Abstract

Stalactites formed by the chemical weathering of natrocarbonatite lava decorate the roofs of hollow inactive hornitos at Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania. The stalactites are composed principally of trona with lesser and very variable amounts of nahcolite, (NaHCO3), thermonatrite (Na2CO3.H2O), aphthitalite [(K,Na)3Na(SO4)2], kogarkoite [Na3(SO4)F], schairerite [Na21(SO4)7F6Cl], halite and sylvite. Stalactites are considered to form by the evaporation of Ca-free highly alkaline brines seeping from the altered lavas which form the roofs of the hornitos. The principal subaerial weathering products of natrocarbonatite, i.e. pirsonnite, gaylussite, shortite and calcite are not found in the stalactites and are retained in the altered lavas of the homito roof. Fluorine required for the formation of kogarkoite and schairerite is derived from the decomposition of fluorite at high pH (>10). Sulphur is derived from the decomposition of gregoryite.

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