Abstract

In most backarc basins, extension is perpendicular to the arc. Thus individual spreading ridges extend approximately parallel to the arc. In the North Fiji Basin, however, several ancient and active spreading ridges strike 70°–90° to the New Hebrides arc. These high- angle spreading ridges relocated southward during the asymmetric opening of the North Fiji Basin. We have simulated the structural development of the North Fiji Basin and the New Hebrides arc with scaled analogue models, and the results have inspired us to come to several tentative conclusions. We interpret the orientation of the high-angle spreading ridges to be related to the asymmetric opening of the backarc basin around a hinge, where they form close to the hinge. Relocation of these spreading ridges is most likely related to subduction of the West Torres Plateau along the New Hebrides Trench. This resulted in localized collision, retarded rollback of the subducting slab along the northwest corner of the trench, and reduced extension and shearing in the northwest corner of the North Fiji Basin. Backarc extension continued in the rest of the North Fiji Basin owing to continued rollback of the southern part of the subducting slab. Here, active extension was separated from the slightly or nonextending northwest corner by a zone striking at high angle to the New Hebrides arc, i.e., the Hazel Holme extensional zone. Moreover, impingement of the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge into the overriding plate led to local deformation and fragmentation of the arc.

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