National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

Hydrothermal exploration of the Fonualei Rift and Spreading Center and the North East Lau Spreading Center

German, C.R., E.T. Baker, D.P. Connelly, J.E. Lupton, J. Resing, R.D. Prien, S.L. Walker, H.N. Edmonds, and C.H. Langmuir

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 7, Q11022, doi: 10.1029/2006GC001324 (2006)

We report evidence for active hydrothermal venting along two back-arc spreading centers of the NE Lau Basin: the Fonualei Rift and Spreading Center (FRSC) and the Northeast Lau Spreading Center (NELSC). The ridge segments investigated here are of particular interest as the potential source of a midwater hydrothermal plume (1500–2000 m depth) which extends more than 2000 km across the SW Pacific Ocean dispersing away from an apparent origin close to the most northeastern limits of the Lau Basin. Our results indicate the presence of at least four new hydrothermal plume sources, three along the FRSC and one on the NELSC, the latter situated within 150 km of the maximum for the previously identified SW Pacific regional-scale plume. However, TDFe and TDMn concentrations in the southernmost FRSC plume that we have identified only reach values of 19 and 13 nmol/L and dissolved He anomalies in the same plume are also small, both in relation to the SW Pacific plume and to local background, which shows evidence for extensive He enrichment throughout the entire Lau Basin water column. Our results reveal no evidence for a single major point hydrothermal source anywhere in the NE Lau Basin. Instead, we conclude that the regional-scale SW Pacific hydrothermal plume most probably results from the cumulative hydrothermal output of the entire topographically restricted Lau Basin, discharging via its NE-most corner.

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