Geology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Professional Paper 1631




The rocks of St. John, which is located near the eastern end of the Greater Antilles and near the northeastern corner of the Caribbean plate, consist of Cretaceous basalt, andesite, keratophyre, their volcaniclastic and hypabyssal intrusive equivalents, and minor calcareous rocks and chert. These rocks were intruded by Tertiary mafic dikes and tonalitic plutons. The oldest rocks formed in an extensional oceanic environment characterized by abundant keratophyre and sheeted dikes. Subduction-related volcanism of the east-west-trending marine Greater Antilles volcanic arc began on St. John near the transition between the Early and Late Cretaceous. South-directed compression, probably caused by the initial collision between the Greater Antilles arc of the Caribbean plate and the Bahama platform of the North American plate, deformed the Cretaceous strata into east-west-trending folds with axial-plane cleavage. Late Eocene tonalitic intrusions, part of the Greater Antilles arc magmatism, produced a contact aureole that is as much as two kilometers wide and that partly annealed the axial-plane cleavage. East-west compression, possibly related to the relative eastward transport of the Caribbean plate in response to the beginning of spreading at the Cayman Trough, produced long-wavelength, low-amplitude folds whose axes plunge gently north and warp the earlier folds. A broad north-plunging syncline-anticline pair occupies most of St. John. The last tectonic event affecting St. John is recorded by a series of post-late Eocene sinistral strike-slip faults related to the early stages of spreading at the Cayman Trough spreading center and sinistral strike-slip accommodation near the northern border of the Caribbean plate. Central St. John is occupied by a rhomb horst bounded by two of these sinistral faults. Unlike other parts of the Greater Antilles, evidence for recent tectonic movement has not been observed on St. John.

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Geology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
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Professional Paper
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iii, 36 p. : ill., col. map ; 28 cm.