Houtz Robert E.

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Robert E.

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    Continental crust beneath the Agulhas Plateau, southwest Indian Ocean
    (American Geophysical Union, 1981-05-10) Tucholke, Brian E. ; Houtz, Robert E. ; Barrett, Douglas M.
    The Agulhas Plateau lies 500 km off the Cape of Good Hope in the southwestern Indian Ocean. Acoustic basement beneath the northern one third of this large, aseismic structural high has rugged morphology, but basement in the south is anomalously smooth, excepting a 30- to 90-km-wide zone with irregular relief that trends south-southwest through the center of the plateau. Seismic refraction profiles across the southern plateau indicate that the zone of irregular acoustic basement overlies thickened oceanic crust and that continental crust, locally thinned and intruded by basalts, underlies several regions of smooth acoustic basement. Recovery of quartzo-feldspathic gneisses in dredge hauls confirms the presence of continental crust. The smoothness of acoustic basement probably results from erosion (perhaps initially subaerial) of topographic highs with redeposition and cementation of debris in ponds to form high-velocity beds. Basalt flows and sills also may contribute locally to form smooth basement. The rugged basement of the northern plateau appears to be of oceanic origin. A plate reconstruction to the time of initial opening of the South Atlantic places the continental part of the southern plateau adjacent to the southern edge of the Falkland Plateau, and both abut the western Mozambique Ridge. Both the Agulhas and Falkland plateaus were displaced westward during initial rifting in the Early Cretaceous. Formation of an RRR triple junction at the northern edge of the Agulhas continental fragment during middle Cretaceous time may explain the origin of the rugged, thickened oceanic crust beneath the northern plateau as well as the apparent extension of the continental crust and intrusion of basaltic magmas beneath the southern plateau.