Discovery Seamounts

Discovery Seamounts are a chain of seamounts in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, which include the Discovery Seamount. The seamounts lie 850 kilometres (530 mi) east of Gough Island and once rose above sea level. Various volcanic rocks as well as glacial dropstones and sediments have been dredged from the seamounts.

The Discovery Seamounts appear to be a volcanic seamount chain controlled by the Discovery hotspot, which had its starting point either in the ocean, Cretaceous kimberlite fields in southern Namibia or the Karoo-Ferrar large igneous province. The seamounts formed between 41 and 35 million years ago; presently the hotspot is thought to lie southwest of the seamounts, where there are geological anomalies in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that may reflect the presence of a neighbouring hotspot.

Discovery Seamounts
LocationSouthern Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates42°00′S 0°12′E / 42°S 0.2°E[1]Coordinates: 42°00′S 0°12′E / 42°S 0.2°E[1]

Name and discovery

Discovery Seamount was discovered in 1936 by the research ship RRS Discovery II[2] and was originally named Discovery Bank[3] by the crew of a German research ship, RV Schwabenland. The seamount received another name, Discovery Tablemount, in 1963. In 1993 the name "Discovery Bank" was transferred by the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans to another seamount at Kerguelen, leaving the name "Discovery Seamounts" for the seamounts.[4]

Geography and geomorphology

The Discovery Seamounts are a group of seamounts[5] 850 kilometres (530 mi) east of Gough Island[2] and southwest from Cape Town[6] which extend over an east-west region of over 611 kilometres (380 mi) length.[3] The seamounts rise over 4 kilometres (2.5 mi)[7] to depths of 400–500 metres (1,300–1,600 ft) and have the shape of guyots;[8] this implies that they formerly rose above sea level,[9] guyots form when islands are eroded to a flat plateau that is then submerged through thermal subsidence of the lithosphere.[10] The shallowest peak reached by a seamount from the group is a depth of 426 metres (1,398 ft),[11] although a depth of 389 metres (1,276 ft) has been reported for Discovery Seamount also.[12] These seamounts are also referred to as the Discovery Rise and subdivided into a northwestern and a southeastern trend.[13]

The largest of these seamounts is named Discovery Seamount,[1] which given its shape might once have been an island.[14] The seamount is covered with fossil-containing sediments,[3] which have been used to infer paleoclimate conditions in the region during the Pleistocene.[15] Some of the sediment appears to be ice-rafted debris,[16] and other evidence has been used to postulate that the seamount subsided by about 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) during the late Pleistocene.[17] Another member of the Discovery Seamounts has been christened Shannon Seamount.[18]

The crust underneath Discovery Seamount is about 67 million years old, thus of late Cretaceous age.[14] A fracture zone, thus a site of crustal weakness, is located nearby.[19]


The Southern Atlantic Ocean contains a number of volcanic systems such as the Discovery Seamounts, the Rio Grande Rise, the Shona Ridge and the Walvis Ridge which are commonly attributed to hotspots,[5] although this interpretation has been challenged.[1] The hotspot origin of Discovery and the Walvis-Tristan da Cunha seamount chains was first proposed in 1972.[2] In the case of the Shona Ridge and the Discovery Seamounts, the theory postulates that they formed as the African Plate moved over the Shona hotspot and the Discovery hotspot.[20]

It is not clear if a Discovery Hotspot exists, nor whether it is linked in any way to Gough Island.[1] The formation of the Discovery Seamounts may instead have been caused by ascent of magma along a fracture zone or other crustal weakness.[21] If the hotspot does exist, it would have to be located southwest of the Discovery Seamounts[13] where low seismic velocity anomalies have been detected in the mantle.[22] The Discovery Seamounts almost wane out in that direction although the it has been proposed that the Little Ridge close to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge may be their continuation.[23] The Discovery Ridge close to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge[24] may be the product of the hotspot as well; magma flowing from the Discovery hotspot to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge[25] may be leading to excessive production of crustal material there.[26]

Petrological anomalies at spreading ridges have been often attributed to the presence of mantle plumes close to the ridge and such has been proposed for the Discovery hotspot as well.[27] There is a region on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge southwest of the seamounts where there are fewer earthquakes than elsewhere along the ridge, the central valley of the ridge is absent[28] and where dredged rocks share geochemical traits with the Discovery Seamount; that may be the location of the Discovery Hotspot.[13] A position about halfway between the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Discovery Seamounts has been inferred.[29] The Discovery hotspot may be connected to the Tristan hotspot deep in the mantle.[30]

The South Atlantic features one of the largest transform faults of Earth, the Agulhas-Falkland fracture zone.[31] This transform fault has an unusual structure on the African Plate, where it displays the Agulhas Ridge, two over 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) high ridge segments which are parallel to each other.[32] This unusual structure may be due to magma from the Discovery hotspot, which would have been channelled to the Agulhas Ridge.[33]


