Cores from four Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) sites (310, 464, 465, and 466) and seismic-reflection profiles provide data that are used to interpret the geological evolution and paleoenvironments of Hess Rise, a prominent oceanic plateau in the central North Pacific Ocean. Hess Rise apparently formed in the Southern Hemisphere along the western flank of the Pacific-Farallon Ridge 110 to 100 m.y. B.P. Core stratigraphies and lithologies show the response of sedimentation to subsidence and northward movement of Hess Rise on the Pacific plate. Oceanic islands, which crowned Hess Rise during its early evolution, were eroded and subsequently subsided below sea level.
Major structural trends include three northwest-trending (∼327°) arms, or ridges, and an east-northeast-trending southern Hess Rise that parallels the Mendocino Fracture Zone (060°). Normal faults offset basement as much as 3,000 m along the southern edge and 1,500 m on the western flank of Hess Rise. Many faults were active during sedimentation.
Tholeiitic basalt from the base of Hole 464, trachyte from the base of Hole 465A, and alkalic basalt clasts within sediment of Hole 466 show the diversity of rock types that constitute the igneous basement. A major rock unit is middle Cretaceous limestone, chalk, and minor chert that form the basal sedimentary unit. Some limestone samples, rich in organic carbon, reflect accumulation above the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) within a mid-water oxygen minimum zone. The organic-carbon-rich sediments probably were deposited on the submarine slopes of islands and banks that were at upper bathyal depths as Hess Rise crossed the wide equatorial divergence where increased upwelling and biogenic productivity contributed to high accumulation rates. The source of organic matter was mostly lipid-rich, autochthonous, marine organic matter.
Analyses of sediment samples from across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary at Site 465 show that there was a significant decrease in surface water temperature and biological productivity. An abrupt increase in transition metals and iridium suggests that an outside source, perhaps extraterrestrial, was the cause for many of the sudden oceanographic, geochemical, and biological changes at the boundary.