Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

P.J. Fox


The suite of gabbroic rocks collected by the DSRV ALVIN in 1976 and 1977 from the walls of the Mid-Cayman Rise spreading center were studied in detail to provide the best available data on plutonic rocks sampled directly from the ocean floor. The rock types studied include variably deformed and altered gabbros, orthopyroxene gabbros, olivine gabbros and troctolites, and a few amphibolites. Mineral chemical analyses suggest that the various rock types are representative of a fractionation trend from magnesian troctolites through olivine and clinopyroxene gabbros to iron-enriched orthopyroxene gabbros. Within many individual samples, the primary mineral phases are apparently chemically homogeneous despite sometimes considerable alteration, which suggests reequilibration after original crystallization. Variation in mineral-chemistry across the suite is larger than previously reported for ocean-floor gabbros; this may be due to the larger population of this study. The primary or secondary nature of plagioclase and amphibole must be distinguished in discussions of the igneous processes involved in the genesis of these rocks. In this suite, textural evidence is often inconclusive, and although sodic chemistry is assumed to indicate a secondary origin for plagioclase, no chemical indicator was found to apply to amphiboles. Many different deformation textures are observed in the samples, indicating considerable variation in the conditions of deformation within this slowly accreting ridge environment. Ductile features range from mechanical twins and bent crystals (low strain) to complete recrystallization with a well-developed foliation (high strain). Textures suggestive of cataclasis include zones .1-10 mm wide containing very fine, irregular grains; kinked and cracked grains, usually very undulose; and crosscutting fractures. These textures may occur separately, or next to or overprinting each other. Of the variables controlling the formation of deformation features, temperature and water pressure are most easily estimated. Minimum temperature during deformation is suggested by minimum temperature of formation of mineral assemblages unaffected by this deformation. This temperature is greater than 550°C (epidote-amphibolite facies) for the majority of features observed, although sampling may have introduced a bias away from lower temperature features. Observations suggest enhanced recrystallization where the primary mineralogy has been hydrated to a greater extent. Theoretically, confining pressure for the gabbroic rocks in this suite may have varied from about .3-.9kb; fluid pressure should have been within these limits. Based on mineralogical evidence, cataclastic and ductile textures developed at both high and moderate temperatures. This suggests that strain rates and/or pressure vary considerably within regions where rocks are hot as well as where rocks are cooler, and that after high-temperature deformation some rocks cooled quickly enough to prevent significant recrystallization while others cooled more slowly. These interpretations indicate that the Cayman plutonics were raised to their present position by motions which varied from place to place and time to time, and suggests that the structural history of formed at slowly accreting plate boundaries is highly variable and complex.


Malcolm, F.L., 1979. Petrography, mineral chemistry and microstructures of gabbros from the Mid-Cayman Rise Spreading Center. Unpublished MSc. thesis, State University of New York at Albany. 418pp., +ix.
University at Albany Science Library call number: SCIENCE Oversize (*) QE 431 M35X

malcolmfmsax1.pdf (574 kB)
Appendix 1 - descriptions of rock samples recovered during ALVIN dives

malcolmfmsax2.pdf (6435 kB)
Appendix 2 - thin section descriptions

malcolmfmsax3.pdf (1379 kB)
Appendix 3 - microprobe analyses of plagioclases in Cayman Trough plutonic rocks

malcolmfmsax4.pdf (459 kB)
Appendix 4 - microprobe analyses of olivines in Cayman Trough plutonic rocks

malcolmfmsax5.pdf (1294 kB)
Appendix 5 - microprobe analyses of pyroxenes in Cayman Trough plutonic rocks

malcolmfmsax6.pdf (1818 kB)
Appendix 6 - microprobe analyses of amphiboles in Cayman Trough plutonic rocks