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Abstract

The Porcupine Basin, part of the frontier petroleum exploration province west of Ireland, has an extended history that commenced prior to the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. Lithospheric stretching factors have previously been estimated to increase from <2 in the north to >6 in the south of the basin. Thus, it is an ideal location to study the processes leading to hyper-extension on continental margins. The Porcupine Median Ridge (PMR) is located in the south of the basin and has been alternatively interpreted as a volcanic feature, a serpentinite mud diapir or a tilted block of continental crust. Each of these interpretations has different implications for the thermal history of the basin. We present results from travel-time tomographic modelling of two approximately 300 km-long wide-angle seismic profiles across the northern and southern parts of the basin. Our results show: (1) the geometry of the crust, with maximum crustal stretching factors of up to 6 and 10 along the northern and southern profiles, respectively; (2) asymmetry of the basin structures, suggesting some simple shear during extension; (3) low velocities beneath the Moho that could represent either partially serpentinized mantle or mafic under-plating; and (4) a possible igneous composition of the PMR.

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