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International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 355 Preliminary Report

Arabian Sea Monsoon

Deep sea drilling in the Arabian Sea: constraining tectonic-monsoon interactions in South Asia1

31 March–31 May 2015

D.K. Pandey, P.D. Clift, D.K. Kulhanek, S. Andò, J.A.P. Bendle, S. Bratenkov, E.M. Griffith, G.P. Gurumurthy, A. Hahn, M. Iwai, B.-K. Khim, A. Kumar, A.G. Kumar, H.M. Liddy, H. Lu., M.W. Lyle, R. Mishra, T. Radhakrishna, C.M. Routledge, R. Saraswat, R. Saxena, G. Scardia, G.K. Sharma, A.D. Singh, S. Steinke, K. Suzuki, L. Tauxe, M. Tiwari, Z. Xu, and Z. Yu

Published July 2015

See the full publication in PDF.


The Indian (southwest) summer monsoon is one of the most intense climatic phenomena on Earth. Its long-term development has been linked to the growth of high topography in South and Central Asia. The Indian continental margin, adjoining the Arabian Sea, offers a unique opportunity to investigate tectonic–climatic interactions and the net impact of these processes on weathering and erosion of the western Himalaya. During International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 355, two sites (U1456 and U1457) were drilled in Laxmi Basin in the eastern Arabian Sea to document the coevolution of mountain building, weathering, erosion, and climate over a range of timescales. In addition, recovering basement from the eastern Arabian Sea provides constraints on the early rifting history of the western continental margin of India with special emphasis on continental breakup between India and the Seychelles and its relationship to the plume-related volcanism of the Deccan Plateau.

Drilling and coring operations during Expedition 355 recovered sediment from Sites U1456 and U1457 in the Laxmi Basin, penetrating 1109.4 and 1108.6 m below seafloor (mbsf), respectively. Drilling reached sediment dated to 13.5–17.7 Ma (late early to early middle Miocene) at Site U1456, although with a large hiatus between the lowermost sediment and overlying deposits dated to <10.9 Ma. At Site U1457, a much longer hiatus occurs near the base of the cored section, spanning from 10.9 to ~62 Ma. At both sites, hiatuses span ~8.2–9.2 and ~3.6–5.6 Ma, with a possible condensed section spanning ~2.0–2.6 Ma, although the total duration for each hiatus is slightly different between the two sites.

A major submarine fan draining the western Himalaya and Karakoram must have been supplying sediment to the eastern Arabian Sea since at least ~17 Ma. Sand mineral assemblages indicate that the Greater Himalayan Crystalline Sequence was fully exposed to the surface by this time. Most of the recovered sediment appears to be derived from the Indus River and includes minerals that are unique to the Indus Suture Zone, in particular glaucophane and hypersthene, most likely originating from the structural base of the Kohistan arc. Pliocene sandy intervals at Site U1456 were deposited in lower fan “sheet lobe” settings, with intervals of basin plain turbidites separated by hemipelagic muddy sections deposited during the Miocene. Site U1457 is more distal in facies, reflecting its more marginal setting. No major active lobe appears to have affected the Laxmi Basin since the Middle Pleistocene (~1.2 Ma).

We succeeded in recovering sections spanning the 8 Ma climatic transition, when monsoon intensity is believed to have changed strongly, although the nature of this change awaits postcruise analysis. We also recovered sediment from a large mass transport deposit measuring ~330 and ~190 m thick at Sites U1456 and U1457, respectively. This section includes an upper sequence of slump-folded muddy and silty rocks, as well as underlying calcarenites and limestone breccias, together with smaller amounts of volcanic clasts, all of which are likely derived from the western Indian continental shelf. Identification of similar facies on the regional seismic lines in Laxmi Basin suggests that these deposits form parts of one of the world’s largest mass transport deposits.

Coring of igneous basement was successful at Site U1457. Recovery of massive basalt and associated volcaniclastic sediment at this site should address the key questions related to rifting and volcanism associated with formation of Laxmi Basin. Geochemical analysis is required to understand the petrogenesis and thus the tectonic setting of volcanism that will reveal whether it is oceanic basalt or volcanic rock contaminated by underlying continental crust or continental flood basalt. However, the fact that the lavas are massive and have few vesicles implies water depths of eruption likely deeper than 2000 m. This precludes opening of the basin in the presence of a major mantle thermal anomaly, such as that associated with the Deccan Large Igneous Province. Other observations made at the two sites during Expedition 355 provide vital constraints on the rift history of this margin. Heat flow measurements at the two drill sites were calculated to be ~57 and ~60 mW/m2. Such heat flow values are compatible with those observed in average oceanic crust of 63–84 Ma age, as well as with the presence of highly extended continental crust. Postcruise analyses of the more than ~1722 m of core will provide further information about the nature of tectonic–climatic interactions in this global type area for such studies.

1Pandey, D.K., Clift, P.D., Kulhanek, D.K., Andò, S., Bendle, J.A.P., Bratenkov, S., Griffith, E.M., Gurumurthy, G.P., Hahn, A., Iwai, M., Khim, B.-K., Kumar, A., Kumar, A.G., Liddy, H.M., Lu., H., Lyle, M.W., Mishra, R., Radhakrishna, T., Routledge, C.M., Saraswat, R., Saxena, R., Scardia, G., Sharma, G.K., Singh, A.D., Steinke, S., Suzuki, K., Tauxe, L., Tiwari, M., Xu, Z., and Yu, Z., 2015. Expedition 355 Preliminary Report: Arabian Sea Monsoon. International Ocean Discovery Program.​