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The North Makassar Straits: what lies beneath?

Robert Hall1,*, Ian R. Cloke1,2, Siti Nur’aini1,3, Sinchia Dewi Puspita1,4, Stephen J. Calvert1,5 and Christopher F. Elders1
1

SE Asia Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK 2 Tullow South Africa, 7 Coen Steytler Avenue, Cape Town 8001,South Africa 3 ConocoPhillips Indonesia, Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto Kav 9-11, Jakarta 12930, Indonesia 4 Chevron, Jl. Asia Africa No. 8, Jakarta 10270, Indonesia 5 Marathon Oil Company, Jalan TB Simatupang No. 41, Jakarta 12550, Indonesia * Corresponding author (e-mail: robert.hall@es.rhul.ac.uk)
ABSTRACT: It has been accepted for many years that eastern Borneo and western

Sulawesi were close together in the Late Cretaceous but the mechanism and age of formation of the Makassar Straits, which now separate them, have been the subjects of much debate. Geological studies on land show that the straits formed by Eocene rifting. However, the nature of the crust beneath the straits remains controversial. The southern parts are likely to be underlain by extended continental crust but, in the northern Makassar Straits, it is more difficult to decide. Water depths are up to 2500 m, there is a very thick sedimentary cover, the basement is not well imaged on seismic lines and there is no way of directly sampling it. Field studies from the Borneo and Sulawesi margins have provided the basis for reconstructing the development of the straits, and suggesting they are underlain by oceanic crust. The rift and its margins are asymmetrical and wide, with up to 400 km of stretched crust on the Borneo side and about 200 km on the Sulawesi side, separated by about 200 km of the deepest crust in the northern Makassar Straits. Gravity data and flexural modelling on the Borneo side suggest a junction between continental and oceanic crust beneath the Mahakam delta. The oceanic crust is inferred to be of Middle Eocene age, similar to the Celebes Sea to the north; apparent conical structures on seismic lines have been interpreted as volcanic edifices. However, the earliest backstripping studies suggested thinned continental crust in the central straits and this has been supported by interpretations of new seismic data from the offshore area west of Sulawesi. Half-graben and graben are interpreted beneath thick sediments, there are low-angle extensional faults, and lineaments crossing basement can be traced into the deepest parts of the straits. These structures suggest an origin by oblique rifting of continental crust in which the apparent conical structures are interpreted as carbonate build-ups on tilted fault blocks.
KEYWORDS: Eocene, rifting, continental crust, oceanic crust, Borneo, Sulawesi
INTRODUCTION The Makassar Straits (Fig. 1) separate Borneo from Sulawesi in Indonesia and are situated within a complex tectonic region at the edge of the Eurasian plate. The northern straits are the deepest, with water depths of almost 2.5 km, and they open to the north into the Celebes Sea. The southern part of the straits are shallower, with water depths mainly less than 2 km and they continue south into the shallow shelf area of the East Java Sea. The Makassar Straits are today the main passage in the transfer of water and heat from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, via the Indonesian Throughflow, which is thought to play an important role in the modern global climate system and have been an important influence on biogeographical patterns. Wallace (1869) shows a line up the Makassar Straits, beginning between
Petroleum Geoscience, Vol. 15 2009, pp. 147–158 DOI 10.1144/1354-079309-829

the islands of Bali and Lombok, and then crossing the Celebes Sea, which separated Asian and Australasian faunas and is now known as Wallace’s Line. There are two deep basins in the straits (Fig. 2). The North Makassar Basin is bounded to the south by the northern edge of the Paternoster Platform, often shown as a NW–SE-trending fault, with a narrow deep channel connecting it to the South Makassar Basin. To the east is the Palu-Koro Fault, a major sinistral strike-slip fault running NNW–SSE from onshore West Sulawesi into the Celebes Sea, and to the north is the Mangkalihat Peninsula which is also often shown as bounded by active NW–SE-trending faults. On the western side of the North Makassar Straits is the Kutai Basin, the largest and deepest (15 km) basin in Indonesia (Rose & Hartono 1978) and one of the richest
