First samples of acoustic basement recovered from the alpha ridge, Arctic ocean: New constraints for the origin of the ridge

N. A. Van Wagoner*, M. C. Williamson, P. T. Robinson, I. L. Gibson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The Alpha Ridge is one of three subparallel trending ridges that cut the Arctic Ocean. It is roughly Late Cretaceous to Eocene in age, and seismic refraction records suggest it comprises a thick sequence of oceanic crust. During the 1983 CESAR expedition 20 similar samples of acoustic basement were dredged from the walls of a major graben of the Alpha Ridge, at one site. These are the only basement samples ever recovered from the ridge and provide the first direct evidence for its nature, composition and possible origin. The basement samples are highly altered pyroclastic rocks composed almost entirely of basaltic volcanic clasts with little matrix. Although the rocks are highly altered, most primary textures and structures are preserved. Most clasts are highly amygdaloidal to scoriaceous, fine grained to glassy, and angular to subround with rare vesicle controlled boundaries. Little reworking is suggested because a single clast type predominates, many of the clasts are subangular, and any amount of reworking would result in destruction of the delicate scoriaceous clasts. Rare clinopyroxene phenocrysts comprise the only unaltered portion of the rocks. They are salitic in composition (Wo49-53, En32-41, Fs11-15), with significant amounts of Ca, Al and Ti. Salitic clinopyroxenes are typical of alkalic basalts. Interpretation of the whole rock geochemistry based on relatively immobile elements, (Nb, Zr, Tio2, and Y), and chondrite-normalized incompatible trace element and REE patterns indicates that the volcanic rock fragments are of alkalic basalt. Geochemical discriminators suggest a within-plate tectonic setting. Textural evidence suggests that the CESAR basement rocks were sampled from a rapidly emplaced submarine fallout deposit that was erupted at a depth at least less than 800 m and likely less than 200 m. High extrusive rates would have been required to build the ridge up to shallow depth prior to the cessation of volcanism. The alkalic affinity of the rocks strongly suggests that the Alpha ridge was not formed by volcanism at an island arc or a mature spreading centre. It is also unlikely that it formed as a "leaky" fracture zone. Alkalic basalts, however, are commonly associated with various types of oceanic aseismic ridges. It is suggested that the Alpha Ridge is an aseismic ridge that formed due to voluminous hotspot volcanism as spreading began in the Canada Basin. Such hotppot activity may have been responsible for initiating the rifting, breakup, and dispersal that eventually formed the Canada Basin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-196
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


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