The Ontong Java Plateau, a large, deep-water carbonate plateau in the western equatorial Pacific, is an ideal location for studying responses of carbonate sedimentation to the effects of changing paleoceanographic conditions. These carbonate responses are often reflected in the physical properties of the sediment, which in turn control the appearance of seismic reflection profiles. Seismic stratigraphy analyses, correlating eight reflector horizons to each drill site, have been conducted in an attempt to map stratigraphic data. Accurate correlation of seismic stratigraphic data to drilling results requires conversion of traveltime to depth in meters. Synthetic seismogram models, using shipboard physical properties data, have been generated in an attempt to provide this correlation. Physical properties, including laboratory-measured and well-log data, were collected from sites drilled during Deep Sea Drilling Project Legs 30 and 89, and Ocean Drilling Program Leg 130, on the top and flank of the Ontong Java Plateau. Laboratory-measured density is corrected to in-situ conditions by accounting for porosity rebound resulting from removal of the sediment from its overburden. The correction of laboratory-measured compressional velocity to in situ appears to be largely a function of increases in elastic moduli (especially shear rigidity) with depth of burial, more than a function of changes in temperature, pressure, or density (porosity rebound). Well-log velocity and density data for the ooze intervals were found to be greatly affected by drilling disturbance; hence, they were disregarded and replaced by lab data for these intervals. Velocity and density data were used to produce synthetic seismograms. Correlation of seismic reflection data with synthetic data, and hence with depth below seafloor, at each drill site shows that a single velocity-depth function exists for sediments on the top and flank of the Ontong Java Plateau. A polynomial fit of this function provides an equation for domain conversion:

Depth (mbsf) = 44.49 + 0.800(traveltime[ms]) + 3.308 × 10"4 (traveltime[ms]2 )

Traveltime (ms) = -35.18 + 1.118(depth[mbsf]) - 1.969 × KT* (depth[mbsf]2 )

Seismic reflection profiles down the flank of the plateau undergo three significant changes: (1) a drastic thinning of the sediment column with depth, (2) changes in the echo-character of the profile (development of seismic facies), and (3) loss of continuous, coherent reflections. Sediments on the plateau top were largely deposited by pelagic processes, with little significant postdepositional or syndepositional modification. Sediments on the flank of the plateau are also pelagic, but they have been modified by faulting, erosion, and mass movement. These processes result in disrupted and incoherent reflectors, development of seismic facies, and redistribution of sediment on the flank of the plateau. Seismic stratigraphic analyses have shown that the sediment section decreases in thickness by as much as 65% between water depths of 2000 m water depth (at the top of the plateau) and 4000 m (near the base of the plateau). Thinning is attributed to increasing carbonate dissolution with depth. If this assumption is correct, then changes in the relative thicknesses of seismostratigraphic units at each drill site are indicative of changes in the position of the lysocline and the dissolution gradient between the lysocline and the carbonate compensation depth. We think that a shallow lysocline in the early Miocene caused sediment thinning. A deepening of the lysocline in the late-early Miocene caused relative thickening at each site. Within the middle Miocene, a sharp rise in lysoclinal depth occurs, concurrent with a steepening of the dissolution gradient. These events result in sediment thinning at all four sites. The thicker sections in the late Miocene likely correspond to a deepening of the lysocline, and a subsequent rise in the lysocline again hinders accumulation of sediment in the very late Miocene and Pliocene.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Affiliate

Publication Date



International Ocean Discovery Program

Journal Title

Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

Document Type

Conference Proceeding