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Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 180 investigated, in the western Woodlark Basin off Papua New Guinea, the nature and evolution of continental extension, eventually leading to crustal break-up and sea-floor spreading. At Moresby Seamount, the rift-related extension is localized at a recently active low-angle (30°) detachment fault, partly buried beneath a Pliocene–Pleistocene sedimentary synrift sequence. Data from three drillsites sample the detachment fault itself, secondary faults in its hanging wall and a steep normal fault cutting the footwall. The fault plane itself is manifested as a strongly altered fault gouge. Deformation of turbiditic sediments in several fault zones in the hanging wall is dominated by brittle mechanisms, and accompanied by intensive veining and pervasive diagenetic cementation. The metabasic rocks of the footwall below the detachment show an unusual transition from ductile to brittle deformation fabrics with increasing depth. Many fracture systems show evidence of repeated opening and healing during multistage hydrothermal mineralization. Syn-mylonitic microstructures and vein fill mineralogy suggest exhumation of the detachment footwall from considerable depth in the crust. Two palaeo-piezometers were applied to calcite-filled veins that show evidence of plastic deformation. Differential stress values of similar magnitude and probably close to the rock failure strength are found in both the hanging wall and footwall.

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