Rocks dredged from the seamounts include lavas, pillow lavas and volcaniclastic rocks.[34] Geochemically they are classified as alkali basalt, basalt, phonolite, tephriphonolite[8] trachyandesite, trachybasalt and trachyte.[35] Minerals contained in the rocks include alkali feldspar, apatite, biotite, clinopyroxene, iron and titanium oxides, olivine, plagioclase, sphene and spinel.[8] Continental crust rocks dredged at the seamounts may be glacial dropstones,[36] manganese have also been found.[34]

The Discovery hotspot appears to have erupted two separate sets of magmas with distinct compositions, similar to the Tristan da Cunha-Gough Island hotspot.[37] The composition of the Discovery Seamounts rocks has been compared to Gough Island.[5] The more felsic rocks at Discovery appear to be derived from magma chamber processes, similar to felsic rocks at other Atlantic Ocean islands.[38]


Soviet fishery during the 1970s and 1980s and others have found c. 150 fish species at Discovery Seamount.[39] Both Japanese and Soviet trawled the seamounts during that time, but there was no commercial exploitation of the resources.[40] The codling Guttigadus nudirostre is endemic to Discovery Seamount.[41] Fossil corals have been recovered in dredges.[42]

Eruption history

A number of dates ranging from 41 to 35 million years ago have been obtained on dredged samples from the seamounts on the basis of argon-argon dating,[13] but at Discovery Seamount it may have continued until 7-6.5 million years ago.[17] The age of the seamounts decreases in southwest direction, similar to the Walvis Ridge, and at a similar rate.[9]

Unlike the Walvis Ridge, which is connected to the Etendeka flood basalts, the Discovery Seamounts do not link with onshore volcanic features.[5] However, it has been proposed that the 70-80 million years old Blue Hills, Gibeon and Gross Brukkaros kimberlite fields in southern Namibia may have been formed by the Discovery hotspot,[43] and some plate reconstructions place it underneath the Karoo-Ferrar large igneous province at the time at which it was emplaced.[44]


  1. ^ a b c d Jokat & Reents 2017, p. 78.
  2. ^ a b c Kempe & Schilling 1974, p. 101.
  3. ^ a b c Buckley 1976, p. 937.
  4. ^ Summerhayes, Colin; Lüdecke, Cornelia (2012). "A German Contribution to South Atlantic Seabed Studies, 1938-39" (PDF). Polarforschung. 82 (2): 100. doi:10.2312/polarforschung.82.2.93. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Jokat & Reents 2017, p. 77.
  6. ^ Werner & Hauff 2011, p. 6.
  7. ^ Werner & Hauff 2011, p. 4.
  8. ^ a b c Schwindrofska et al. 2016, p. 169.
  9. ^ a b Schwindrofska et al. 2016, p. 170.
  10. ^ Werner & Hauff 2011, p. 20.
  11. ^ Richardson, Philip L. (August 2007). "Agulhas leakage into the Atlantic estimated with subsurface floats and surface drifters" (PDF). Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 54 (8): 1378. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2007.04.010. hdl:1912/2579. ISSN 0967-0637.
  12. ^ Pushcharovskii, Yu. M. (April 2004). "Deep-sea basins of the Atlantic ocean: The structure, time and mechanisms of their formation". Russian Journal of Earth Sciences. 6 (2): 133–152. doi:10.2205/2004ES000146. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Schwindrofska et al. 2016, p. 168.
  14. ^ a b Kempe & Schilling 1974, p. 102.
  15. ^ Buckley 1976, pp. 943-944.
  16. ^ Buckley 1976, p. 945.
  17. ^ a b Buckley 1976, p. 947.
  18. ^ le Roex et al. 2010, p. 2091.
  19. ^ Jokat & Reents 2017, p. 84.
  20. ^ le Roex et al. 2010, p. 2090.
  21. ^ Jokat & Reents 2017, p. 89.
  22. ^ Homrighausen et al. 2018, p. 6.
  23. ^ Schwindrofska et al. 2016, p. 171.
  24. ^ Gibson & Richards 2018, p. 209.
  25. ^ Gibson & Richards 2018, p. 205.
  26. ^ Gibson & Richards 2018, p. 216.
  27. ^ Douglass et al. 1995, p. 2893.
  28. ^ de Alteriis, G.; Gilg-Capar, L.; Olivet, J.L. (July 1998). "Matching satellite-derived gravity signatures and seismicity patterns along mid-ocean ridges". Terra Nova. 10 (4): 181. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3121.1998.00190.x.
  29. ^ Douglass et al. 1995, p. 2894.
  30. ^ Homrighausen et al. 2018, p. 25.
  31. ^ Uenzelmann-Neben & Gohl 2004, p. 305.
  32. ^ Uenzelmann-Neben & Gohl 2004, p. 306.
  33. ^ Uenzelmann-Neben & Gohl 2004, p. 316.
  34. ^ a b Werner & Hauff 2011, p. 11.
  35. ^ le Roex et al. 2010, p. 2094.
  36. ^ le Roex et al. 2010, p. 2093.
  37. ^ Schwindrofska et al. 2016, p. 175.
  38. ^ le Roex et al. 2010, p. 2109.
  39. ^ Balushkin, A. V.; Prirodina, V. P. (1 March 2010). "Findings of Andriashevs eel cod Muraenolepis andriashevi (Gadiformes: Muraenolepididae) at Discovery Seamount (South Atlantic)". Russian Journal of Marine Biology. 36 (2): 133. doi:10.1134/S1063074010020082. ISSN 1063-0740.
  40. ^ Tony J. PitcherTelmo MoratoPaul J. B. HartMalcolm R. ClarkNigel HagganRicardo S. Santos (2007). Seamounts ecology, fisheries & conservation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 384–385. doi:10.1002/9780470691953. ISBN 9780470691953.
  41. ^ Meléndez, Roberto C.; Markle, Douglas F. (1 November 1997). "Phylogeny and Zoogeography of Laemonema and Guttigadus (Pisces; Gadiformes; Moridae)". Bulletin of Marine Science. 61 (3): 663.
  42. ^ Werner & Hauff 2011, p. 24.
  43. ^ Reid, D. L.; Cooper, A. F.; Rex, D. C.; Harmer, R. E. (2009). "Timing of post–Karoo alkaline volcanism in southern Namibia". Geological Magazine. 127 (5): 430. doi:10.1017/S001675680001517X. ISSN 1469-5081.
  44. ^ Storey, Bryan C.; Leat, Philip T.; Ferris, Julie K. (2001). Special Paper 352: Mantle plumes: Their identification through time. 352. p. 77. doi:10.1130/0-8137-2352-3.71. ISBN 978-0-8137-2352-5.


