A model for growth of steep-sided vent structures on the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge: Results of a petrologic and geochemical study
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Petrologic and geochemical studies of vent solids from the Main Endeavour Field (MEF) and the High Rise Field (HRF), Juan de Fuca Ridge, demonstrate that the steep-sided vent structures characteristic of these sites form dominantly by flange growth, combined with diffuse flow through sealed portions of structures, and incorporation of flanges into structures. Geochemical calculations suggest that the prevalence of amorphous silica and flanges in Endeavour deposits is the result of conductive cooling of vent fluids that have high concentrations of ammonia. At Endeavour, as the temperature of vent fluid decreases, ammonia-ammonium equilibrium buffers pH and allows more efficient deposition of sulfide minerals and silica from fluids that have a higher pH than conductively cooled ammonia-poor fluids present at most other unsedimented mid-ocean ridge vent sites. Deposition of silica stabilizes flanges and allows structures to attain large size. It also leads to diffuse flow and further conductive cooling by reducing the permeability and porosity of the structures and of feeder zones, thus decreasing entrainment of seawater. Most inactive vent samples recovered from areas peripheral to the HRF and MEF are similar to barite + silica rich samples from the Explorer Ridge and Axial Seamount and likely formed from precipitation of silica and barite on a biological substrate. Active white smoker chimneys from the Clam Bed Field, located south of the HRF are pyrrhotite rich and likely formed from vent fluids that are depleted in Zn and Cd and enriched in Pb and Ba relative to fluids exiting trans-Atlantic geotraverse (TAG) and Cleft Segment white smoker chimneys.