Abstract

Five sites were drilled along a transect of the Walvis Ridge. The basement rocks range in age from 69 to 71 m.y., and the deeper sites are slightly younger, in agreement with the sea-floor–spreading magnetic lineations. Geophysical and petrological evidence indicates that the Walvis Ridge was formed at a mid-ocean ridge at anomalously shallow elevations. The basement complex, associated with the relatively smooth acoustic basement in the area, consists of pillowed basalt and massive flows alternating with nannofossil chalk and limestone that contain a significant volcanogenic component. Basalts are quartz tholeiites at the ridge crest and olivine tholeiites downslope. The sediment sections are dominated by carbonate oozes and chalks with volcanogenic material common in the lower parts of the sediment columns. The volcanogenic sediments probably were derived from sources on the Walvis Ridge.

Paleodepth estimates based on the benthic fauna are consistent with a normal crustal-cooling rate of subsidence of the Walvis Ridge. The shoalest site in the transect sank below sea level in the late Paleocene, and benthic fauna suggest a rapid sea-level lowering in the mid-Oligocene.

Average accumulation rates during the Cenozoic indicate three peaks in the rate of supply of carbonate to the sea floor, that is, early Pliocene, late middle Miocene, and late Paleocene to early Eocene. Carbonate accumulation rates for the rest of the Cenozoic averaged 1 g/cm2/103 yr. Dissolution had a marked effect on sediment accumulation in the deeper sites, particularly during the late Miocene, Oligocene, and middle to late Eocene. Changes in the rates of accumulation as a function of depth demonstrate that the upper part of the water column had a greater degree of undersaturation with respect to carbonate during times of high productivity. Even when the calcium carbonate compensation depth (CCD) was below 4,400 m, a significant amount of carbonate was dissolved at the shallower sites.

The flora and fauna of the Walvis Ridge are temperate in nature. Warmer-water faunas are found in the uppermost Maastrichtian and lower Eocene sediments, with cooler-water faunas present in the lower Paleocene, Oligocene, and middle Miocene. The boreal elements of the lower Pliocene are replaced by more temperate forms in the middle Pliocene.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary was recovered in four sites drilled, with the sediments containing well-preserved nannofossils but poorly preserved foraminifera.

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