Hotspot (geology)

In geology, the places known as hotspots or hot spots are volcanic regions thought to be fed by underlying mantle that is anomalously hot compared with the surrounding mantle. Their position on the Earth's surface is independent of tectonic plate boundaries. There are two hypotheses that attempt to explain their origins. One suggests that hotspots are due to mantle plumes that rise as thermal diapirs from the core–mantle boundary. The other hypothesis is that lithospheric extension permits the passive rising of melt from shallow depths. This hypothesis considers the term "hotspot" to be a misnomer, asserting that the mantle source beneath them is, in fact, not anomalously hot at all. Well-known examples include the Hawaii, Iceland and Yellowstone hotspots.


The Karoo and Ferrar Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) are two large igneous provinces in Southern Africa and Antarctica respectively, collectively known as the Karoo-Ferrar, Gondwana, or Southeast African LIP, associated with the initial break-up of the Gondwana supercontinent at c. 183 Ma.

Its flood basalt mostly covers South Africa and Antarctica but portions extend further into southern Africa and into South America, India, Australia and New Zealand.Karoo-Ferrar formed just prior to the breakup of Gondwana in the Lower Jurassic epoch, about 183 million years ago; this timing corresponds to the early Toarcian anoxic event and the Pliensbachian-Toarcian extinction. It covered about 3 x 106 km2. The total original volume of the flow, which extends over a distance in excess of 6000 km (4000 km in Antarctica alone), was in excess of 2.5 x 106 km³ (2.5 million cubic kilometres).The Ferrar LIP is notable for long distance transport and the Karoo LIP for its large volume and chemical diversity.The igneous activity of the Karoo LIP began c. 204 Ma at the northern margin of the province. The long-lasting Chon-Aike Province in Patagonia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and Ellsworth Land was activated c. 190 Ma in an unstable tectonic environment in which both extension and subduction occurred. Chon-Aike had a peak between 183 to 173 Ma but produced continued magmatism between 168 to 141 Ma. By 184 to 175 Ma the Karoo magmatism had spread to Namibia, Lesotho, Lebombo, and the Ferrar province in Antarctica. The Karoo LIP ended 145 Ma with peripheral eruptions in Patagonia, the Antarctica Peninsula, northern South Africa, Kerala in India, and southeast Australia. The Karoo Province uplifted southern Africa c. 1.5 km (0.93 mi) and broke East Gondwana (India, Antarctica, and Australia) away from West Gondwana (South America and Africa) beginning in the opening of the Weddell Sea.In the Cretaceous, some 15 million years after the last Karoo eruption, renewed magmatism was initiated between Mary Byrd Land in Antarctica and New Zealand from where it spread along Gondwana's southern margin, from eastern Australia to the Antarctic Peninsula. Isotopic dating suggests a series of igneous events at 133–131, 124–119, and 113–107 Ma in Australia; 110–99 Ma in Mary Byrd Land; 114-109 and 82 Ma in New Zealand; and 141 and 127 Ma in the Antarctic Peninsula. This phase of magmatism resulted in extension and rift between Australia and Antarctica, Australia and Lord Howe Rise, and Mary Byrd Land and New Zealand.

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