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The geology of Hess Rise, central north Pacific Ocean

January 9, 1981

The geology of Hess Rise is interpreted from studies of morphology and structure, igneous petrology, sediment lithofacies, seismic stratigraphy, and paleoenvironments.

Hess Rise probably formed at a triple junction, between 116 and 95 m.y. ago, in the equatorial zone of the southern hemisphere. A large archipelago, formed by volcanism, subsequently moved northward as part of the Pacific Plate and subsided. A Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary tectonic and(or) volcanic event created oceanic islands and probably influenced the normal subsidence rate. The lithofacies reflect both the northward movement under various surface water masses of differing productivity and the subsidence history, which influenced calcareous-sediment accumulation and dissolution. Hess Rise is informally divided into three physiographic or morphologic provinces: northern Hess Rise, the central platform, and southern Hess Rise. Southern Hess Rise is further subdivided into the northwestern ridge, Mellish Bank, and the eastern ridge. The structure of Hess Rise is dominated by normal faults which bound grabens and horsts. The west and south boundaries of the rise are fault scarps. Most faults trend about 345 ° on northern Hess Rise, 039° to 060° on southern Hess Rise.

Igneous rocks are tholeiitic basalt on northern Hess Rise at Site 464, and trachyte at Site 465 on southern Hess Rise. The tholeiite probably is not a mid-ocean-ridge basalt; more likely it is a transitional basalt erupted during off-ridge volcanism. The trachyte at Site 465 was erupted either in shallow water or subaerially; it represents a late-stage differentiate of alkali-basalt magma. Geochemically, the trachyte is similar to late-stage eruptives on many oceanic islands. The alkali basalt clasts in Upper Cretaceous calcareous ooze at Site 466 probably record a Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary tectonic event that brought old crust above sea level, where it was eroded; alternatively, volcanism may have built the islands.

Cores recovered from Holes 464, 310, 310A, 465,465A, and 466 (north to south) show three major lithofacies: limestone of mid-Cretaceous (Albian-Cenomanian) age, calcareous ooze and chalk of Late Cretaceous to Quaternary age, and pelagic clay that is Late Cretaceous to Quaternary in age at Site 464 and Eocene in age at Site 310. Minor lithofacies in the carbonates and pelagic clay include siliceous microfossils and chert. The limestone contains as much as 8.6% by weight of organic carbon. The organic-carbon-rich sediments apparently were deposited along the sides of Hess Rise, above the CCD and within a mid-water oxygen minimum, as the rise crossed the highly productive equatorial divergence.

Surface sediments are influenced by present-day near-surface water-mass productivity and the depth of deposition. Above about 3000 meters calcareous ooze is deposited, and below about 4000 meters pelagic clay is dominant. Between 3000 meters and 4000 meters, greater clay contents correlate with increased water depth.

The seismic stratigraphy interpreted from single-channel seismic-reflection records can be correlated with the lithofacies. Three major acoustic units apparently vary in age, composition, thickness, and geographic distribution. The lowest acoustic unit generally is acoustically opaque; it corresponds to volcanic basement. In places, however, the top parts of this unit may be well-lithified limestone or chert. The middle acoustic unit, in general strongly layered acoustically, is Albian and Cenomanian limestone, chalk, and chert on southern Hess Rise and Albian and Cenomanian chert, chalk, limestone, and clay stone on northern Hess Rise. The middle unit probably is Albian to at least lower Tertiary chalk, chert, and nannofossil ooze on the central platform. The upper acoustic unit is weakly stratified to acoustically transparent and corresponds to Upper Cretaceous to Recent nannofossil ooze on southern Hess Rise and to pelagic clay of the same age on northern Hess Rise. On the central platform, it probably corresponds to Eocene to Recent nannofossil ooze, marl, and pelagic clay

Publication Year 1981
Title The geology of Hess Rise, central north Pacific Ocean
DOI 10.2973/dsdp.proc.62.161.1981
Authors T. L. Vallier, David K. Rea, Walter E. Dean, Jorn Thiede, Charles Adelseck
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Initial Reports of the D.S.D.P.
Index ID 70207766
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center