Chemistry of submarine hydrothermal solutions at 21°N, East Pacific Rise

Von Damm, KL, Edmond JM, Grant B, Measures CI.  1985.  Chemistry of submarine hydrothermal solutions at 21°N, East Pacific Rise. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta. 49:2197-2220.


The three hydrothermal fields at 21°N latitude, East Pacific Rise, were resampled and an additional one was discovered. Maximum fluid temperatures observed were within a few degrees of 350°C and these waters had concentrations of Mg and sulfate indistinguishable from zero. One field, NGS, which had active 350°C springs in 1979, was inactive when first located in 1981. However, when a chimney was broken open during sampling, water issued at 273°C and continued to flow for at least five days. The chemical composition strongly suggests that these waters cooled conductively from 350°C in the sealed conduit.The major ion data are consistent with the estimates based on extrapolation of the original measurements made on the hot springs from the Galapagos Spreading Center (Edmondet al., 1979a). The fluids have a pH of 3.5 and the sulfide-forming element concentrations show significant inter-field variations. Fe levels range from 0.8 to 2.4 mmoles/kg; the ratio Fe:Mn varies from 0.9 to 2.9 similar to metalliferous sediments on the ridge flanks, but much higher than observed at Galapagos (where sub-surface precipitation of iron sulfides occurs) indicating that the overwhelming proportion of the mass flux from hydrothermal systems occurs at high temperatures. Zn ranges from 40 to 106 μmoles/kg with Cu being substantially lower. Since the ratio of these elements in tholeiites is about unity, there is strong net preferential mobilization of Zn. Lead ranges from 183 to 359 nmoles/kg. Nickel and Be are highly immobile relative to the other trace elements. The abundance of H2S is about three times that of the total sulfide-forming cations. These data demonstrate that acid solutions at elevated temperatures can transport substantial amounts of ore-forming elements in the presence of large excesses of sulfide.