Abstract

The Weber Deep—a 7.2-km-deep forearc basin within the tightly curved Banda arc of eastern Indonesia—is the deepest point of the Earth’s oceans not within a trench. Several models have been proposed to explain the tectonic evolution of the Banda arc in the context of the ongoing (ca. 23 Ma–present) Australia–Southeast Asia collision, but no model explicitly accounts for how the Weber Deep achieved its anomalous depth. Here we propose that the Weber Deep formed by forearc extension driven by eastward subduction rollback. Substantial lithospheric extension in the upper plate was accommodated by a major, previously unidentified, low-angle normal fault system we name the “Banda detachment.” High-resolution bathymetry data reveal that the Banda detachment is exposed underwater over much of its 120 km down-dip and 450 km lateral extent, having produced the largest bathymetric expression of any fault discernable in the world’s oceans. The Banda arc is a modern analogue for highly extended terranes preserved in the many regions that may similarly have “rolled open” behind migrating subduction zones.

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