1354-0793/09/$15.00  2009 EAGE/Geological Society of London

b. Hamilton 1979. Puspita et al. The mechanism of opening has also been the subject of controversy and its cause remains uncertain. Guntoro 1999. hydrocarbon provinces in Indonesia. on the western side of the Makassar Straits. ( B ) Two-dimensional seismic data coverage used in this study (Nur’Aini et al. Hamilton 1979. Wissmann 1984. but where oil seeps have been known Fig. Wallace’s Line is the dashed line. source-rock maturation. . Fig. b. 2007) but no agreement about basement type. ( A ) Physical setting and bathymetry of the North Makassar Basin shown on the global topographic digital elevation model (DEM) of Becker & Sandwell (2007). These were named Wallace’s Line by Huxley (1868). Guntoro 1999). Cloke 1997. The Makassar Straits have also been interpreted as a remnant oceanic basin (Malecek et al. Calvert & Hall 2003. as well as the style of traps. modified in the central part of the straits using the seismic data. Small black filled triangles are volcanoes from the Smithsonian Institution. 2000 m. Hutchison 1989) favoured Miocene separation of Sulawesi and Borneo) but an Eocene age is now generally accepted. consequently. at the foot of the Mahakam delta. Moss et al. it is likely there are Eocene lacustrine source rocks. Hall (1996) proposed that oceanic spreading in the Celebes Sea during the Middle Eocene propagated towards the southwest into the northern straits. If continental. MODELS OF FORMATION East Borneo and West Sulawesi were part of a single area in the Late Mesozoic (e. If there is oceanic crust beneath the Makassar Straits.g. Miocene organic material transported into deep water would probably be required for the petroleum system to work.g. 2005. Others have argued that rifting never reached the stage of oceanic spreading (e. as discussed by Mayr (1944). with so far unproven hydrocarbon resources. There has been debate about the age of formation of the straits (e. for many years (see Calvert & Hall 2007). Hamilton 1979) but were separated during the Cenozoic by the opening of the Makassar Straits. Most authors have favoured an extensional origin for the straits (Katili 1978. Hall 1996. a back-arc basin (Parkinson 1998). and bathymetry is simplified from the GEBCO (2003) digital atlas. Hamilton (1979) showed an oceanic spreading centre down the entire length of the straits and interpreted several NW–SE transform faults. tilted fault blocks and carbonate and clastic reservoirs. this is the original biogeographical boundary identified by Wallace (1860) but an alternative was later traced north to the west of Mindanao from the northern Makassar Straits by Huxley (1868). 1997. The character of the basement beneath the Makassar Straits is important for the petroleum system since it will determine the subsidence history. thermal history and. Fraser & Ichram (2000) interpreted there to be oceanic crust beneath the northern straits and southern straits as far south as latitude 6 S. 2005) with sediment thicknesses in the offshore Kutai Basin from Moss & Chambers (1999). Hall et al. Geography of Borneo and Sulawesi and surrounding regions. Moss & Chambers 1999.g. Katili 1978. 1993). with the Middle Eocene as the age of rifting (Situmorang 1982a. Situmorang 1982a. Burollet & Salle 1981. 2. Global Volcanism Program (Siebert & Simkin 2002). 1. early accounts (Katili 1978.148 R. and Guntoro (1999) suggested that extension was due to trench rollback and sinking of a plate subducting east of a magmatic arc beneath West Sulawesi. The first deep-water production of oil and gas in Indonesia came from the eastern edge of the Kutai Basin. 4000 m and 6000 m. Bathymetric contours are at 200 m. The young fold belt in the deep-water region just offshore of West Sulawesi is now the target of active exploration. On the eastern side is West Sulawesi.

