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Abstract

Detailed analysis of marine magnetic profiles from the western part of the East Scotia Sea confirms continuous, organized back-arc spreading since at least 15 Ma ago. In the eastern part of the East Scotia Sea, the South Sandwich arc lies on crust that formed at the back-arc spreading centre since 10 Ma ago, so older back-arc crust forms the basement of the present inner forearc. Interpretations of two multichannel seismic reflection profiles reveal the main structural components of the arc at shallow depth, including evidence of trench-normal extension in the mid-forearc, and other features consistent with ongoing subduction erosion. The seismic profile interpretations have been used to constrain simple two-dimensional gravity models. The models were designed to provide constraints on the maximum possible thickness of the arc crust, and it is concluded that this is 20 and 19.2 km on the northern and southern lines, respectively. On the northern line the models indicate that the forearc crust cannot be much thicker than normal oceanic crust. Even with such thin crust, however, the magmatic growth rate implied by the cross-section of the arc crust is within the range recently estimated for two other arcs that have been built over a much longer interval.

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