Abstract

Myojin Knoll caldera, a submarine rhyolitic center 400 km south of Tokyo, is one of nine silicic calderas along the northern 600 km of the Izu-Bonin(-Ogasawara) arc and the first anywhere to receive detailed, submersible-based study. The caldera, slightly smaller than the Crater Lake structure in Oregon, is 6 × 7 km in diameter; its inner walls are 500–900 m high, and it has a remarkably flat floor at 1400 m below sea level (mbsl). The caldera collapse volume is ∼18 km3, suggesting that more than 40 km3 of pumiceous tephra may have been erupted at the time the caldera formed.

Precaldera seafloor eruptions built a broad volcanic edifice consisting of overlapping composite volcanoes made of rhyolitic lavas, shallow intrusions, and a variety of volcaniclastic deposits—including thick accumulations of rhyolitic pumice erupted at 900– 500 mbsl. The caldera-forming eruption produced a 150–200 m deposit of nonwelded, fines-depleted pumice that resembles a colossal layer of popcorn at the top of the caldera wall.

Freshly erupted pumice behaved as “sinkers” or “floaters,” depending on the environment in which it cooled. The pumice clasts deposited proximally and exposed in the caldera wall were likely quenched in eruption columns that remained below sea level. This pumice ingested seawater and sank as gases filling its vesicles cooled, particularly as steam in its vesicles condensed to liquid water. Some eruption columns may have broken through the sea surface and entered the air, especially during vigorous phases of the caldera-forming eruption. These pumices had the opportunity to ingest air as they cooled, becoming floaters as they fell back to the sea; these could have been carried distally on the sea surface by the combined effects of ocean currents and wind.

The age of the caldera is unknown, but it may be as young as several thousand years. Its magmatic system at depth retains sufficient heat to sustain an actively growing intracaldera Kuroko- type polymetallic sulfide deposit, rich in gold and silver and topped by chimneys emitting fluids as hot as 278 °C. Sufficient time has elapsed, however, for a 250-m-high postcaldera dome to grow on the caldera floor and for the caldera rim to be deeply scalloped by slumping.

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