b ). 1997. The post-rift subsidence phase had started by the Late Eocene. Moss et al. but they do reveal the history and dimensions of the rifted zone. Wain & Berod 1989. as did Fraser & Ichram (2000). Moss & Chambers 1999). b. van de Weerd & Armin 1992. We then outline the observations of the offshore region based mainly on seismic data from the deep-water central and eastern straits. thus. and this is now generally accepted. They are relatively narrow and water depths are mainly less than 2 km. 1996) in response to thrust loading on one or both sides. Chambers & Daley 1997. In the Late Miocene there was another phase of inversion. just to the north. Calvert & Hall 2003. interpreted as due to uplift in central Kalimantan at about 25 Ma (Moss & Chambers 1999) and possible renewed extension in the basin (Cloke et al. 2000). 2007) and. Inversion migrated from west to east during the Early and Middle Miocene (Ferguson & McClay 1997. by the end of the Oligocene. Calvert 2000a. 1999a. The inversion on the west side of the straits in East Kalimantan (Moss et al. and interpreted to be the deposits of a forearc basin situated to the west of a west-dipping subduction zone (van Leeuwen 1981. Moss et al. there are ophiolitic rocks. Burollet & Salle 1981. There are shelves with thin sedimentary cover above basement to the east and west. 2007). Ratman & Atmawinata 1993. Calvert & Hall 2003. By the Late Eocene most of the Kutai Basin was dominated by quiet marine shale deposition with foraminiferal shoals and other carbonate build-ups on the crests of shallow-marine tilted fault blocks. 1993.The North Makassar Straits Situmorang 1982a. Although Hamilton (1979) interpreted an oceanic spreading centre. which broadly support suggestions of a relatively narrow central area of oceanic crust with passive margins to the west and east (Fig. 2007). and pass up through marginal marine into marine deposits. The lowermost Miocene has not been found. Recent seismic lines show up to 7 s of sediment above tilted fault blocks and half-graben in the central parts of the straits (Johansen et al. To the west of the North Makassar Straits Basin is the Kutai Basin (Pieters et al. 1998).g. Granite and pre-Cenozoic metamorphic rocks are known from boreholes that reach the basement. West side: Kutai In Borneo the basement consists of metamorphic. 1987. b ) indicate continental crust is much more likely. Cloke 1997. Guritno et al. Hasan 1991). which began to form in the Middle Eocene. and Cenozoic rocks rest unconformably upon deformed Cretaceous 149 turbidites and ophiolites. and a younger one between Lower Pliocene shelf sediments and Plio-Pleistocene syn-orogenic sediments (Sukamto 1973. Cloke et al. 1993. THE GEOLOGY ON EAST AND WEST SIDES OF THE STRAITS Field observations cannot directly show the nature of the basement in the central deepest-water part of the straits. 1997. and eastward propagation of folding and thrusting.and NNE-orientated graben and half-graben (Cloke et al. 1993. The western depocentres generally became marine later than those further east. b ). 2008). removing up to 3000 m of section. and outline the interpretation of basement in the Makassar Straits based on land observations and gravity modelling. cherts and associated deep-marine sediments of Cretaceous age. 1988). most of West Sulawesi was an area of shelf carbonate and mudstone deposition. 1993. sedimentary and granitic to gabbroic rocks of Devonian to Cretaceous age (van Bemmelen 1949. 1996. On the east side there was development of a fold-and-thrust belt in Western Sulawesi during the Miocene (Coffield et al. Hadiwijoyo et al. In the Late Eocene carbonate shoals and shelf mudstones developed on both margins of the Makassar Straits and. throughout the Early Miocene and in places until the Middle or Late Miocene. van de Weerd & Armin 1992.g. c ). Moss & Chambers 1999) from the Early Miocene. These are at least 1000 m thick and considered laterally equivalent to basement in other parts of western Sulawesi. Moss & Chambers 1999) which contain terrestrial deposits in their deepest parts. In the Early Miocene large amounts of clastic sediments were shed into the Kutai Basin due to erosion of the Borneo highlands to the west and later and by inversion of older parts of the basin margins to the north and west (van de Weerd & Armin 1992. 1996) or later (Calvert 2000a. Guntoro 1999) but others have put forward arguments in favour of attenuated continental crust (e. Here. Possible Paleocene–Eocene volcanic rocks are reported from wells just south of the Mangkalihat peninsula (Sunaryo et al. East side: West Sulawesi Immediately east of the North Makassar Basin are the Lariang and Karama regions of West Sulawesi where there are two major unconformities: one between basement rocks and Eocene shelf sediments. apparently based on the shape and morphology of the basin. but there is little evidence in West Sulawesi for either a significant regional unconformity. We summarize the observations from land on each side of the straits. 1987. The South Makassar Straits are almost certainly underlain by continental crust. There is an important unconformity in the Upper Oligocene. Hall et al. Pieters et al. while locally carbonate deposition continued on basement highs and near to the basin margins. The Mesozoic basement consists of metamorphic rocks unconformably overlain by less deformed Upper Cretaceous dark shales and volcanic rocks. westward progradation of the Mahakam delta and exhumation of anticlines close to the present coast. back-stripping and gravity modelling by Situmorang (1982a. Bergman et al. Instead. the straits have been interpreted as a foreland basin formed after Early Miocene continent–continent collision in Sulawesi (Coffield et al. Situmorang 1982a. 1997. 1997. Bergman et al. Since the crust beneath the Celebes Sea. is oceanic. or input of orogenic sediment. We then try to provide an objective assessment of the main arguments for oceanic and continental crust beneath the North Makassar Straits. The Eocene sediments were deposited in graben and half-graben in both marginal marine and marine environments. 1997. which explain the age and character of the margins. Rifting formed a series of north. carbonates and mudstones were deposited on a shallow-marine continental . with a thick Palaeogene syn-rift sequence above possible pre-Eocene rocks. to the east. Beneath the present mouth of the delta is the centre of the Mahakam depocentre where there is an estimated sediment thickness of more than 14 km (Moss & Chambers 1999). have suggested to some that the straits have a flexural origin. we focus on the North Makassar Straits where the nature of basement is much less clear. or a passive margin (Hall 2009). b. Extension ceased by the end of the Eocene and there was regional subsidence with widespread deposition of basinal shales during the Oligocene. Moss et al. but the oldest dated sediments are marine and record a transgression in the Middle Eocene that must post-date the initiation of rifting in the region. Continental rocks are broadly in the west and. McClay et al. Ferguson & McClay 1997. 3). Non-marine sediments at the base of the lower Cenozoic sections could be as old as the Paleocene. it is plausible that the North Makassar Straits are underlain by oceanic crust (e. 1999b.

