Semiquantitative mineral analysis has been done by X-ray diffraction on the < 2 μ- and 2–20 μ-size fractions of approximately five hundred Recent deep-sea core samples from the Atlantic, Antarctic, western Indian Oceans, and adjacent seas. Relative abundances of montmorillonite, illite, kaolinite, chlorite, gibbsite, quartz, amphibole, clinoptilolite-heulandite(?), and pyrophyllite(?) were determined. Mixed-layer clay minerals, feldspars, and dolomite were also observed but not quantitatively evaluated. From the patterns of mineral distribution, the following conclusions appear warranted:
Most Recent Atlantic Ocean deep-sea clay is detritus from the continents. The formation of minerals in situ on the ocean bottom is relatively unimportant in the Atlantic but may be significant in parts of the southwestern Indian Ocean.
Mineralogical analysis of the fine fraction of Atlantic Ocean deep-sea sediments is a useful indicator of sediment provenance. Kaolinite, gibbsite, pyrophyllite, mixed-layer minerals, and chlorite contribute the most unequivocal provenance information because they have relatively restricted loci of continental origin.
Topographic control over mineral distribution by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean precludes significant eolian transport by the jet stream and emphasizes the importance of transport to and within that part of the deep-sea by processes operative at or near the sediment-water interface.
Transport of continent-derived sediment to the equatorial Atlantic is primarily by rivers draining from South America and by rivers and wind from Africa.
The higher proportion of kaolinite and gibbsite in deep-sea sediments adjacent to small tropical South American rivers reflects a greater intensity of lateritic weathering than is observed near the mouths of the larger rivers. This may be explained by a greater variety of pedogenic conditions in the larger drainage basins, resulting in an assemblage with proportionately less lateritic material in the detritus transported by the larger rivers despite their quantitatively greater influence on deep-sea sediment accumulation.
In the South Atlantic Ocean, the fine-fraction mineral assemblage of surface sediment in the Argentine Basin is sufficiently unlike that adjacent to the mouth of the Rio de la Plata to preclude it as a major Recent sediment source for that basin. The southern Argentine Continental Shelf, the Scotia Ridge, and the Weddell Sea arc mineralogically more likely immediate sources. Transport from the Weddell Sea by the Antarctic Bottom Water may be responsible for the northward transport of fine-fraction sediment along parts of the western South Atlantic as far north as the Equator.