Abstract

Seven Alvin dives (14 km total) and numerous deep-towed camera traverses using ANGUS and NOAA camera systems provide dense coverage of a 12-km2 portion of the eastern wall of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the TAG area (26°N lat.). These data, in conjunction with recent Soviet Mir submersible data, provide important constraints on the tectonic, magmatic, and hydrothermal history of this spreading center segment. Active hydrothermal venting occurs near the junction of the median valley floor and eastern median valley wall and appears to be tectonically controlled by the intersection of major fault zones. An east-west fault-line scarp interpreted as an accommodation zone intersects escarpments associated with 020°-trending (ridge-parallel) normal faults that bound the median valley floor. The accommodation zone permits differential extension and rotation between major crustal blocks to the north and south. On the basis of the distribution of tilted chalk beds and geochemical anomalies in sediments, this fault zone has been intermittently active for at least 5x104 yr. The accommodation zone has apparently provided a conduit of high permeability oriented at a high angle to the ridge axis. Observations and samples from areas surrounding active and inactive vent sites provide evidence for three distinct episodes for hydrothermal outflow driven by separate magmatic events. The geometry of this active system may have implications for the location of hydrothermal systems in active spreading regimes and for massive sulfide exploration in ophiolite terranes.

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