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Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 305, a joint science program with Expedition 304, was designed to investigate the processes that control formation of oceanic core complexes, as well as the exposure of ultramafic rocks in very young oceanic lithosphere. Prior studies indicated that two main drill sites on Atlantis Massif, on the western rift flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) at 30°N, could provide key constraints on the structure of the detachment fault zone, rock types exposed at shallow structural levels in the footwall, and their alteration history, as well as that of the volcanic succession in the hanging wall. Expedition 305 deepened Hole U1309D in the footwall of Atlantis Massif to 1415.5 meters below seafloor, with high recovery (average = 74.8%) of dominantly gabbroic rocks. Hole U1309D was logged twice, providing the opportunity for unprecedented core–logging integration for a deep borehole in the oceanic lithosphere. The recovered rocks range from dunitic troctolite, troctolite, (olivine) gabbro, and gabbronorite to evolved oxide gabbro that locally contains abundant zircon and apatite, and diabase. The texture of the dunitic troctolite suggests a cumulate origin. The gabbroic suite from Hole U1309D is among the most primitive recovered from the MAR, with Mg# ranging from 67 to 87.

Although alteration mineral assemblages record cooling of gabbroic rocks from magmatic conditions to zeolite facies, a low-temperature phase that reflects alteration at temperatures <500°C is most significant. The overall trends in alteration and the changes in secondary mineralogy downhole suggest that there may be two separate secondary processes that have affected the footwall in the vicinity of Hole U1309D. In the upper ~840 m, seawater–rock interactions may pervade the gabbroic sequence. Below that depth, the nature of and the fluctuations in degree and style of metamorphism are related to fluids of a different composition percolating along fault/ductile deformation zones. Hence, the core records an extensive history of gabbroic rock–fluid interaction, possibly including magmatic fluids.

One of the prominent features of the rocks from Hole U1309D is the lack of extensive amphibolite facies alteration and deformation. This contrasts strongly with the gabbroic suite recovered from Ocean Drilling Program Hole 735B, at the Southwest Indian Ridge. The rocks recovered in Hole U1309D show very little deformation, and any deformation related to a major detachment fault system must have occurred at low temperature and must be strongly localized in the very upper part of the hole. This, together with very minor deformation in the amphibolite facies, is not consistent with the classical "core complex" interpretation of the corrugated, domal massifs on the seafloor resulting from surface exposure of a detachment fault that roots deeply at the base of the lithosphere. In addition, shipboard paleomagnetic measurements indicate there has been no significant net tectonic rotation ( 15°) of the footwall. This seems to preclude a rolling hinge model for the uplift of the core of Atlantis Massif along a single concave, normal fault.

The ~1.4 km sequence of dominantly gabbroic rocks is inconsistent with the initial prediction that the footwall was composed of an uplifted mantle section where serpentinization was responsible for lower densities/seismic velocities in the upper few hundred meters. A more complex model than that put forward before Expeditions 304 and 305 will be required. The fact that we did not reach fresh mantle peridotite, together with the known exposures of serpentinized mantle along the southern ridge of the massif, supports models of complicated lateral heterogeneity in slow-spreading oceanic crust. We have, however, placed a constraint on the magnitude of this heterogeneity—gabbro bodies in this setting can exceed 1.5 km in thickness.

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