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  • The variability in the inherent optical properties along an estuary-coast-ocean continuum in tropical Australia has been studied. The study area, the Fitzroy Estuary and Keppel Bay system, is a shallow coastal environment (depth < 30 m) with highly turbid waters in the estuary and blue oceanic waters in the bay and subject to macrotides. Biogeochemical and inherent optical properties (IOPs) were sampled in the near-surface layer spatially and across the tidal phase during the dry season. These determinations included continuous measurements of spectral absorption, scattering and backscattering coefficients, together with discrete measurements of spectral absorption coefficients of phytoplankton, nonalgal particles and colored dissolved organic matter, and concentrations of phytoplankton pigments and suspended matter. Because of a large variability in the characteristics of the water components on short spatial and temporal scales, we observe a large variability in the associated optical properties. From the estuary to the bay, particle scattering and dissolved absorption decreased by 2 orders of magnitude, and nonalgal particle absorption decreased by 3 orders of magnitude. We also observed a strong variability in particle single scattering albedo and backscattering efficiency (by a factor of 6) and in specific IOPs (IOPs normalized by the relevant constituent concentration) such as suspended matter-specific particle scattering and chlorophyll-specific phytoplankton absorption. Superimposed on this strong spatial variability is the effect of the semidiurnal tide, which affects the spatial distribution of all measured properties. These results emphasize the need for spatially and temporally adjusted algorithms for remote sensing in complex coastal systems.

  • A symposium was held at the University of Wales, Swansea in July 2007 to honour the career and achievements of Professor Michael Collins. The symposium was organised by Michael's former postgraduate students as a tribute to his contributions over the past 30 years as a scientist, teacher, mentor and friend. About 30 of the 50+ Ph.D. and M.Sc. students that Michael has supervised over the years were fortunate to attend the symposium, which offered the opportunity for all of us to learn about the many different subjects and projects that Michael supervised and to renew our friendships with the Collins family, as well as the extended, academic Collins 'family'.

  • Lithostratigraphy, grain sizes and down-hole logs of Site 1166 on the continental shelf, and Site 1167 on the upper slope, are analyzed to reconstruct glacial processes in eastern Prydz Bay and the development of the Prydz trough-mouth fan. In eastern Prydz Bay upper Pliocene-lower Pleistocene glaciomarine sediments occur interbedded with open-marine muds and grade upward into waterlaid tills and subglacial tills. Lower Pleistocene sediments of the trough-mouth fan consist of coarse-grained debrites interbedded with bottom-current deposits and hemipelagic muds, indicating repeated advances and retreats of the Lambert Glacier-Amery Ice Shelf system with respect to the shelf break. Systematic fluctuations in lithofacies and down-hole logs characterize the upper Pliocene-lower Pleistocene transition at Sites 1166 and 1167 and indicate that an ice stream advanced and retreated within the Prydz Channel until the mid Pleistocene. The record from Site 1167 shows that the grounding line of the Lambert Glacier did not extend to the shelf break after 0.78 Ma. Published ice-rafted debris records in the Southern Ocean show peak abundances in the Pliocene and the early Pleistocene, suggesting a link between the nature of the glacial drainage system as recorded by the trough-mouth fans and increased delivery of ice-rafted debris to the Southern Ocean.

  • A 2-D crustal velocity model has been derived from a 1997 364 km north-south wide-angle seismic profile that passed from Ordovician volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks (Molong Volcanic Belt of the Macquarie Arc) in the north, across the Lachlan Transverse Zone into Ordovician turbidites and Early Devonian intrusive granitoids in the south. The Lachlan Transverse Zone is a proposed west-northwest to east-southeast structural feature in the Eastern Lachlan Orogen and is considered to be a possible early lithospheric feature controlling structural evolution in eastern Australia; its true nature, however, is still contentious. The velocity model highlights significant north to south lateral variations in subsurface crustal architecture in the upper and middle crust. In particular, a higher P-wave velocity (6.24-6.32 km/s) layer identified as metamorphosed arc rocks (sensu lato) in the upper crust under the arc at 5-15 km depth is juxtaposed against Ordovician craton-derived turbidites by an inferred south-dipping fault that marks the southern boundary of the Lachlan Transverse Zone. Near-surface P-wave velocities in the Lachlan Transverse Zone are markedly less than those along other parts of the profile and some of these may be attributed to mid-Miocene volcanic centres. In the middle and lower crust there are poorly defined velocity features that we infer to be related to the Lachlan Transverse Zone. The Moho depth increases from 37 km in the north to 47 km in the south, above an underlying upper mantle with a P-wave velocity of 8.19 km/s. Comparison with velocity layers in the Proterozoic Broken Hill Block supports the inferred presence of Cambrian oceanic mafic volcanics (or an accreted mafic volcanic terrane) as substrate to this part of the Eastern Lachlan Orogen. Overall, the seismic data indicate significant differences in crustal architecture between the northern and southern parts of the profile. The crustal-scale P-wave velocity differences are attributed to the different early crustal evolution processes north and south of the Lachlan Transverse Zone.

