We present new bathymetric, seismic and gravity data on the southwestern tip of the South China Sea oceanic basin, where propagation of continental break-up occurred before c. 15 Ma. The oceanic domain has a V-shape typical of oceanic propagating rifts. The tectonic fabric of its margins shows that the main stretching direction was slightly oblique to that of the rift axis. A 2D gravity anomaly inversion, corrected for the thermal effect, is used to estimate the crustal structure. At the continent-ocean boundary, the continental crust is stretched by a factor of about four, rapidly decreasing to about two over a few tens of kilometres, a distance corresponding to just over 1 Ma of break-up propagation. Thus, strain localization occurs at the tip of the propagating oceanic crust just before break-up. The along-axis variation in continental crustal stretching is in good agreement with the kinematics of the oceanic crust derived from magnetic anomalies. This analysis suggests that break-up propagates toward the pole of relative rotation and is primarily controlled by the amount of stretching of the continental crust before oceanization.
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Non-volcanic continental margins may form up to 30% all present-day passive margins, and remnants of them are preserved in mountain belts. The papers in this volume demonstrate the benefits of integrating offshore and onshore studies, and illustrate the range of information obtained at different scales when comparing evidence from land and sea. Data sets collected across a range of spatial scales are evaluated: thin sections, cores, outcrops, seismic reflection profiles, and other geophysical data. The outcrop scale is crucial because it enables the spatial gulf to be bridged between DSDP and ODP cores and marine seismic data. There is also the problem that basins on land and beneath the sea inevitably have had different post-rift histories resulting in their contrasting present-day elevation. In mountain belts, portions of continental margins and oceanic crust are superbly exposed, but dismembered by subsequent compressional tectonics. Off present-day passive margins, extensional features have only been slightly deformed, if at all, by compressional movements, but are buried beneath significant thicknesses of post-rift sediments and so can only be sampled by ocean drilling at a small number of points.
The first paper reviews the synergies that have occurred between investigations of the eastern North Atlantic non-volcanic margins and remnants of similar Mesozoic margins preserved in the Alps, and some later papers return to this theme. However, papers describing margins from other parts of the world show that it may be premature to use models based on the Atlantic and the Alps as the paradigm for all non-volcanic margins. The following 25 papers in the book are grouped under the following headings: (1) Margin overviews; (2) Exhumed crust and mantle; (3) Tectonics and stratigraphy; (4)Numerical models of extension and magmatism.