Southeastern Indonesia is located at a convergent triple junction of 3 plates : the Pacific (including the Caro-line and Philippines plates), the Australian and the Southeast Asian plates (fig. 1). The age of the different basins : the North Banda Sea (Sula Basin), the South Banda Sea (Wetar and Damar Basins) and the Weber Trough has been debated for a long time. Their great depth was a reason to interpret them as remnants of oceanic domains either of Indian or Pacific ocean affinities. It has now been demonstrated from geochronological studies that these basins have formed during the Neogene [Réhault et al., 1994 ; Honthaas et al., 1998]. The crust has been sampled only in the Sula Basin, where basalts or trachyandesites with back-arc geochemical signatures have been dredged. Their ages range from 11.4 ± 1.15 to 7.33 ± 0.18 Ma [Réhault et al., 1994 ; Honthaas et al., 1998]. The study of the magnetic anomaly pattern of these basins confirms this interpretation and defines an age between 12.5 and 7.15 Ma for the North Banda Basin and between 6.5 to 3.5 Ma for the South Banda Basin [Hinschberger et al., 2000 ; Hinschberger et al., 2001]. Furthermore, the existence of volcanic arcs linked to subducted slabs suggests that these basins resulted from back-arc spreading and subduction slab roll-back. Lastly, the Weber Trough which exceeds 7 300 m in depth and is one of the deepest non subduction basins in the world, remains enigmatic.

A compilation of existing bathymetric data allows us to present a new bathymetric map of the region (fig. 2 and 3). A comparison with the previous published maps [Mammerickx et al., 1976 ; Bowin et al., 1982] shows numerous differences at a local scale. This is especially true for the Banda Ridges or in the Sula Basin where new tectonic directions are expressed.

In the North Banda Basin, the Tampomas Ridge, which was striking NE-SW in the previous maps, is actually NW-SE parallel to the West Buru Fracture Zone and to the Hamilton Fault scarp (fig. 6). This NW-SE direction represents the initial direction of rifting and oceanic spreading. In this basin, only the southeastern rifted margin morphology is preserved along the Sinta Ridges. The basin is presently involved in an overall compressional motion and its buckled and fractured crust is subducted westwards beneath East Sulawesi (fig. 4a, 5 and 6). The northern border of the North Banda Basin is reactivated into sinistral transcurrent motion in the South Sula Fracture Zone continued into the Matano fault in Sulawesi.

The South Banda Sea Basin is divided in two parts, the Wetar and Damar Basins with an eastward increase in depth. The Wetar and Damar Basins are separated by the NNW-SSE Gunung Api Ridge, characterized by volcanoes, a deep pull apart basin and active tectonics on its eastern flank (fig. 4b and 7). This ridge is interpreted as a large sinistral strike-slip fracture zone which continues across the Banda Ridges and bends towards NW south of Sinta Ridge.

The Banda Ridges region, separating the North Banda Basin from the southern Banda Sea (fig. 5 and 7), is another place where many new morphological features are now documented. The Sinta Ridge to the north is separated from Buru island by the South Buru Basin which may constitute together with the West Buru Fracture Zone a large transcurrent lineament striking NW-SE. The central Rama Ridge is made of 2 narrow ridges striking NE-SW with an « en-echelon » pattern indicating sinistral strike slip comparable to the ENE-WSW strike-slip faulting evidenced by focal mechanisms in the northern border of the Damar Basin [Hinschberger, 2000]. Dredging of Triassic platform rocks and metamorphic basement on the Sinta and Rama Ridges suggests that they are fragments of a continental block [Silver et al., 1985 ; Villeneuve et al., 1994 ; Cornée et al., 1998]. The Banda Ridges are fringed to the south by a volcanic arc well expressed in the morphology : the Nieuwerkerk-Emperor of China and the Lucipara volcanic chains whose andesites and arc basalts have been dated between 8 and 3.45 Ma [Honthaas et al., 1998].

Eastern Indonesia deep oceanic basins are linked to the existence of 2 different subduction zones expressed by 2 different downgoing slabs and 2 volcanic arcs : the Banda arc and the Seram arc [Cardwell et Isacks, 1978 ; Milsom, 2001]. They correspond respectively to the termination of the Australian subduction and to the Bird’s head (Irian Jaya) subduction under Seram (fig. 5). Our bathymetric study helps to define the Seram volcanic arc which follows a trend parallel to the Seram Trench from Ambelau island southeast of Buru to the Banda Island (fig. 2 and 5). A new volcanic seamount discovered in the southeast of Buru (location of dredge 401 in figure 7) and a large volcano in the Pisang Ridge (location of dredge 403 in figure 7 and figure 8) have been surveyed with swath bathymetry. Both show a sub-aerial volcanic morphology and a further subsidence evidenced by the dredging of reefal limestones sampled at about 3000 m depth on their flank.

We compare the mean basement depths corrected for sediment loading for the different basins (fig. 9). These depths are about 5 000 m in the Sula Basin, 4 800 m in the Wetar basin and 5 100 m in the Damar basin. These values plot about 1 000 m below the age-depth curve for the back-arc basins [Park et al., 1990] and about 2000 m below the Parsons and Sclater’s curve for the oceanic crust [Parsons et Sclater, 1977]. More generally, eastern Indonesia is characterized by large vertical motions. Strong subsidence is observed in the deep basins and in the Banda Ridges. On the contrary, large uplifts characterize the islands with rates ranging between 20 to 250 cm/kyr [De Smet et al., 1989a]. Excess subsidence in the back-arc basins has been attributed to large lateral heat loss due to their small size [Boerner et Sclater, 1989] or to the presence of cold subducting slabs. In eastern Indonesia, these mechanisms can explain only a part of the observed subsidence. It is likely that we have to take into account the tectonic forces linked to plate convergence. This is supported by the fact that uplift motions are clearly located in the area of active collision.

In conclusion, the bathymetry and morphology of eastern Indonesian basins reveal a tectonically very active region where basins opened successively in back-arc, intra-arc and fore-arc situation in a continuous convergent geodynamic setting.

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