Composition of hydrothermal fluids and mineralogy of associated chimney material on the East Scotia Ridge back-arc spreading centre
James, Rachael H.
Green, Darryl R. H.
Stock, Michael J.
Alker, Belinda J.
Banerjee, Neil R.
German, Christopher R.
Huvenne, Veerle A. I.
Powell, Alexandra M.
Connelly, Douglas P.
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The East Scotia Ridge is an active back-arc spreading centre located to the west of the South Sandwich island arc in the Southern Ocean. Initial exploration of the ridge by deep-tow surveys provided the first evidence for hydrothermal activity in a back-arc setting outside of the western Pacific, and we returned in 2010 with a remotely operated vehicle to precisely locate and sample hydrothermal sites along ridge segments E2 and E9. Here we report the chemical and isotopic composition of high- and low-temperature vent fluids, and the mineralogy of associated high-temperature chimney material, for two sites at E2 (Dog’s Head and Sepia), and four sites at E9 (Black & White, Ivory Tower, Pagoda and Launch Pad). The chemistry of the fluids is highly variable between the ridge segments. Fluid temperatures were ∼350 °C at all vent sites except Black & White, which was significantly hotter (383 °C). End-member chloride concentrations in E2 fluids (532–536 mM) were close to background seawater (540 mM), whereas Cl in E9 fluids was much lower (98–220 mM) indicating that these fluids are affected by phase separation. Concentrations of the alkali elements (Na, Li, K and Cs) and the alkaline earth elements (Ca, Sr and Ba) co-vary with Cl, due to charge balance constraints. Similarly, concentrations of Mn and Zn are highest in the high Cl fluids but, by contrast, Fe/Cl ratios are higher in E9 fluids (3.8–8.1 × 10−3) than they are in E2 fluids (1.5–2.4 × 10−3) and fluids with lowest Cl have highest Cu. Although both ridge segments are magmatically inflated, there is no compelling evidence for input of magmatic gases to the vent fluids. Fluid δD values range from 0.2‰ to 1.5‰, pH values (3.02–3.42) are not especially low, and F concentrations (34.6–54.4 μM) are lower than bottom seawater (62.8 μM). The uppermost sections of conjugate chimney material from E2, and from Ivory Tower and Pagoda at E9, typically exhibit inner zones of massive chalcopyrite enclosed within an outer zone of disseminated sulphide, principally sphalerite and pyrite, in an anhydrite matrix. By contrast, the innermost part of the chimneys that currently vent fluids with lowest Cl (Black & White and Launch Pad), is dominated by anhydrite. By defining and assessing the controls on the chemical composition of these vent fluids, and associated mineralisation, this study provides new information for evaluating the significance of hydrothermal processes at back-arc basins for ocean chemistry and the formation of seafloor mineral deposits.
© The Author(s), 2014. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 139 (2014): 47-71, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2014.04.024.
Suggested CitationGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 139 (2014): 47-71
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