Role of upwelling hydrothermal fluids in the development of alteration patterns at fast spreading ridges: Evidence from the sheeted dike complex at Pito Deep

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Abstract

Alteration of sheeted dikes exposed along submarine escarpments at the Pito Deep Rift (NE edge of the Easter microplate) provides constraints on the crustal component of axial hydrothermal systems at fast spreading mid-ocean ridges. Samples from vertical transects through the upper crust constrain the temporal and spatial scales of hydrothermal fluid flow and fluid-rock reaction. The dikes are relatively fresh (average extent of alteration is 27%), with the extent of alteration ranging from 0 to >80%. Alteration is heterogeneous on scales of tens to hundreds of meters and displays few systematic spatial trends. Background alteration is amphibole-dominated, with chlorite-rich dikes sporadically distributed throughout the dike complex, indicating that peak temperatures ranged from <300°C to >450°C and did not vary systematically with depth. Dikes locally show substantial metal mobility, with Zn and Cu depletion and Mn enrichment. Amphibole and chlorite fill fractures throughout the dike complex, whereas quartz-filled fractures and faults are only locally present. Regional variability in alteration characteristics is found on a scale of <1–2 km, illustrating the diversity of fluid-rock interaction that can be expected in fast spreading crust. We propose that much of the alteration in sheeted dike complexes develops within broad, hot upwelling zones, as the inferred conditions of alteration cannot be achieved in downwelling zones, particularly in the shallow dikes. Migration of circulating cells along rides axes and local evolution of fluid compositions produce sections of the upper crust with a distinctive character of alteration, on a scale of <1–2 km and <5–20 ka.

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