Quantitative study of the deformation at Southern Explorer Ridge using high-resolution bathymetric data
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We present preliminary results of a morphological study of the summit of the Southern Explorer Ridge (SER). The SER is an inflated intermediate-rate spreading center located in the northeast Pacific off the West coast of Canada, that hosts a large hydrothermal vent complex known as ‘’ Magic Mountain ‘’. A quantitative assessment of faulting on the axial summit graben floor close to the ridge Summit is accomplished through the analysis of high-resolution, near-bottom, bathymetric data. These data were acquired using a multibeam system mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle operated a few tens meters above the seafloor. Structural mapping reveals numerous subvertical fissures and normal faults that nucleated from tension fissures. The ratio between the length and the maximum scarp height of normal faults is not constant contrary to what is generally observed on subaerial faults, highlighting the probable importance of fault segment linkage and fault growth processes within the relatively thin brittle layer. Populations of small faults exhibit an exponential size-frequency distribution that reflects the importance of linkage in the fault growth history and the relatively large amount of tectonic strain (3.7 to 18.4%) accommodated by the normal faults. We propose that the 500 to 600-m wide and similar to 60-in deep asymmetric axial summit graben of the SER formed due to magma chamber deflation as well as normal faulting that initiated on the present eastern border of the graben. We find a well-defined geographic distribution in the types of lava flows, which indicates a general decrease of the eruption rate through time. We also find that the ‘’ Magic Mountain ‘’ hydrothermal field is located in the vicinity of the large eastern axial summit graben bounding fault whose dimensions suggest it may reach to the brittle ductile-transition depth. This fault likely has provided an efficient physical pathway for fluids from the subsurface to the seafloor for a significant period of time thus allowing the hydrothermal system to grow and mature. (c) 2007 Published by Elsevier B.V.