Abstract

The first hydrothermal field on the northern Gorda Ridge, the Sea Cliff hydrothermal field, was discovered and geologic controls of hydrothermal activity in the rift valley were investigated on a dive series using the DSV Sea Cliff. The Sea Cliff hydrothermal field was discovered where predicted at the intersection of axis-oblique and axis-parallel faults at the south end of a linear ridge at mid-depth (2700 m) on the east wall. Preliminary mapping and smpling of the field reveal: a setting nested on nearly sediment-free fault blocks 300 m above the rift valley floor 2.6 km from the axis; a spectrum of venting types from seeps to black smokers; high conductive heat flow estimated to be equivalent to the convective flux of multiple black smokers through areas of the sea floor sealed by a caprock of elastic breccia primarily derived from basalt with siliceous cement and barite pore fillings; and a vent biota with Juan de Fuca Ridge affinites. These findings demonstrate the importance of off-axis hydrothermal activity and the role of the intersection of tectonic lineations in controlling hydrothermal sites at sea-floor spreading centers.

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