modified from Calvert & Hall (2007). . Hall et al. 3. Fig.150 R. True scale cross-sections across the Makassar Straits at the present day and interpreted for the late Palaeogene.

Comparison of the calculated anomaly with modelled anomalies for different elastic thickness corresponding to 151 Fig. Only during the Pliocene did the character of sedimentation across the whole of western. and the two reconstructed margins are separated by the deep-water zone about 200 km wide. The zone of extension of the western margin (Kalimantan) was up to 400 km wide. 2003) or continental crust (Nur’Aini et al. 2000). 5A) which they suggested indicated an underlying crust with an elastic thickness ( Te ) of 20 km. The seafloor in the . and the development of intra-basinal unconformities and mini-basins. Typically the width of the zone of extended continental crust is 50–150 km (Louden & Chian 1999). In the Late Pliocene the Lariang and Karama regions of West Sulawesi changed from a passive margin to a foreland basin setting and sedimentation rates doubled. and fold-and-thrust belts converging from the west and east sides.The North Makassar Straits margin. Keen et al. Such an elastic thickness is similar to that of oceanic crust with an age of 48 Ma. They supported this by an investigation using gravity modelling and flexural back-stripping with a crustal model interpreted from seismic sections of the Kutai Basin. (1999b ) concluded that the central Makassar Straits was underlain by oceanic crust with a spreading centre situated to the east. (1999b ) that the central North Makassar Straits were underlain by oceanic crust. They argued that the free-air gravity high beneath the Mahakam delta was produced by rapid thinning of the crust from 30 km beneath the Kutai Basin on land to 14 km in the centre of the North Makassar Straits. Gravity and back-stripping Free-air gravity (Fig. There is large gravity high beneath the Mahakam delta depocentre. Free-air gravity map of the Makassar Straits Basin based on Smith & Sandwell (1997). Moss & Chambers (1999) suggested the great width of the rifted zone may reflect a weak warm lithosphere. as also suggested by Guntoro (1999). 2). Cloke et al. They did show thick sediments. which has propagated west into the Makassar Straits. 1996) and these were mainly of poor quality and showed little that helped to interpret the nature of the basement. first by Cloke (1997) for the Kutai Basin in eastern Borneo and. strengthened the suggestions of Cloke (1997) and Cloke et al. detachment folding and thrusting. Puspita et al. in the south arm there is no evidence for a significant break in marine deposition. later. Further south. 5B).g. plus the additional width of the deepest-water part of the central straits. 4. This includes an elongated low northeast of the Paternoster Platform that follows the narrow trough connecting the North and South Makassar Basins. and that of the eastern margin (Sulawesi) was approximately 200 km wide. although it can be as large as 400–500 km (e. Bathymetry and morphology The bathymetry in the North Makassar Straits reflects some obvious features of the deeper structure. possibly due to Cretaceous collisions in the region. central and eastern Sulawesi change significantly. Orphan Basin. OFFSHORE NORTH MAKASSAR STRAITS Until recently there were only a few regional seismic lines crossing parts of the Makassar Straits (Wissmann 1984. 2005). oceanic crust of different ages and thinned continental crust with Te typical of rifts (Fig. These data have been interpreted in different ways and used to suggest possible volcanic structures (Baillie et al. 2005. inversion and folding above Palaeogene half-graben. Uplift and erosion was followed by the deposition of coarse clastics derived from an orogenic belt to the east. To the west of the orogenic belt there was syn-orogenic sedimentation. But the great width of the areas of extension in Borneo and Sulawesi. shows that larger or smaller values of Te produced anomalies which matched less well to the observed anomaly. 1996. Bergman et al. Samuel et al. Chantrapresert 2000). 