National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Eruptions in the NE Lau Basin

Resing, J.A., R.W. Embley, K.H. Rubin, and NE Lau Response Team

MARGINS Newsletter, 23, 12–14 (2009)

An active boninitic eruption was observed at West Mata (Figure 1) submarine volcano in the NE Lau basin in May 2009. West Mata volcano is the largest of a series of en echelon volcanoes lying between the magmatic arc front and the NE Lau spreading center. The eruption was witnessed as a part of an eruption-response cruise to examine the sites of two eruptions in the NE Lau Basin that were discovered in November 2008 during a NOAA-Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory expedition on R/V T. G. Thompson. The second of the two eruptions was along the NE Lau Spreading Center (NELSC) and was not actively erupting during the response cruise. During the response cruise five ROV dives were conducted at West Mata Volcano and two at the NELSC to characterize the volcanic deposits and associated phenomena. These observations provide fundamental new insights on eruptive phenomena in the deep sea. The eruption at the NE Lau spreading center is the first ever observation of a very recent eruption along a back arc spreading center, while the eruption at West Mata was the first ever observation of an active boninitic eruption. Zero-age samples of boninite (a rare, water-rich magma type believed to form from slab-derived fluid fluxing of shallow refractory mantle) were collected for petrological and geochemical studies.

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