The effects of salt tectonics dominate some of the world's hottest regions for exploration and development, including the Gulf of Mexico, the South Atlantic continental margins, the North Caspian, the Persian Gulf, and the North Sea. Nearly 100 basins around the world have been affected by salt tectonics. The results of salt tectonics are typically impressive because of salt’s outstanding ability to promote deformation of surrounding rocks by acting as a geologic lubricant.

The Salt Mine is a browser-based, interactive, comprehensive atlas of salt structures currently in production by researchers at the Bureau’s Applied Geodynamics Laboratory (AGL). The completed 20-module atlas will hold thousands of images of salt structures from around the world.

Martin P. A. Jackson (left) and Michael R. Hudec (right)

This CD-ROM archive of physical and numerical models, seismic sections, field photographs, geologic maps, satellite images, and geologic cross sections will be the most exhaustive collection of salt images ever before organized. Images will be organized by structural style, and search engines using keywords or geographic locations will be included. The Salt Mine will serve as both an introduction for salt novices and a unique and comprehensive source of analogs for experienced users.

AGL scientists and The Salt Mine editors, Mike Hudec and Martin Jackson, estimate the atlas will take nearly 4 years to complete and will involve thousands of hours of image selection, drafting, and Web design. The greater part of atlas images will be physical and numerical simulations of salt structures constructed by AGL scientists Bruno Vendeville, Daniel Schultz-Ela, and their colleagues throughout the AGL’s 13-year history. Bureau Media Technologies Manager Scott Rodgers leads the Web design and builds the digital framework. Graphic designer Bill Bergquist drafts the images and authors the Web pages. The first module, illustrating salt-cored contractional folds, will soon be completed.

The AGL, one of six industry-supported Industrial Associate consortiums at the Bureau, investigates wide-ranging tectonic processes related to structural hydrocarbon traps. Atlas modules will be distributed on CD-ROM or other media only to AGL’s Industrial Associates. A condensed summary of the atlas may be published by the Bureau when complete. For more information about the AGL, visit its Web site at or E-mail Martin Jackson at

Above, shown at a reduced size, is a preliminary design for a page from The Salt Mine. Below are examples of other types of images that will be included.


Finite-element simulation of contractional deformation above a salt pinch-out. Model by Daniel Schultz-Ela.


Oblique overhead view of a centrifuge model showing the effects of 2 stages of contractional deformation. Model by Mary Johns.