4) shows there is a broad gravity low beneath the central North Makassar Basin. They then applied the method of Watts (1988) to determine the contribution to the calculated gravity anomaly from rifting (crust and upper mantle) and the sediment load (Fig. a basement of oceanic crust (Fraser et al. However. 3) interpreted from field observations and seismic data. and an irregular low between the Mahakam delta and the Mangkalihat Peninsula. The crustal-scale cross-sections (Fig. 1987. northern Gulf of Thailand. the undeformed central parts of the straits. show that the Eocene Makassar Straits was highly asymmetrical and an extremely wide rift. (1999b ) interpreted the gravity data to suggest that oceanic crust lay beneath the central straits. in the last few years more than 10 000 km of new data have been acquired or reprocessed by TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company during seismic surveys covering large parts of the North Makassar Straits (Fig. From this Cloke et al. Width of the rift Interpretations based on the onshore investigations have favoured oceanic crust in the central part of the north Makassar Straits. by Calvert (2000b ) for the Lariang and Karama Basins of West Sulawesi.

crossing the front of the Mahakam delta. The best match is for Te=20 km. The cliff-like feature east of the Offshore West Sulawesi Foldbelt. The area immediately east of the deformed zone is beyond the ends of the seismic lines but there is a rapid decrease in . Fig. reflecting folding and thrusting of a deformed zone that is now described as the Offshore West Sulawesi Foldbelt. Its northern limit is not seen. (1999b ). ( A ) Profiles show the calculated (a) crust thickness and (b) sediment thickness anomalies which combine to provide the (c) total anomaly. about 30 km wide and lies between latitude 0 50#S and 1 30#S. is partly an artefact of the merged bathymetric data. in particular the character and position of the deformation front. From south to north. Thin dashed lines show the tectonic subsidence/uplift (TSU) and back-stripped Moho based on a Te=20 km. Central Structural Province. 40– 80 km wide. Central Structural Province (CSP) and Northern Structural Province (NSP) based on seafloor characteristics. especially clear behind the Southern Structural Province (SSP). this deformed zone can be divided into three provinces (Fig. The SSP is south of 1 30#S and is c. At the very northern edge of the North Makassar Straits is the Palu-Koro fault which can be traced offshore but is seen on only a few seismic lines at the limit of our dataset. The CSP is very narrow. subsurface deformation. 6). 5. compared to the (d) observed free-air and Bouguer gravity anomaly based on an elastic thickness ( Te ) of 20 km. Results of flexural modelling and back-stripping. ( B ) Comparison of the observed free-air and Bouguer anomaly and the calculated anomaly expected for different values of Te: values typical of rift basins ( Te=5 and 10 km) and old oceanic crust ( Te=50 km). 6. CSP. 6): the Southern Structural Province (SSP). In the north the water depth is almost 2500 m and is about 200 m less in the south. Fig. which is close to that expected for 48 Ma oceanic crust. NSP.152 R. a very steep rise to the shelf must be present as there is a very short distance between the 1000 m bathymetric contour and the coast. Northern Structural Province. Hall et al. the seafloor rises gradually to the very shallow East Kalimantan Shelf. In the east. Depths decrease towards the carbonate-dominated Paternoster Platform in the south and the Mangkalihat Peninsula in the north. rather more abruptly than on the west side. Three-dimensional view of bathymetry of the North Makassar Straits and topography of Western Sulawesi produced by merging bathymetric data from seismic data with the global bathymetry of Smith & Sandwell (1997) and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) topographic data for onshore Sulawesi. The NSP is north of latitude 0 50#S and is between 50 km and 100 km wide. the seafloor shallows towards western Sulawesi. To the west. modified from Cloke et al. Nevertheless. central North Makassar Straits is flat and undeformed (Fig.

