Various reconstructions of the SW Pacific for the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic suggest that northeast dipping subduction began in the South Loyalty Basin (SLB) at 55-50 Ma and that subsequent closure of the SLB resulted in the diachronous emplacement of Cretaceous-Paleocene ophiolitic nappes onto the Norfolk Ridge in New Caledonia at 40-34 Ma and in Northland, New Zealand, around 24-21 Ma. A fundamental problem with these models is that they do not account for the fact that NE dipping subduction had already been established offshore Papua New Guinea by at least 65-60 Ma which resulted in the emplacement of the Papuan Ultramafic Belt (PUB) ophiolite at 59-58 Ma. A second issue is that the reconstructions are based largely upon unfounded assumptions as to the age and nature of the basement beneath the Loyalty arc and Three Kings Ridge. Finally, reconstructions of the Northland region are based upon the erroneous assumption that the age of the majority of the igneous component comprising the Northland allochthon is Late Cretaceous-Paleocene, when in fact it is Oligocene. A new model is presented whereby the PUB, New Caledonia, and Northland ophiolites formed and were emplaced in a cyclical fashion above an extensive NE dipping Cenozoic intraoceanic arc system which diachronously propagated (N-S) along the entire eastern margin of the Australian Plate. These "infant arc" ophiolites represent fragments of suprasubduction zone lithosphere (SSZL) generated in the earliest stages of magmatic arc formation that were emplaced shortly after (<20 m.y.) as a result of forearc-Australian Plate collision. Subduction inception was the result of subsidence of older MORB-like lithosphere generated within an extensive "back arc basin" to the east of the Norfolk Ridge during the earliest stages of SLB formation above a southwest dipping Pacific Plate. During emplacement of each ophiolite, a crustal fragment of the older lithosphere was scraped off the NE dipping slab and subsequently back-thrust beneath each ophiolite during its emplacement.
- New Caledonia ophiolite
- Northland ophiolite
- Papuan Ultramafic Belt (PUB) ophiolite
- SW Pacific
- Suprasubduction zone lithosphere (SSZL)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology