Abstract

New Caledonia preserves evidence that constrains models for the tectonic evolution of the southwest Pacific region. Onland geology reflects four main tectonic phases: (1) early Mesozoic development of subduction-related terranes and their accretion to the Gondwana margin; (2) Cretaceous passive margin development and sea-floor spreading during the Gondwana breakup; (3) foundering of an oceanic basin and the Eocene arrival of thinned Gondwana margin crust at a southwest-facing subduction zone, resulting in collisional orogenesis and obduction of an ophiolitic nappe from the northeast; and (4) detachment faulting during extensional collapse, resulting in unroofing of metamorphic core complexes. The last phase explains supposedly anomalous metamorphic gradients in the northeast of the island.

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