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The occurrence of gas hydrates in deep-water sections of the continental margins predicted from anomalous acoustic reflectors on seismic profiles has been confirmed by recent deep-sea drilling results. On the Pacific continental slope off Guatemala gas hydrates were brought up for the first time from two holes (497, 498A) drilled during Leg 67 of the DSDP in water depths of 2360 and 5500 m, respectively. The hydrates occur in organic matter-rich Pleistocene to Miocene terrigenous sediments. In the hydrate-bearing zone a marked decrease in interstitial water chlorinities was observed starting at about 10-20 m subbottom depth. Pore waters at the bottom of the holes (near 400 m subbottom) have as little as half the chlorinity of seawater (i.e. 9???). Similar, but less pronounced, trends were observed during previous legs of the DSDP in other hydrate-prone segments of the continental margins where recharge of fresh water from the continent can be excluded (e.g. Leg 11). The crystallization of hydrates, like ice, excludes salt ions from the crystal structure. During burial the dissolved salts are separated from the solids. Subsidence results in a downward motion of the solids (including hydrates) relative to the pore fluids. Thawing of hydrates during recovery releases fresh water which is remixed with the pore fluid not involved in hydrate formation. The volume of the latter decreases downhole thus causing downward decreasing salinity (chlorinity). Hydrate formation is responsible for oxygen isotope fractionation with 18O-enrichment in the hydrate explaining increasingly more positive ??18O values in the pore fluids recovered (after hydrate dissociation) with depth. ?? 1981.
Additional Publication Details
Gas hydrates (clathrates) causing pore-water freshening and oxygen isotope fractionation in deep-water sedimentary sections of terrigenous continental margins