Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
As part of an intensive study of a small area of oceanic lithosphere, the British Institutions Reflection Profiling Syndicate (BIRPS) acquired closely spaced deepseismic-reflection profiles over the Early Cretaceous crust of the Cape Verde abyssal plain off West Africa. The survey consisted of profiles spaced at 4 km arranged into strike lines parallel to the old sea-floor spreading axis (‘isochron’ profiles) and orthogonal dip lines oriented in the original direction of spreading (‘flow’ profiles). A large-capacity, well-tuned airgun source and very quiet shooting conditions ensured a high signal-to-noise ratio for deep reflection. Devising a strategy for mitigating contamination from ‘wrap-around’ multiples arriving from previous shots enabled us to use the minimum possible shot-point interval (50 m) allowed for collecting long (18 s) records. Data processing was oriented towards a medium with low root-mean-square velocity, steeply dipping structure, and pervasive low apparent velocity noise from diffraction at the top of the igneous crust. The contrast between the isochron and flow profiles is striking. Isochron profiles are typically highly reflective throughout the igneous crust, consisting of bright, bidirectionally dipping reflection sets that extend in places from the top of the igneous basement down to the interpreted Moho reflection. These reflections do not offset intracrustal or top-basement structure and thus are not interpreted as faults: an igneous intrusive origin seems more likely. Flow profiles are more sparsely reflective but show individual steeply dipping reflections best developed in the upper igneous crust, continuing down in places to the Moho. Dipping reflections on the flow profiles are interpreted as major normal faults since they are clearly associated with offsets of the top of the basement as well as truncation of horizontal reflections within the igneous crust. The dominant dip of these reflections is to the west towards the spreading ridge axis. Reflections from the vicinity of the Moho, while well developed in some places, are not particularly prominent across the survey area. Moho reflections appear to show a different structural relation to crustal features on the isochron and flow profiles: on isochron profiles, dipping reflections occasionally flatten out into, and may merge with, the Moho reflection; on flow profiles, as dipping crustal reflections approach the Moho reflection, they are usually abruptly cut off by it without extending deeper. This survey shows how oceanic crustal structure can vary rapidly over relatively small areas, provides convincing evidence that a structurally complex fabric dominates oceanic igneous crust, and gives a conclusive observation of faults that penetrate the entire oceanic crust.
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