due to the thickness of overlying sediments in the undeformed area (up to 4 s TWT). Structure The Cenozoic sedimentary sequence in the central part of the North Makassar Straits is undeformed and separated from the Offshore West Sulawesi Foldbelt by a change in slope at which there are folds. The NW–SE to NNE–SSW features are not associated with faults in the overlying sediments. or rift-related topography with carbonate build-ups. immediately north of the Paternoster Platform. The NSP and SSP are sedimentary wedges with different characteristics separated by the basement high of the CSP. just east of the coast. showing the two main rhombic depressions crossing the straits in a NW–SE orientation. In the NSP there are no clear continuous reflectors. with contours in seconds TWT.The North Makassar Straits 153 Fig. 1987) where variations along-strike in internal character and slope angles have been interpreted as due to differences between muddominated and sand-dominated sequences. the basal unconformity is deepest in the south. A very prominent reflector on most seismic lines and the deepest distinctive horizon that can be mapped throughout most of the area is here termed the basal unconformity (Fig. and beneath the two sediment wedges. The characteristics of the NSP and SSP are similar to those in deformed areas of the Timor Trough south of Timor (Karig et al. even though locally this horizon resembles the top of basement. and thrusts and folds are not well developed. Puspita et al. which we describe as a deformation front since its expression varies from place to place (Figs. This extends from the undeformed central straits to beneath the deformed belt. have been brought to the surface by young thrusting (Calvert 2000a. (2005). Baillie et al. The seismic data suggest distributed deformation. thrust faults and folds are very obvious. 6 and 7). including pre-Cenozoic basement. pre-Pliocene rocks. North of this depression is an irregular higher area of similar width. Note the apparently continuous ridges trending NNE–SSW and NW–SE that have been interpreted as volcanic structures and tilted fault blocks. Depths of almost 2500 m in the North Makassar Straits are separated from mountains of 3000 m by less than 200 km horizontal distance. Combining bathymetric data from the seismic lines and topography from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) shows a steep shelf edge with a narrow shelf. and descends to the east. Guntoro (1999) identified this reflector as top acoustic basement. small individual structural units. tracing seismic horizons and interpreting structure becomes more difficult with increasing depth. In the SSP. and a steep sharp deformation front. 7). These are often shown to be bounded by NW–SE faults. 7. Basal unconformity In the central part of the straits. strata are flat lying and mostly parallel to sub-parallel in the central part of the straits. the deeper structure can be mapped out. in many places there are observable structures beneath it which have been interpreted as volcanic edifices. Above it. In contrast to the bathymetry. close to the Paternoster Platform. However. The strong and weak amplitude reflectors in the deformed succession suggest interbedded sands and muds. there is a narrow coastal plain and. the mountains are up to 3000 m high. However. At the southern end of the area is a rhomb-shaped depression. The most striking features to emerge from mapping the basal unconformity and contouring the surface are a number of NW–SE and NNE–SSW features (Fig. and blind and emergent thrusts and backthrusts. small graben associated with shale diapirism. and growth strata between thrust faults can be distinguished. 7). (2005) suggested this is the top of the syn-rift sequence. Approximately 100 km east of the coast. ( A ) Map of the surface of the basal unconformity by Puspita et al. at the north and south end of the North Makassar Basin are the Mangkalihat Peninsula and the Paternoster Platform. (2000) interpreted it as the top of oceanic crust or thinned continental crust. However. There is a gentler overall slope to the sediment wedge and no steep deformation front. Both remained structural . gradually onlapped eastwards by a thin sediment cover which is little deformed. towards West Sulawesi. b ). and remains at a similar depth across most of the straits. All these features suggest relatively homogeneous mud-rich sediments. It ascends gradually towards the Mangkalihat Peninsula in the north. and the thickness and deformation of the sediment wedges of the NSP and SSP (up to 7 s TWT). Onshore. ( B ) The same surface contoured. about 100 km wide. water depth.

