Rangitoto Volcano Drilling Project: Life of a Small ‘Monogenetic’ Basaltic Shield in the Auckland Volcanic Field
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Rangitoto is a small basaltic shield volcano representing the most recent and most voluminous episode of volcanism in the Auckland Volcanic Field, New Zealand. Auckland City is built on the field, and hence, Rangitoto’s importance in hazard-risk modelling. The symmetrical edifice, ~6 km wide and 260 m high, has volume of 1.78 km3. It comprises summit scoria cones and a lava field. However, the lack of deep erosion dissection has prevented the development of an eruptive stratigraphy. Previous studies suggested construction in a relatively short interval at 550–500 yrs BP. However, microscopic tephra have been interpreted as evidence of intermittent activity from 1498 +/- 140 to 504 +/- 6 yrs BP, a longevity of 1000 years. A 150-m-deep hole was drilled through the edifice in February 2014 to obtain a continuous core record. The result is an unparalleled stratigraphy of the evolution of a small shield volcano. The upper 128 m of core comprises at least 27 lava flows with thicknesses in the range 0.3-15 m, representing the main shield-building phase. Underlying marine sediments are interbedded with 8 m of pyroclastic lapilli, and a thin lava flow, representing the explosive phreatomagmatic birth of the volcano. Preliminary geochemical analyses reveal suite of relatively uniform transitional basalts (MgO = 8.1 to 9.7 wt %). However, 4 compositional groups are distinguished that were erupted in sequential order. High-MgO magmas were erupted first, followed by a two more heterogeneous groups displaying differentiation trends with time. Finally, distinct low-MgO basalts were erupted. Each magma type appears to represent a new magma batch. The core places the magma types in a time series, which can be correlated to the surface lava field. Hence, allowing a geometrical reconstruction of the shield growth. Additional petrologic investigations are providing insight to magmatic ascent processes, while radiocarbon and paleomagnetic secular variation studies will reveal the duration of activity.