New insights on the offshore extension of the Great Sumatran fault, NW Sumatra, from marine geophysical studies



[1] Over the last 20 years, the Great Sumatran Fault (GSF) has been studied on land, but we have very little information about its offshore extension NW of Sumatra and its link with the West Andaman Fault to the north. The problem is further complicated by its vicinity to the volcanic arc. Here we present detailed analyses of the offshore extension of the GSF based on recently acquired high-resolution bathymetry, multichannel seismic reflection data and some old single channel seismic reflection data. Our findings demonstrate that the branches of the GSF near Banda Aceh proceed further northwestward producing two 15–20 km wide adjacent basins. The southwestern transpressional Breueh basin is 1–2 km deep and has a flower structure with a push-up ridge in the center, suggesting the presence of an active strike-slip fault. The presence of strike-slip earthquakes beneath this basin further suggests that one active branch of the GSF passes through this basin. The northeastern transtensional Weh basin is up to 3.4 km deep and the absence of recent sediments on the basin floor suggests that the basin is very young. The presence of a chain of volcanoes in the center of the basin suggests that the Sumatran volcanic arc passes through this basin. The anomalous depth of the Weh basin might be a site of early back-arc spreading or may have resulted from pull-apart extension. We examine all these new observations in the light of plate motion, local deformation and possible seismic risk.