The North Kona slump is an elliptical region, about 20 by 60 km (1000-km2 area), of multiple, geometrically intricate benches and scarps, mostly at water depths of 2000-4500 m, on the west flank of Hualalai Volcano. Two dives up steep scarps in the slump area were made in September 2001, using the ROV Kaiko of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center (JAMSTEC), as part of a collaborative Japan-USA project to improve understanding of the submarine flanks of Hawaiian volcanoes. Both dives, at water depths of 2700-4000 m, encountered pillow lavas draping the scarp-and-bench slopes. Intact to only slightly broken pillow lobes and cylinders that are downward elongate dominate on the steepest mid-sections of scarps, while more equant and spherical pillow shapes are common near the tops and bases of scarps and locally protrude through cover of muddy sediment on bench flats. Notably absent are subaerially erupted Hualalai lava flows, interbedded hyaloclastite pillow breccia, and/or coastal sandy sediment that might have accumulated downslope from an active coastline. The general structure of the North Kona flank is interpreted as an intricate assemblage of downdropped lenticular blocks, bounded by steeply dipping normal faults. The undisturbed pillow-lava drape indicates that slumping occurred during shield-stage tholeiitic volcanism. All analyzed samples of the pillow-lava drape are tholeiite, similar to published analyses from the submarine northwest rift zone of Hualalai. Relatively low sulfur (330-600 ppm) and water (0.18-0.47 wt.%) contents of glass rinds suggest that the eruptive sources were in shallow water, perhaps 500-1000-m depth. In contrast, saturation pressures calculated from carbon dioxide concentrations (100-190 ppm) indicate deeper equilibration, at or near sample sites at water depths of -3900 to -2800 m. Either vents close to the sample sites erupted mixtures of undegassed and degassed magmas, or volatiles were resorbed from vesicles during flowage downslope after eruption in shallow water. The glass volatile compositions suggest that the tholeiitic lavas that drape the slump blocks were erupted either (1) early during shield-stage tholeiitic volcanism prior to emergence of a large subaerial edifice, or alternatively (2) from submarine radial vents during subaerial shield-building. Because no radial vents have been documented on land or underwater for the unbuttressed flanks of any Hawaii volcano, alternative (1) is favored. In comparison to other well-documented Hawaiian slumps and landslides, North Kona structures suggest a more incipient slump event, with smaller down-slope motions and lateral displacements.
Additional publication details
North Kona slump: Submarine flank failure during the early(?) tholeiitic shield stage of Hualalai Volcano