  • Mineral deposits can be described in terms of their mineral systems, i.e., fluid source, migration pathway, and trap. Source regions are difficult to recognize in seismic images. Many orebodies lie on or adjacent to major fault systems, suggesting that the faults acted as fluid migration pathways through the crust. Large faults often have broad internal zones of deformation fabric, which is anisotropic. This, coupled with the metasomatic effects of fluids moving along faults while they are active, can make the faults seismically reflective. For example, major gold deposits in the Archaean Eastern Goldfields province of Western Australia lie in the hanging-wall block of regional-scale faults that differ from other nearby faults by being highly reflective and penetrating to greater depths in the lower crust. Coupled thermal, mechanical, and fluid-flow modeling supports the theory that these faults were fluid migration pathways from the lower to the upper crust. Strong reflections are also recorded from two deeply penetrating faults in the Proterozoic Mt. Isa province in northeastern Australia. Both are closely related spatially to copper and copper-gold deposits. One, the Adelheid fault, is also adjacent to the large Mt. Isa silver-lead-zinc deposit. In contrast, other deeply penetrating faults that are not intrinsically reflective but are mapped in the seismic section on the basis of truncating reflections have no known mineralization. Regional seismic profiles can therefore be applied in the precompetitive area selection stage of exploration. Applying seismic techniques at the orebody scale can be difficult. Orebodies often have complex shapes and reflecting surfaces that are small compared to the diameter of the Fresnel zone for practical seismic frequencies. However, if the structures and alteration haloes around the orebodies themselves, seismic techniques may be more successful. Strong bedding-parallel reflections were observed from the region of alteration around the Mt. Isa silver-lead-zinc orebodies using high-resolution profiling. In addition, a profile in Tasmania imaged an internally nonreflective bulge within the Que Hellyer volcanics, suggesting a good location to explore for a volcanic hosted massive sulfide deposit. These case studies provide a pointer to how seismic techniques could be applied during mineral exploration, especially at depths greater than those being explored with other techniques.

  • An igneous zircon reference material (OG1) was characterised for U-Pb isotopes by ID-TIMS, and utilised to evaluate SIMS (SHRIMP) instrumental mass fractionation (IMF) of radiogenic Pb isotopes (207Pb*/206Pb*). The TIMS 207Pb*/206Pb* reference value for OG1 was 0.29907 ± 0.00011 (95% confidence limit), 3465.4 ± 0.6 Ma. The high 207Pb* (~ 30 -g g-1), negligible common Pb, and isotopic homogeneity permitted precise (± 1-2) 207Pb*/206Pb* measurements within the analytical sessions. External reproducibility of mean 207Pb*/206Pb* ratios between sessions was demonstrated for one instrument, yielding a mean IMF of +0.87 ± 0.49. The mean 207Pb*/206Pb* ratios between instruments were dispersed beyond uncertainties, with session IMF values from +3.6 ± 1.7- to -2.4 ± 1.3, and a grand mean IMF value (twenty-six sessions) of +0.70 ± 0.52, indicating a tendency towards elevated 207Pb*/206Pb*. The specific causes of variability in IMF are unclear, but generally reflect subtle differences in analytical conditions. The common practice in SIMS of assuming that IMF for Pb+ is insignificant could result in systematic age biases and underestimated uncertainties, of critical importance for precise correlation of Precambrian events. Nevertheless, a zircon RM such as OG1 can be readily incorporated into routine dating to improve 207Pb*/206Pb* accuracy and external reproducibility.

