Seafloor Hydrothermal Activity at the Galapagos Triple Junction, East Pacific Ocean

Friday, 19 December 2014
Huaiming Li1, Zenghui Yu2, Guoying Zhang1, Chunhui Tao1 and Sheng Chen1,3, (1)Second Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanographic Administration of China, Hangzhou, China, (2)Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China, (3)JLU Jilin University, Changchun, China
Since the first discovery of black smokers on the Gaplapgaos spreading center, over 500 hydrothermal sites have been confirmed on the mid-ocean ridge, arc and back-arc settings (Beaulieu et al., 2013). However, the hydrothermal activity at triple-junction has not received much attention. Consequently, there are outstanding questions regarding the features of the hydrothermal system, and the effect of the hydrothermal circulation on the tectonic activity of the triple-junction.

In 2009, the Chinese Dayang Cruise 21 discovered the Precious Stone field (PSF) on the Dietz Semount at the southern flank of the Galapagos triple junction (GTJ). Most studies of the GTJ focus on the topographictectonic and stresssimulation, which suggest that the GTJ had complex evoluation(Smith et al., 2011, 2013; Mitchell et al., 2011,Schouten et al., 2012). Water anomay were clear detected and samples of hydrothermal deposit and rocks were collected by TV-Grab (Figure.1). This study aims to understand the geological features of the PSF related hydrothermal activity.

    Hydrothermal mineralization

Three types of sedimentary hydrothermal deposits representing three different hydrothermal activity stages (Figure 1)are confirmed in the PSF: 1) sediments with native sulfur and pyrite clasts(Type I), 2) Fe—Mn oxides (Type II), and 3) clay minerals mainlynontronite(Type III). Type II sedimentsprecipitate early and the source comprises of clasts of distal hydrothermal plume. The nontronite-rich sediments propably derive from the low-temperature alteration of Fe—Mn oxides. Type 1 sediments are found on the active hydrothermal venting field.

  • Hydrothermal plume

Water anomaly were detected at the southewestern PSF. We observed widespreadsedimentary hydrothermal depositsin the western PSF, but no water anomaly. According to the results of five water anomaly dectection lines, we predicted the existence of three hydrothermal vents in the PSF.

  • Seafloor type inversion

Multi-beam backscatter data were used to study the seafloor type and distribution of the PSF. The results indicate that sedimentary hydrothermal deposits are widespread at the western PSF. Basalt makes up of the seafloor of the active hydrothermal vents.

The results mentioned above suggest that the hydrothemal activity at the PSF is multi-stage, long-lived and wildspread.