The sea-cliffs of the Isle of Wight were deposited during a period of overall sea-level rise starting in the Barremian (Lower Cretaceous) and continuing into the Aptian and Albian. They consist of fluvial, coastal and lagoonal sediments including greensands and clays. Numerous episodes of erosion, deposition and faunal colonization reflect condensation and abandonment of surfaces with firmgrounds and hardgrounds. This study focused mainly on shallow marine cycles where variations in clay mineralogy would not be expected, because overall system composition, sediment source, and thermal history are similar for all the samples in the studied section. Instead we found a wide variety of clay assemblages even in single samples within a 200 m interval.
In this interval, distinct clay mineral assemblages were found and can be described as consisting of Al-rich, Fe-rich and intermediate Fe and Al compositions with respect to 2:1 and 1:1 layers in mixed-layer arrangements. Nearly pure glauconite-nontronite clays exist in the <2 μm fraction only when the bulk rock is free of K- and plagioclase feldspar. Conditions favorable to glauconite-nontronite formation are interpreted to result from a hiatus in volcanoclastic sedimentation, thus providing a stable substrate for glauconitization.
The Fe-bearing mixed-layer clay assemblages consist of glauconite, nontronite and berthierine-like layers in various proportions with several mixed-layer clays often coexisting in the same sample. In different samples, Al-rich and Fe-Mg-rich mixed-layer clays are similar in their content and distribution of 1:1 and 2:1 layers. This suggests that the original clay assemblages were similar and later diagenesis affected certain horizons resulting in substitution of Al by Fe + Mg while preserving the original layer structure and arrangement.
Structural formulae for the berthierine-like phase and berthierine-like layers in these mixed-layer clays show their layer cation composition is intermediate between odinite and standard berthierine. The total sum of octahedral cations varies from 5.26 to 5.55 whereas the amount of Fe2+ cations varies from 2.12 to 2.22 per O10(OH)8. A feature of the berthierine-like phase as well as of berthierine-like layers is that they are ditrioctahedral and Fe2+ and Fe3+ are the prevalent cations. Moreover, in these berthierine-like components, the amount of Fe2+ is greater than that of Mg (in contrast to odinite) and Fe3+ cations prevail over Al (in contrast to berthierine). The presence of authigenic ferrous Fe clays and the relationship between glauconite-nontronite and bulk mineralogy has implications for sedimentological processes and geochemical conditions during and shortly after deposition.