Volcanic evolution of the South Sandwich volcanic arc, South Atlantic, from multibeam bathymetry
New multibeam bathymetry data are presented for the South Sandwich intra-oceanic arc which occupies the small Sandwich plate in the South Atlantic, and is widely considered to be a simple end-member in the range of intra-oceanic arc types. The images show for the first time the distribution of submarine volcanic, tectonic and erosional-depositional features along the whole length of the 540 km long volcanic arc, allowing systematic investigation of along-arc variations. The data confirm that the volcanic arc has a simple structure composed of large volcanoes which form a well-defined volcanic front, but with three parallel cross-cutting seamount chains extending 38-60 km from near the volcanic front into the rear-arc. There is no evidence for intra-arc rifting or extinct volcanic lines. Topographic evidence for faulting is generally absent, except near the northern and southern plate boundaries. Most of the volcanic arc appears to be built on ocean crust formed at the associated back-arc spreading centre, as previously proposed from magnetic data, but the southern part of the arc appears to be underlain by older arc or continental crust whose west-facing rifted margin facing the back-arc basin is defined by the new bathymetry. The new survey shows nine main volcanic edifices along the volcanic front and ca. 20 main seamounts. The main volcanoes form largely glaciated islands with summits 3.0-3.5 km above base levels which are 2500-3000 m deep in the north and shallower at 2000-2500 m deep in the south. Some of the component seamounts are interpreted to have been active since the last glacial maximum, and so are approximately contemporaneous with the volcanic front volcanism. Seven calderas, all either submarine or ice-filled, have been identified: Adventure volcano, a newly discovered submarine volcanic front caldera volcano is described for the first time. All but one of the calderas are situated on summits of large volcanoes in the southern part of the arc, and most are associated with current or historic volcanic or hydrothermal activity. Shallow shelves around the islands are generally 1-10 km wide. Submerged banks up to 1100 m deep are interpreted as subsided erosional surfaces. Seamounts and emergent volcanoes experienced a range of mass wasting processes including by landsliding and smaller mass flows.
Authors: Leat, Philip T., Day, Simon J., Tate, Alex J., Martin, Tara J., Owen, Matthew J., Tappin, David R.