Carbon and oxygen isotope data from a succession of Cretaceous (Barremian–Cenomanian) age recovered from the Pacific Ocean (DSDP site 463) are presented. The carbon isotope curve reveals a large isotope excursion within the early Aptian where δ13C values reach ~4.8 ‰ in the L. cabri–G. ferreolensis foraminifera zone. A decrease in δ13C values is observed at the base G. algerianus zone, before a return to more positive values at the top of the G. algerianus–T. bejaouaensis zone. The pronounced early Aptian positive event is preceded by a large negative isotope excursion, confined to the G. blowi zone. Synchronous with this excursion are increased total organic carbon values and increases in Mn and Fe concentrations. Integrated biostratigraphic and magnetostratigraphic data, together with the carbon isotope profile, suggest that the organic-rich units of site 463 are correlatable with Oceanic Anoxic Event 1a. The input of isotopically light volcanic CO2 in concert with the intensification and upwelling of intermediate water enriched in 12C could account for the observed trends. A potential trigger may have been the destabilization of the water column and the prodigious CO2 emissions associated with hydrothermal activity and the emplacement of the Ontong Java Plateau. Coupled with faunal evidence, the subsequent positive carbon isotope excursion is interpreted to be resulting from high, but decreasing, productivity and possibly increasing ocean stratification resulting in strong carbon isotopic gradients and 13C-enriched surface waters. The decrease in δ13C within the G. algerianus zone is coincident with more positive δ18O values. If these are interpreted in terms of temperature this interval may be characterized by a period of cooling and possibly a waning of Corg cycling. A return to lower δ13C values during the middle Albian is considered to be related to the increased influence of upwelling, as opposed to a waning of Corg cycling. Upwelling introduced isotopically light carbon to the surface, arresting the stratified oceanic conditions.