International Ocean Discovery Program

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International Ocean Discovery Program
Expedition 397T Preliminary Report

Return to Walvis Ridge Hotspot1

10 September–11 October 2022

William Sager, Peter Blum, and the Expedition 397T Scientists

1 Sager, W., Blum, P., and the Expedition 397T Scientists, 2022. Expedition 397T Preliminary Report: Return to Walvis Ridge Hotspot. International Ocean Discovery Program.

See the full publication in PDF.


International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 397T sought to address the shortage of drilling time caused by COVID-19 mitigation during Expedition 391 (Walvis Ridge Hotspot) by drilling at two sites omitted from the earlier cruise. A week of coring time was added to a transit of JOIDES Resolution from Cape Town to Lisbon, which would cross Walvis Ridge on its way north. These two sites were located on two of the three seamount trails that emerge from the split in Walvis Ridge morphology into several seamount chains at 2°E. Site U1584 (proposed Site GT-6A) sampled the Gough track on the east, and Site U1585 (proposed Site TT-4A) sampled the Tristan track on the west. Together with Site U1578, drilled on the Center track during Expedition 391, they form a transect across the northern Walvis Ridge Guyot Province. The goal was to core seamount basalts and associated volcanic material for geochemical and isotopic, geochronologic, paleomagnetic, and volcanologic study. Scientifically, one emphasis was to better understand the split in geochemical and isotopic signatures that occurs at the morphologic split. Geochronology would add to the established age progression but also give another dimension to understanding Walvis Ridge seamount formation by giving multiple ages at the same sites. The paleomagnetic study seeks to establish paleolatitudes for Walvis Ridge sites for comparison with those published from hotspot seamount chains in the Pacific, in particular to test whether a component of true polar wander affects hotspot paleolatitude.

Hole U1584A cored a 66.4 m thick sedimentary and volcaniclastic section with two lithostratigraphic units. Unit I is a 23 m thick sequence of bioturbated clay and nannofossil chalk with increasing volcaniclastic content downhole. Unit II is a >43 m thick sequence of lapillistone with basalt fragments. Because the seismic section crossing the site shows no evidence as to the depth of the volcaniclastic cover, coring was terminated early. Because there were no other shallow nearby sites with different character on existing seismic lines, the unused operations time from Site U1584 was shifted to the next site.

The seismic reflector interpreted as the top of igneous rock at Site U1585 once again resulted from volcaniclastic deposits. Hole U1585A coring began at 144.1 mbsf and penetrated a 273.5 m thick sedimentary and volcaniclastic section atop a 81.2 m thick series of massive basalt flows. The hole was terminated at 498.8 mbsf because allotted operational time expired. The sedimentary section contains four main units. Unit I (144.1–157.02 mbsf) is a bioturbated nannofossil chalk with foraminifera, similar to the shallowest sediments recovered at Site U1584. Unit II (157.02–249.20 mbsf), which is divided into two subunits, is a 92.2 m thick succession of massive and bedded pumice and scoria lapillistone with increased reworking, clast alteration, and tuffaceous chalk intercalations downhole. Unit III (249.20–397.76 mbsf) is 148.6 m thick and consists of a complex succession of pink to greenish gray tuffaceous chalk containing multiple thin, graded ash turbidites and tuffaceous ash layers; intercalated tuffaceous chalk slumps; and several thick coarse lapilli and block-dominated volcaniclastic layers. Befitting the complexity, it is divided into eight subunits (IIIA–IIIH). Three of these subunits (IIIA, IIID, and IIIG) are mainly basalt breccias. Unit IV (397.76–417.60 mbsf) is a volcanic breccia, 19.8 m thick, containing mostly juvenile volcaniclasts. The igneous section, Unit V (417.60–498.80 mbsf) is composed of a small number of massive basaltic lava flows. It is divided into three lithologic units, with Unit 2 represented by a single 3 cm piece of quenched basalt with olivine phenocrysts in a microcrystalline groundmass. This piece may represent a poorly recovered set of pillow lavas. Unit 1 is sparsely to highly olivine-clinopyroxene ± plagioclase phyric massive basalt and is divided into Subunits 1a and 1b based on textural and mineralogical differences, which suggests that they are two different flows. Unit 3 also consists of two massive lava flows with no clear boundary features. Subunit 3a is a 10.3 m thick highly clinopyroxene-plagioclase phyric massive basalt flow with a fine-grained groundmass. Subunit 3b is a featureless massive basalt flow that is moderately to highly clinopyroxene-olivine-plagioclase phyric and >43.7 m thick. Alteration of the lava flows is patchy and moderate to low in grade, with two stages, one at a higher temperature and one at a low temperature, both focused around fractures.

The Site U1585 chronologic succession from basalt flows to pelagic sediment indicates volcanic construction and subsidence. Lava eruptions were followed by inundation and shallow-water volcaniclastic sediment deposition, which deepened over time to deepwater conditions. Although the massive flows were probably erupted in a short time and have little variability, volcaniclasts in the sediments may provide geochemical and geochronologic data from a range of time and sources. Chemical analyses indicate that Site U1585 basalt samples are mostly alkalic basalt, with a few trachybasalt flow and clast samples and one basaltic trachyandesite clast. Ti/V ratios lie mostly within the oceanic island basalt (OIB) field but overlap the mid-ocean-ridge basalt (MORB) field. Only a handful of clasts from Site U1584 were analyzed, but geochemical data are similar. Paleomagnetic data from Site U1585 indicate that the sediments and basalt units are strongly magnetic and mostly give coherent inclination data, which indicates that the basaltic section and ~133 m of overlying volcaniclastic sediment is reversely polarized and that this reversal is preserved in a core. Above this, the rest of the sediment section records two normal and two reversed zones. Although there are not enough basalt flows to give a reliable paleolatitude, it may be possible to attain such a result from the sediments.