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Macquarie Island: Its Geology, Structural History, and the Timing and Tectonic Setting of its N-MORB to E-MORB Magmatism

posted on 2023-05-22, 15:42 authored by Varne, R, Brown, AV, Trevor FalloonTrevor Falloon
Macquarie Island is an exposure above sea level of the Macquarie Ridge Complex, on the boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates south of New Zealand. Geodynamic reconstructions show that at ca. 12-9.5 Ma, oceanic crust of the Macquarie Island region was created at this plate boundary within a system of short spreading-ridge segments linked by large-offset transform faults. At this time, the spreading rate was slowing (<10 mm/yr half-spreading rate) and magmatism was waning, Probably before 5 Ma, and possibly before the extinct spreading ridge had subsided, the plate boundary became obliquely convergent, and crustal blocks were rotated, tilted, and uplifted along the ridge to form the island. Planation by marine erosion has exposed sections through the oceanic crust. The magmatism that built the oceanic crust produced melts similar in composition to the widespread normal to enriched mid-oceanic-ridge basalt IN-to E-MORB) suite found in many spreading ridges, but the melts ranged beyond E-MORB to primitive, highly enriched, and silica-undersaturated compositions. These compositions form one end member of a continuum from MORB but seem not to have been derived from a MORB-source mantle, despite sharing a Paclfic MORB isotopic signature. The survival of these primitive melts may be due to their origin in a slow-spreading system that must have been closing down as extension along the plate boundary gave way to transpression, putting a stop to the upwelling of asthenosphere and decompression melting. In a more energetic. faster-spreading system, mixing would have been more efficient, the presence of this end member could not easily have been inferred from its isotopic composition, and the igneous rocks would have resembled a typical N-to E-MORB suite. Macquarie Island may therefore provide a type example of magmatism at a very slow spreading ridge and a clue to the origins of E-MORB.


Antarctic Science Advisory Committee


Publication title

Ophiolites and Oceanic Crust: New Insights from Field Studies and the Ocean Drilling Program


Y Dilek, EM Moores, D Elthon, A Nicolas






School of Natural Sciences


Geological Society of America

Place of publication

United States of America



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Copyright 2000 Geological Society of America

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Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences

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