which in places may have been reactivated. These observations have been interpreted as indicating oblique extension of a basement with a pre-existing fabric (Nur’Aini et al. b. (2002) are about 1 km across. Except for the Paternoster Fault. In the south of the area the map of top basement shows an irregular topography interpreted as due to faulting. 2003). Bechtel et al. Hall et al. Backstripping and flexural modelling indicate that the best fit to . The fault pattern (Fig. but they appear to be asymmetrical. Oblique rifting of a sequence in which there are pre-existing basement faults leads to a complex pattern in which new faults are typically not perpendicular to the extension direction. Along-strike. 1990. the elastic thickness of continental crust is much more variable and less predictable than oceanic crust (Burov & Diament 1995. because the very thick sediment cover and the great depth to basement means that no direct sampling is possible. sills and dykes imaged in 3D surveys on the northeast Atlantic margin (Davies et al. At the level of basement. The northern margin of the Paternoster Platform is clearly a major steep fault with about 2 km of normal offset of the Eocene and the large displacement is inconsistent with an oceanic transform fault. 2005) and are probably the features that were interpreted as extrusive centres (Fraser et al. Guritno et al. By comparison with the analogue models of McClay & White (1995). and a higher Te could reflect an olivine-rich rheology or strong layer due to Cretaceous ophiolite accretion. However. mapping in West Sulawesi (Calvert. Hyndman et al. The great width of the extended region may reflect heating and weakening of the lithosphere during Mesozoic accretionary events (Moss & Chambers 1999) or long-term subduction beneath Sundaland (Hall & Morley 2004. The deep unconformity in the straits is most likely the top of the syn-rift sequence and marks the beginning of the sag phase of dominantly thermal subsidence that continued during the Oligocene (Situmorang 1982a. DISCUSSION: CONTINENTAL OR OCEANIC CRUST? The nature of the basement to the central part of the Makassar Straits can be interpreted only indirectly. observed gravity profiles is achieved if the basement is oceanic crust of about 50 Ma age. Their width and height would be unusual for basaltic volcanoes. The volcanic structures interpreted from 3D seismic data by Davies et al. Further north the structure at basement level is less well imaged due to the presence of the overlying thick. at an angle of approximately 60 to pre-existing faults (Fig. may also result from simple shear. the faults are discontinuous and associated with small half-graben and graben. Overlapping fault tips suggest relay structures along which the fault polarity is reversed. Half-graben and graben are evident in places. which is very similar to that demonstrated for the Celebes Sea to the north. 2008). Watts & Burov 2003. Bergman et al. by analogy with better imaged areas further south. however. 2002). Mapping beneath the basal unconformity Especially at the southern end of the southern rhombic depression. the fault system in the North Makassar Straits seems most likely to represent oblique rifting with a principal extension direction E–W. none of the NW–SE features crossing the straits in our dataset show any sign of having been active faults during the Cenozoic. en-echelon faults display zones of overlapping splays. The continental crust interpretation is favoured by the observations that rifting structures can be seen below the basal unconformity. whereas from the Middle Eocene the Kutai Basin subsided to great depths. This resembles profiles across the southern Labrador Sea.g. 2005). and the pattern of faulting mapped below the basal unconformity is similar to that expected from oblique extension of a basement with a pre-existing NW–SE fabric (Nur’Aini et al. However. sedimentary wedges. rheology and lithospheric structure. 8) is characterized by short rift border faults which are highly segmented and form en-echelon fault arrays parallel to the zone of rifting. NW–SE-trending structures are interpreted as transform offsets of the spreading axis. it is possible to map structures beneath the basal unconformity (Nur’Aini et al. In profile. Because of the spacing of seismic lines it is not possible to say with certainty that these features are continuous. The NW–SE lineaments which segment the basin are interpreted to be Cretaceous or Paleocene structures. these and other features on seismic lines resemble submarine volcanoes. 1996). Elastic thickness varies with temperature. whereas their dimensions are very similar to tilted fault blocks from other highs during the Cenozoic with almost continuous shallowwater carbonate deposition. basement topography can be similarly interpreted in terms of extensional faults. The Makassar Straits and its margins are asymmetrical with a wider region of extended crust on the west side (Borneo) compared to the east side (Sulawesi). 1996. A change in polarity of faults can also be seen in some areas. 2005). 8). and the modelled result of Te=20 km is well within the range of values from continents and their margins (e. This suggests some deep structural control with normal faulting in the Eocene. 2000b ) shows structures with similar orientation that continue towards the deformed zone offshore which probably segmented the area during the early Cenozoic and were reactivated as strike-slip faults during Pliocene to Recent deformation. 1991). In the area near the edge of the Paternoster Platform. There are linear features on the contoured surface trending broadly NNE–SSW. Such asymmetry. The flexural modelling makes a good case for oceanic crust. in particular. Pérez-Gussinyé et al.g. Ebinger et al. In contrast. The triangular structures seen below the basal unconformity are interpreted as carbonate build-ups on tilted fault blocks. Watts 2001). and extended regions of similar dimensions are known to be underlain by thinned continental crust (e.5 km water depth and there are several kilometres of almost undisturbed flat-lying sediments above the basement. supported by the presence of clear syn-rift wedges in the hanging walls of extensional faults. whereas those in the Makassar Straits are typically between 4 km and 10 km across. as clearly seen in the restored crustal sections of Figure 3. This direction is different to the NW–SE extension direction proposed by Hamilton (1979). broadly continuous structures that have been interpreted as fault blocks (Puspita et al. structurally complex. Wernicke & Burchfiel 1982. the 200 km width of the deepest part of the straits where depths are close to 2.154 R. 2005). where asymmetric passive margins are separated by a narrow zone of ocean crust (Louden & Chian 1999). The oceanic crust interpretation is favoured by the great width of the extended zone and. typically stretched continental crust in such deep rifts would have a much smaller elastic thickness. The faulting has produced a series of disconnected NNW–SSE-trending. although on land. areas interpreted to be separated by relay ramps and other accommodation zones. which would be expected to form much lower and small gradient volcanoes. structurally low. and the triangular structures seen below the basal unconformity are interpreted as volcanic edifices. 2005). and a central high strength oceanic lithosphere juxtaposed against weaker continental crust is consistent with the deformed zones on the west and east sides of the straits. 1996.

