VESPA cruise report. Volcanic Evolution of South Pacific Arcs. n/o L’Atalante, Nouméa – Nouméa, 22 May - 17 June 2015
|Ref.||SGNC Rapport N° SGNC – 2016 (02)|
|Author(s)||Mortimer Nick1, Patriat Martin2|
|Note||VESPA shipboard participants Arnaud Agranier, Méderic Amann, Claire Bassoullet, Hamish Campbell, Patricia Durance, Samuel Etienne, Charline Guérin, Nina Jordan, Caroline Juan, Mathieu Mengin, Mathilde Pitel, Clément Roussel and Fanny Soetaert|
|Abstract||VESPA was a successful 25 day research cruise on R/V l'Atalante that took place in May and June 2015. The main aim was to acquire new rock samples from extinct volcanoes on the Norfolk, Loyalty and Three Kings ridges, which connect New Caledonia and New Zealand. This was in order to test various hypotheses of Late Cretaceous-Miocene SW Pacific tectonic development relating to (i) nature and duration of magmatism on the ridges; (ii) timing of subduction initiation east of northern Zealandia; (iii) postulated subduction polarity changes.
A total of 3400 km of 'sismique rapide' shallow reflection seismic data were acquired and processed onboard. The seismic lines provided a very useful structural-stratigraphic framework for the rock dredging. Combined with multibeam bathymetry data they allowed intelligent targeting of acoustic basement (lavas) and specific seismic reflectors (sedimentary strata) on rocky slopes and fault scarps. Different stratigraphic levels of the Loyalty and Three Kings Ridge volcanic piles were sampled by dredging at different water depths on the Cook Fracture Zone and Cagou Trough fault scarps.
By the end of the cruise, 43 dredges had been attempted and 36 of them yielded igneous or sedimentary rocks potentially useful to the VESPA project. Onboard use of a portable X-ray fluorescence unit confirmed the presence of intraplate (but no arc) volcanoes on the Norfolk Ridge and presence of arc, intraplate and shoshonitic volcanoes on the Loyalty and Three Kings Ridges. A total of 770 kg of rock was retained for post-cruise analysis in New Caledonia, France and New Zealand. Future work will include micropaleontological dating of sedimentary rocks, U-Pb and Ar-Ar isotopic dating of igneous rocks, and whole rock geochemical and tracer isotope analyses. We are optimistic that many of the initial research hypotheses will be able to be tested.