A new, rare type of oceanic islands: The case of Norfolk Island
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Most intra-plate oceanic islands are considered to be expressions of partial melting of hot, ascending mantle plumes. Mantle plume activity is often evident by progressively-aged volcanic island chains, early flood basalts, or elevated mantle temperatures (hot-spots). However, some isolated volcanic islands lack these characteristics. Their mantle sources, causes of melting, and geodynamic settings remain elusive. Here we present petrologic and geochemical data for an example of this type of ocean island: Norfolk Island and neighbouring Phillip Island. These islands are only 7 km apart and are located in the Southwest Pacific. They are the only sub-aerial volcanic islands on the Norfolk Ridge, which extends roughly linearly south from New Caledonia and north from New Zealand. The Norfolk Ridge is a continental slice rifted from the eastern Australian margin during opening of the Tasman Sea and the on-going break-up of Gondwana. There are a few isolated, unexplored volcanic edifices trending NNW from the Norfolk Ridge north of Norfolk Island that may be a hot spot trace. Norfolk and Phillip islands are both composed of young (ca. 2-3 Ma), primitive basalts and basaltic andesites containing abundant phenocrysts of olivine and rare pyroxene and feldspar. Major element systematics are unique among the global spectrum of ocean island basalts, with low CaO, high Al2O3, and high Na/Ti indicating that melting processes and/or the mantle source differs from that of any other OIB. However, Fe/Mn are high, similar to other OIB, and REE patterns carry the typical OIB garnet signature. The highest MgO contents approach 9 wt%. The unusual major-element chemistry results in olivine-dominated crystallization extending to low MgO (ca. 6-7 wt%), hence little increase of incompatible elements with decreasing MgO, but surprisingly Ni and Cr also remain nearly constant with MgO. Isotopic compositions (Sr-Nd-Hf) indicate either a primitive mantle source composition (εNd=6-7), consisting of a pure FOZO end-member or depleted mantle (DMM) contaminated with Norfolk Ridge crustal material. We propose that Norfolk and Phillip Islands are a rare type of OIB that formed via low-degrees of melting of a mantle source unmodified by any of the typical enriched endmembers so often observed in other OIB.