Australia, including a continentwide paleogeographic maps project and studies of the Browse and Bowen-Gunnedah-Surat basins. Her current areas of interest are the structural and stratigraphic evolution, and petroleum potential, of the basins of the southern Australian margin.


H. Struckmeyer and J. Blevin are thanked for their contributions to seismic interpretation, facies identification, and petroleum systems analysis. A. Cortese, L. Murray, and A. Jaensch are gratefully acknowledged for digital manipulation of gridded data and drafting. The paper has benefited from constructive reviews by Geoscience Australia colleagues J. Kennard, T. Stephenson, and M. Bradshaw and AAPG reviewers K. Shanley, M. Smith, and K. McClay. We wish to thank Fugro MCS for permission to use the seismic images. This paper is published with the permission of the Chief Executive Officer of Geoscience Australia.


Seismic images along Australia's southern continental margin reveal the internal geometry and depositional history of the Hammerhead Delta, a Late Cretaceous shelf-margin delta complex in the Ceduna Subbasin of the Bight Basin. The Hammerhead Delta comprises the late Santonian to Maastrichtian Hammerhead supersequence, which is divisible into three, third-order sequence sets and their component sequences. Sequence set 1 (late Santonian to early Campanian) comprises three progradational sequences deposited after a major fall in sea level under a high sediment supply regime. Sequence set 2 (early Campanian to early Maastrichtian) comprises two, sandy progradational sequences. Basinward shifts in facies caused by forced regression are apparent between each progradational sequence. Sequence set 3 (early to late Maastrichtian) is a thick, aggradational succession deposited when the rates of creation of accommodation space and sediment supply were balanced. A transgressive episode at the top of sequence set 3 marks a rapid decrease in sediment supply and the end of deltaic sedimentation.

A long-lived sand-rich sediment supply, most likely derived from erosion of the eastern Australian highlands to the northeast, was the major influence on delta formation. Rapid progradation and the formation of thick shelf-margin clinoforms resulted in slope instability, growth-faulting, and load-induced collapse of the shelf margin during the Campanian. The Hammerhead Delta is characterized by sandy, progradational clinoforms and lacks the thick coeval prodeltaic shales and shale tectonism that are common to many other large deltas. The results of this study, which included seismic facies mapping, well correlations, and comparisons to other large shale-poor deltas, suggest that the Hammerhead Delta has excellent reservoir potential.

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