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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pacific-Antarctic-Australia motion and the formation of the Macquarie Plate

  • Author(s): Cande, Steven C
  • Stock, Joann M
  • et al.

Magnetic anomaly and fracture zone data on the Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR) are analysed in order to constrain the kinematic history of the Macquarie Plate, the region of the Australian Plate roughly east of 145 degreesE and south of 52 degreesS. Finite rotations for Australia-Antarctic motion are determined for nine chrons (2Ay, 3Ay, 5o, 6o, 8o, 10o, 12o, 13o and 17o) using data limited to the region between 88 degreesE and 139 degreesE. These rotations are used to generate synthetic flowlines which are compared with the observed trends of the easternmost fracture zones on the SEIR. An analysis of the synthetic flowlines shows that the Macquarie Plate region has behaved as an independent rigid plate for roughly the last 6 Myr. Finite rotations for Macquarie-Antarctic motion are determined for chrons 2Ay and 3Ay. These rotations are summed with Australia-Antarctic rotations to determine Macquarie-Australia rotations. We find that the best-fit Macquarie-Australia rotation poles lie within the zone of diffuse intraplate seismicity in the South Tasman Sea separating the Macquarie Plate from the main part of the Australian Plate. Motion of the Macquarie Plate relative to the Pacific Plate for chrons 2Ay and 3Ay is determined by summing Macquarie-Antarctic and Antarctic-Pacific rotations. The Pacific-Macquarie rotations predict a smaller rate of convergence perpendicular to the Hjort Trench than the Pacific-Australia rotations. The onset of the deformation of the South Tasman Sea and the development of the Macquarie Plate appears to have been triggered by the subduction of young, buoyant oceanic crust near the Hjort Trench and coincided with a clockwise change in Pacific-Australia motion around 6 Ma. The revised Pacific-Australia rotations also have implications for the tectonics of the Alpine Fault Zone of New Zealand. We find that changes in relative displacement along the Alpine Fault have been small over the last 20 Myr. The average rate of convergence over the last 6 Myr is about 40 per cent smaller than in previous models.

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