The geochemistry of basalts recovered from seven sites in the North Atlantic is described with particular reference to minor elements. Three sites (407, 408, and 409) along the same mantle flow line, transverse to the Reykjanes Ridge at about 63°N, provide information on the composition of basalts erupted over a 34-m.y. interval between 2.3 and 36 m.y. ago. At Site 410, at 45°N, penetration into 10 m.y.-old crust west of the ridge axis permits comparisons with young basalts dredged from the median valley at 45°N. Three sites in the FAMOUS area at about 36°N provided material from very young (1 m.y.) basaltic crust (Site 411), and material to test the geochemical coherence of basalts of different ages (1.5 and 3.5 m.y.) on either side of a fracture zone (Sites 412 and 413). These sites complement earlier data from dredged and drilled sites (Leg 37) in the FAMOUS area.
At Site 407, four geochemically distinct basalt units occur, with different normative and rare-earth element (REE) characteristics, and there is a clear correlation with magnetic stratigraphy. Yet there is a remarkable consistency in incompatible element ratios between these units, indicating derivation from an essentially similar mantle source. The basalts from the younger sites, 408 and 409, show a similar range of normative and REE variation, but incompatible element ratios are identical to those at Site 407, indicating that basalts at all three sites were produced from a mantle source which was geochemically relatively uniform. Rare-earth differences between the basalts can be interpreted in terms of variations in the degree and depth of partial melting causing HREE (+Y) retention in the source, although there may be some inter-site differences with respect to REE.
A similar picture is presented at 45°N. Apparently a range of tholeiitic, transitional, and alkalic basalts were being erupted 10 m.y. ago, which have almost identical geochemical characteristics to those recently erupted in the median valley at 45°N. Incompatible element ratios are markedly different from those recorded at the Reykjanes Ridge. Basalts recovered from the FAMOUS sites are geochemically similar to previous samples recovered from the FAMOUS area, and their incompatible element ratios are similar, but not identical, to those at 45°N. However, total trace element levels are consistently lower than in 45°N basalts, which might imply smaller degrees of partial melting and/or greater depths of magma generation at 45°N, or higher trace element levels in the mantle source at 45°N.
Few of the basalts recovered on Leg 49 have the geochemical characteristics of typical "MORB" (e.g., Nazca Plate, Leg 34). The data strongly support models invoking geochemical inhomogeneity in the source regions of basalts produced at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. However, the data also introduce an additional time factor into such models and demonstrate the uniformity of the mantle source at a particular ridge sector (over periods in excess of 30 m.y.), while emphasizing the marked differences along the ridge. Mixing models invoking "depleted" and "enriched" mantle sources would seem to be inadequate to account for the observed variations.
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