Evidence for an extensive hydrothermal plume in the Tonga-Fiji region of the South Pacific
Lupton, John E.
Pyle, Douglas G.
Jenkins, William J.
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Several hydrographic stations in the vicinity of the Samoa Islands have 3He/4He above the regional background in the depth range of 1500–1800 m, indicating injection of mantle helium from a local hydrothermal source. The highest δ(3He) = 43.4% was detected at 1726-m depth at 15.0°S, 173.1°W in the bathymetric gap between the Samoa Islands and the northern end of the Tonga-Kermadec Arc. The δ(3He) profile at this station decreases to δ(3He) = 26% at 2500-m depth. The relatively shallow depth of the maximum hydrothermal signal suggests a source different from the conventional Pacific basin helium plume centered at 2500 m that is carried westward from the East Pacific Rise. Stations to the west of this locality show a progressive decrease in the maximum δ(3He) values in the depth range of 1480–1790 m out to 169°E. Stations east of the Tonga-Fiji region show lower 3He values (<26%) at 1700 m and the profiles are dominated by a deeper maximum at 2500 m, presumably the distal traces of hydrothermal input from East Pacific Rise. This pattern in the 3He distribution suggests that the 1700-m deep helium plume is carried in a northwesterly direction some 2000 km from its source near the northern end of the Tonga-Kermadec Arc. At this time very little is known about the source of this hydrothermal plume or the details of its areal extent. Numerous seamounts and rift zones in the region are possible hydrothermal sources for the plume. The summit crater of Vailulu'u, a young seamount at the eastern end of the Samoa chain, was recently discovered to be hydrothermally active at ∼600 m depth [Hart et al., 2000]. However this shallow hydrothermal field on Vailulu'u is an unlikely source for the deeper 1700-m signal. The most likely source would appear to be the extensional zones of the northern Lau Basin system, such as the Mangatolo Triple Junction. Just as the helium plume emanating from Lo'ihi has helped our understanding of the circulation near the Hawaiian Islands [Lupton, 1996], this helium plume in the Tonga-Fiji region has great potential for delineating circulation in this area of the south Pacific.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2004. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 5 (2004): Q01003, doi:10.1029/2003GC000607.