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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof Roger Clive Searle

Haughton, G., Hayman, N. W., Searle, R. C., Le Bas, Tim & Murton, B. J. (2019). Volcanic-tectonic structure of the Mt. Dent Oceanic Core Complex in the ultraslow Mid-Cayman Spreading Center determined from detailed seafloor investigation. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 20(3): 1298-1318.

Author(s) from Durham


The flanks of the ultraslow‐spreading Mid‐Cayman Spreading Center (MCSC) are characterized by domal massifs, or oceanic core complexes (OCCs). The most prominent of these, Mt. Dent, comprises lower‐crustal and upper‐mantle lithologies and hosts the Von Damm vent field (VDVF) ~12 km west of the axial deep. Here‐presented AUV‐derived swath sonar (multibeam) mapping and deep‐towed side‐scan sonar imagery lead to our interpretation that: (i) slip along the OCC‐bounding detachment fault is ceasing, (ii) the termination zone, where detachment fault meets the hanging wall, is disintegrating, (iii) the domed surface of the OCC is cut by steep north‐south extensional faulting, and (iv) the breakaway zone is cut by outward‐facing faults. The VDVF and dispersed pockmarks on the OCC's south flank further suggest that hydrothermal fluid flow is pervasive within the faulted OCC. On the axial floor of the MCSC, bright acoustic backscatter and multibeam bathymetry reveal: (v) a volcanic detachment hanging wall, (vi) a major fault rifting the southern flank of Mt. Dent, and (vii) a young axial volcanic ridge intersecting its northern flank. These observations are described by a conceptual model wherein detachment faulting and OCC exhumation are ceasing during an increase in magmatic intrusion, brittle deformation, and hydrothermal circulation within the OCC. Together, this high‐resolution view of the MCSC provides an instructive example of how OCCs formed within an overall melt‐starved ultraslow spreading center can undergo magmatism, hydrothermal activity, and faulting in much the same way as expected in magmatically more robust slow‐spreading centers elsewhere.