OK, so what in Gódabunga’s name do Swedish stairs and volcanoes have in common! Apart from the fact they can do you a real mischief if you fall down, a staircase in Swedish is trappa and this gives the name to the extensive flood basalt flows of the Traps volcanic provinces from the stair-like appearance of the flows!
A little known, but very extensive trap province exists in the southern Indian Ocean, some 4000km west of Australia and 1500km north of Antarctica – the Kerguelen Plateau that has developed over the Kerguelen mantle plume.
The Kerguelen Plateau – the second largest submarine plateau - lies at approximately 1-2000 metres depth, in an abyssal depth of 3-4000 metres, and has three small island groups, Kerguelen, Heard Island and Mcdonald Island as surface expressions. The plateau extends north-westwards for c2200km covering an area of about 2.2m sq km.
Geologically, the plateau has had a colourful history, being classed as a ‘micro-continent’, it is a remnant of the break-up of the Gondwanaland super-continent and is located over the Kerguelen hot-spot. Deep water geological information is from the JOIDES ODP (ocean drilling programme) and seismic interpretation of oil prospecting data; the plateau is shown to be constructed on a general base of Cretaceous terrestrial and/or shallow water sediments – including coal horizons for at about 40m years. Volcanism began during the middle/late Cretaceous (c120m years ago) with emplacement of trachytes and basalts and continued on a large scale into the Miocene/Oligocene and continues up to the present on Mcdonald Island. Recovered ODP samples of felsic and metamorphic rock indicate the possible presence of a crystalline basement at least in part below the Cretaceous deposits. The total volume of the Kerguelen volcanic province is estimated to be in the order of 25million cu km giving an average of 0.2cu km/year. Submergence of the whole plateau was around 20m years ago.
The references below are superb!
The island groups involved here, are the tiny yellow dots near the north-west end on the elongate NW-SE pale blue area, Antarctica is the orange-red area at the bottom.
Kerguelen Island is the largest of the island groups surfacing above the Kerguelen Plateau; administered under the French Southern and Antarctic Terretories; covers an area of about 3400sq km and rises to 1850m at Mt Ross, the youngest volcanic expression of Plio/Pleistocene lavas – brown on the map below.
The majority of the island is composed of flood basalts, in grey above, along with minor amounts of trachyte, pinkish, and the plutonic complexes (buff-grey) of Foch -north centre – and Rallier du Baty – sw bottom and the small Mt Crozier intrusion – northern of the two eastern promontories. Volcanism, related to the Kerguelen hotspot, began c40m years ago and continued until about 100,000 BP.
Heard & McDonald Islands
The Heard and McDonald Islands (colloquially the HIMI) are administered by Australia and as such are home to Australia’s only active volcanoes.
Heard Island, apart from having the highest point on Australian territory at 2745m on Big Ben (9006 ft), has two main volcanoes in Big Ben, in part a 5-6km diameter, glacier covered caldera and the smaller Mt Dixon, plus small scoria cones. Big Ben, approximately 18km in diameter, is mainly of basalt/trachytic composition.
Heard Island shows 3 distinct stages of development, the oldest being the deposition of Miocene limestones 40-50my ago being found over much of the Kerguelen Plateau. These carbonates were followed around 9my ago, by 300-350m of volcaniclastic sediments and pillow lavas of the Drygalski Formation. A period of peneplanation of the Drygalski deposits preceeded the present volcanism, starting about 1my ago.
The McDonald Island group lies about 27 miles west of Heard Island and is home to the second of Australia’s most recently active volcanoes and the whole total about 1sq mile in area, rising to 212m at Maxwell Hill. McDonald Island burst into action in 1992 after a 75,000year sleep and has been sporadically active since in late 1995-early1996, 2000-2001 and lastly in 2005 from Samarang Hill. The effect these eruptions had on the island was to almost double the size and increase the height by about100m!
The island is composed mainly of interbedded ,viscous phonolitic tuffs and lavas; phonolite being named after the resounding ‘ring’ when struck, is tough, pale coloured with a high felsic content of predominant feldspathoids over feldspar and is characteristic where a mantle plume is overlain by a thick continental crust.