This is the area where Cloke et al. as inversion in eastern Kalimantan migrated east and the Mahakam delta prograded east since Fig. 2005) forming graben and half-graben (Fig. (2005). and mapping of the straits indicates the likelihood of oceanic basement beneath the eastern and central straits is low. we interpret there to be NNW–SSE-trending faults (Nur’Aini et al. The unconformity marks the top of the syn-rift sequence. (1999b ) was carried out. . whereas 200 km further south the spreading centre is offset to the east and is beneath the present coast of West Sulawesi. even allowing for differences observed in small marginal basins (Wheeler & White 2002). 10 and 11. (2003) in the area covered by our seismic dataset. extended continental crust in the eastern and central straits is not incompatible with the presence of some oceanic crust beneath the Mahakam depocentre on the west side of the straits where the flexural modelling of Cloke et al. Oceanic lithosphere follows a predictable age–depth relationship (Parsons & Sclater 1977) and. 8). (2003) are at several kilometres depth beneath the sedimentary wedges of the Offshore West Sulawesi Foldbelt where we were unable to map the basement with confidence. we find it difficult to see on what observations the discontinuous spreading centre and transforms shown by Fraser et al. (1999b ) located the supposed spreading centre. Furthermore. the spreading centre and transform faults of Fraser et al. Nevertheless. 8. The eastern part of their symmetrical oceanic basin shows oceanic crust to lie beneath the 38–42. The form of the oceanic basin interpreted by Fraser et al. The undisputed graben and half-graben seen in parts of the straits indicate extended continental crust. (2003) therefore implies several kilometres of Eocene sediment and huge westward progradation of the Eocene Sulawesi shelf edge to move from their ‘inferred Eocene basin floor fan domain’ above the former spreading centre to their ‘deltaic influences’ and ‘coals and deltaic sediments onshore SW Sulawesi’.5 Ma shelf edge. For these reasons we consider that the reconstruction of Fraser et al. These structures are shown deliberately uninterpreted on Figures 9.The North Makassar Straits 155 rifts. (2003) is improbable. ( a ) Fault pattern and interpreted structure mapped at top basement level by Nur’Aini et al. In their Late Eocene reconstruction they interpret a symmetrical oceanic basin at the northern end of the North Makassar Basin with the spreading centre in the middle. In the northern part of the North Makassar Basin where they show the NE–SW-trending spreading centre offset by NW–SE transform faults in the deep central part of the straits. Flexural subsidence due to loading on the west and east sides may have deepened the straits. Thermal subsidence continued during the Oligocene. In this part of the North Makassar Straits we have been unable to identify the many extrusive centres mapped by Fraser et al. The palaeogeographical reconstruction of Fraser et al. so that readers can compare alternative interpretations for themselves. (2003) are based. Structures can be seen beneath the unconformity which could be carbonate build-ups on tilted fault blocks or volcanic edifices. (2003) is also questionable. CONCLUSIONS The Makassar Straits formed by rifting. ( b ) faults produced in analogue models of oblique extension ( =60 ) by McClay & White (1995). ( c ) Three-dimensional interpretation of these structures and underlying crust. Extension began in the Middle Eocene and formed graben and half-graben above which is an important unconformity of probable Late Eocene age. Further south. the ocean crust would be expected to be at depths of more than 3 km within a few million years of formation.

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