  • The Munni Munni Complex (T Nd CHUR model age 2.85 Ga), located in the west Pilbara block of Western Australia, is one of the best preserved layered intrusions in Australia. Exposed over an area of 4 X 9 km, it is composed of a lower 1,850-m-thick ultramafic zone and an overlying gabbroic zone which has a minimum thickness of 3,630 m. The ultramafic zone contains rhythmically layered dunite, lherzolite, olivine websterite, clinopyroxenite, and websterite, with orthopyroxenite, norite, chromitite, and platiniferous websterite prominent near the top of the zone. The gabbroic zone consists of gabbronorite, anorthositic gabbro, and minor anorthosite which display a pronounced tholeiitic fractionation trend. The order of appearance of cumulus mineral assemblages in the complex is olivine, olivine + clinopyroxene, clinopyroxene + olivine, clinopyroxene, clinopyroxene + orthopyroxene, orthopyroxene + chromite, and plagioclase + clinopyroxene + ?orthopyroxene. This sequence is at variance with major platinum-group element-bearing intrusions in which crystallization of orthopyroxene generally precedes that of clinopyroxene.Trace-element data, obtained on samples collected across the entire intrusion to investigate the effects of crystal fractionation and S evolution on the distribution of the platinum-group elements, show that in the sulfide-undersaturated ultramafic zone, Pt, Pd, Au, Cu, S, Se, Cs, Rb, St, and Zr behaved incompatibly and were concentrated in the melt during fractionation. The S content of the melt began to increase above the 700-m stratigraphic level of the ultramafic zone, but Pt, Pd, and Au contents increased above background levels of approximately 3 ppb to 3 ppm Pt + Pd only with the attainment of sulfide saturation at approximately the 1,830-m stratigraphic level. The concentration trends of Zr, St, Cs, Rb, and Cu paralleled that of S, but Ir and Ni largely partitioned with early crystallizing olivine and decreased in concentration with increasing fractionation. In contrast to the ultramafic zone, Pt, Pd, It, and Au have depletion trends in the sulfide-saturated gabbroic zone. Hence, the evolution of S largely governed the behavior of the platinum-group elements during the fractionation of the Munni Munni magma(s).The platinum-group element mineralization occurs immediately below the ultramafic-gabbroic contact. It resulted from the combined magmatic processes of crystal fractionation (as evidenced by increasing Cu/(Cu + Ni) ratios and incompatible element trends with stratigraphic height), and magma mixing. Two models are presented. In model 1, a hot, buoyant sulfide-saturated tholeiitic magma (containing 1,700-2,600 ppm S) rose through the density stratified platinum-group element-enriched, sulfide-undersaturated resident ultramafic magma (containing 530 ppm S) until reaching its own density level near the top of the chamber, where it spread out laterally for a distance of at least 12 km. Due to crystallization of plagioclase and subsequent Fe-enrichment [of the melt], the density of the gabbroic melt increased until it overturned and mixed with the platinum-group element-enriched fractionated parts of the ultramafic magma. Model 2 is similar to model 1, except that it involves the fractionation and internal mixing of one magma. In both models, magma mixing triggered sulfide saturation in the hybrid magma and established a high R factor (the silicate/sulfide mass ratio).

  • Several grounding zone wedges were left on the floor and flanks of Prydz Channel in western Prydz Bay by the Lambert Glacier during the last glacial cycle. Seismic profiles indicate that vertical accretion at the glacier bed was the most important depositional process in forming the wedges, rather than progradation by sediment gravity flows. Sidescan sonographs reveal extensive development of flutes on the sea floor inshore from the wedges, indicating deformable bed conditions beneath the ice. The region inshore of the east Prydz Channel wedge features extensive dune fields formed by currents flowing towards the grounding zone. This orientation is consistent with models of circulation beneath ice shelves in which melting at the grounding line generates plumes of fresher water that rise along the base of the ice shelf, entraining sea water into a circulation cell. The Lambert Deep is surrounded by a large composite ridge of glacial sediments. Internal reflectors suggest formation mostly by subglacial accretion. The sea floor in the Lambert Deep lacks dune fields and shows evidence of interspersed subglacial cavities and grounded ice beneath the glacier. The absence of bedforms reflects sea floor topography that would have inhibited the formation of energetic melt water-driven circulation.

  • We report the discovery of three submerged, living patch coral reefs covering 80 km2 in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, an area previously thought not to contain coral bioherms. The patch reefs have their upper surfaces at a mean water depth of 28.6±0.5 m, and were consequently not detected by satellites or aerial photographs. The reefs were only recognised in our survey using multibeam swath sonar supplemented with seabed sampling and under water video. Their existence points to an earlier, late Quaternary phase of framework reef growth, probably under cooler climate and lower sea level conditions than today. Submerged reefs with surfaces between 20 and 30 m water depth occur in other regions of the Earth and existing bathymetry indicates they could be widespread in the Gulf. Many tropical regions that today do not support patch or barrier reefs for reasons similar to the modern Gulf, may have done so in the past, when environmental conditions were more suitable. Submerged reefs may provide an important refuge for corals during the next few decades when near-surface reefs are threatened by widespread coral bleaching due to warmer global sea surface temperatures.

  • Biosiliceous sediments sampled from a submarine valley system on the continental shelf of East Antarctica contain intervals of ripple cross-lamination interspersed with massively bedded units. Based on radiocarbon dates from one core collected on the Mac.Robertson Shelf, the most intensely cross-laminated sediments were deposited between 6 000 and 3 500 years before the present, with isolated cross-laminae deposited at other times in the Holocene.