Abstract

Translucent brown aggregates of calcium-carbonate crystals have been found in cores from the Zaire deep-sea fan (west equatorial Africa). The aggregates are well preserved but very friable. Upon storage they become yellowish white and cloudy and release water. Chemical, mineralogical (XRD), petrographical, crystal-morphological, and stable-isotope data demonstrate that the crystals have passed through three phases: (1) an authigenic carbonate phase, probably calcium carbonate, which is represented by the external habit of the present crystals; (2) a translucent brown ikaite phase (CaCO3·6H2O), unstable at temperatures above 5 °C; and (3) a phase consisting of calcite microcrystals that are poorly cemented and form a porous mass within the crystal form of the morphologically unchanged first phase. The transformation from the first phase into ikaite was probably a kinetic replacement. The transformation from ikaite into the third phase occurred because of storage at room temperature. The presence of ikaite is indicative of a low-temperature, anaerobic, organic-carbon-rich marine environment. Ikaite is probably the precursor of a great number of porous calcite pseudomorphs, and possibly also of many marine authigenic microcrystalline carbonate nodules.

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