The Galapagos Fossil Hydrothermal Field is composed of altered oceanic crust and extinct hydrothermal vents within the eastern Galapagos Rift between 85??49???W and 85??55???W. The discharge zone of the hydrothermal system is revealed along scarps, thus providing an opportunity to examine the uppermost mineralized, and highly altered interior parts of the crust. Altered rocks collected in situ by the submersible ALVIN show complex concentric alteration zones. Microsamples of individual zones have been analysed for major/minor, trace elements, and strontium isotopes in order to describe the complex compositional details of the hydrothermal alteration. Interlayered chlorite-smectite and chlorite with disequilibrium compositions dominate the secondary mineralogy as replacement phases of primary glass and acicular pyroxene. Phenocrysts and matrix grains of plagioclase are unaffected during alteration. Using a modification of the Gresens' equation we demonstrate that the trivalent rare earth elements (REEs) are relatively immobile, and calculate degrees of enrichment and depletion in other elements. Strontium isotopic ratios increase as Sr concentrations decrease from least-altered cores to most-altered rims and cross-cutting veins in individual samples, and can be modeled by open system behaviour under low fluid-rock ratio (< 10) conditions following a period of lower-temperature weathering of volcanics within the rift zone. The complex patterns of element enrichment and depletion and strontium isotope variations indicate mixing between pristine seawater and ascending hot fluids to produce a compositional spectrum of fluids. The precipitation of base-metal sulfides beneath the seafloor is probably a result of fluid mixing and cooling. If, as suggested here, the discharge zone alteration occurred under relatively low fluid-rock ratios, then this shallow region must play an important role in determining the exit composition of vent fluids in marine hydrothermal systems. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Hydrothermal alteration in oceanic ridge volcanics: A detailed study at the Galapagos Fossil Hydrothermal Field