Analytical data for northwest Nazca plate sediments can be described in terms of a mixture of hydrothermal, detrital, hydrogenous, and biogenous material. Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, Ba, Si, and Al are more than 50 percent hydrothermal in East Pacific Rise samples from lat 10° to 25 °S. The first four elements are dominantly hydrothermal in the Bauer Deep and Central Basin as well. Seventy to 80 percent of the Ni, 60 to 80 percent of the Ba, and 30 to 60 percent of the Cu and Zn in Bauer Deep and Central Basin sediments are hydrogenous. Si, Ba, and Zn are dominantly biogenous on the northern East Pacific Rise crest, where more than one-third of the Cu also is derived from this source. Detrital Al and Si are dominant away from the rise crest, particularly in the Central Basin, where about 40 percent of the Fe and 15 percent of the Zn may also be detrital. Much of the hydrothermal Fe and biogenous Si have been transformed to an iron-rich smectite. The proportion of total Fe bound in this phase varies from less than 20 percent on the southern rise crest to about 40 percent in the Bauer Deep.
The distribution of each element is governed by (1) supply from the four basic sources; (2) lateral transport by bottom currents moving east and then south across the northern East Pacific Rise and Bauer Deep to the Central Basin and moving west from the Peru Basin to the Central Basin; and (3) transformation of the unstable metalliferous hydroxides into more stable smectite and ferromanganese oxyhydroxides.