A set of east-trending magnetic anomalies located in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean near the Phoenix Islands is Early Cretaceous in age. The use of magnetic reversal model studies shows that this lineated anomaly pattern correlates with one east of Japan that trends east, and with one west of Hawaii that trends northwest. These patterns were formed in their present relative positions, but about 40° (4,500 km) south of their present geographic locations. The configuration of these three contemporaneous sets of magnetic anomalies implies that the Late Mesozoic tectonic pattern consisted of five spreading centers joined at two triple points. In this interpretation, the oldest part of the Pacific Ocean lies just east of the Mariana Trench and is Early Jurassic in age.

This Mesozoic system evolved into the Cenozoic spreading pattern recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The details of this transition are open to speculation because it occurred during a period in the Late Cretaceous that lacked magnetic reversals. We propose a model that suggests the northern triple point jumped southeast about 2,000 km at 100 m.y. B.P., and that the Emperor Trough was a transform fault of large offset during the Late Cretaceous. The southern triple point migrated rapidly toward the south-southeast, approximately parallel to the Eltanin Fracture Zone–Louisville Ridge complex that we extend o t the westernmost of the Phoenix lineation fracture zones.

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