Marine Science Faculty Publications

Petrology of the Easter Microplate Region in the South Pacific

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Submersible investigations along the East Rift segments, the Pito Deep and the Terevaka transform fault of the Easter microplate eastern boundary, and on a thrust-fault area of the Nazca Plate collected a variety of basalts and dolerites. The volcanics consist essentially of depleted (N-MORB), transitional (T-MORB) and enriched (E-MORB) basalts with low (0.01−0.1, < 0.7), intermediate (0.12–0.25, 0.7–1.2) and high (> 0.25, > 1.2–2) K/Ti and(La/Sm)N ratios, respectively. The Fe-Ti-rich ferrobasalt encountered among the N-MORBs are found on the Pito Deep Central volcano, on the Terevaka intra-transform ridge, on the ancient (< 2.5 Ma) Easter microplate (called EMP, comprising the East Rift Inner pseudofaults and Pito Deep west walls) and on thrust-fault crusts. The most enriched (T- and E-MORB) volcanics occur along the East Rift at 25 °50′–27 °S (called 26 °S East Rift) and on the Pito seamount located near the tip of the East Rift at 23 °00′–23 °40′S (called 23 °S East Rift). The diversity in incompatible element ratios of the basalts in relation to their structural setting suggests that the volcanics are derived from a similar heterogenous mantle which underwent variable degrees of partial melting and magma mixing. In addition the Pito seamount volcanics have undergone less crystal fractionation (< 20%) than the lavas from the other Easter microplate structures (up to 35–45%). The tectonic segmentation of the East Rift observed between 23 and 27 °S corresponds to petrological discontinuities related to Mg# variations and mantle melting conditions. The highest Mg# (> 61) are found on topographic highs (2000–2300 m) and lower values (Mg# < 56) at the extremities of the East Rift segments (2500–5600 m depths). The deepest area (5600 m) along the East Rift is located at 23 °S and coincides with a Central volcano constructed on the floor of the Pito Deep. Three major compositional variabilities of the volcanics are observed along the East Rift segments studied: (1) the 26 °S East Rift segment where the volcanics have intermediate Na8 (2.5–2.8%) and Fe8 (8.5–11%) contents; (2) the 23 °S East Rift segment (comprising Pito seamount and Pito Deep Central volcano) which shows the highest (2.9–3.4%) values of Na8 and a low (8–9%) Fe8 content; and (3) the 25 °S (at 24 °50′–26 °10′S) and the 24 °S (at 24 °10′–25 °S) East Rift segments where most of the volcanics have low to intermediate Na8 (2.6–2.0%) and a high range of Fe8 (9–13%) contents. When modeling mantle melting conditions, we observed a relative increase in the extent of partial melting and decreasing melting pressure. These localized trends are in agreement with a 3-D type diapiric upwelling in the sense postulated by Niu and Batiza (1993). Diapiric mantle upwelling and melting localized underneath the 26, 25 and 23 °S (Pito seamount and Central volcano) East Rift segments are responsable for the differences observed in the volcanics. The extent of partial melting varies from 14 to 19% in the lithosphere between 18 and 40 km deep as inferred from the calculated initial (Po=16kbar) and final melting (Pf=7kbar) pressures along the various East Rift segments. The lowest range of partial melting (14–16%) is confined to the volcanics from 23 °S East Rift segment including the Pito seamount and the Central volcano. The Thrust-fault area, and the Terevaka intra-transform show comparable mantle melting regimes to the 25 and 26 °S East Rift segments. The older lithosphere of the EMP interior is believed to have been the site of high partial melting (17–20%) confined to the deeper melting area (29–50 km). This increase in melting with increasing pressure is similar to the conditions encountered underneath the South East Pacific Rise (13–20 °S).

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 72, issue 3-4, p. 259-289