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Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxx xxx

A Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic reconstruction of the

Southwest Pacific region: Tectonics controlled by subduction and
slab rollback processes
W.P. Schellart a,b,, G.S. Lister a , V.G. Toy a,c
Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
School of Geosciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3800, Australia
Department of Geology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Received 21 July 2005; accepted 18 January 2006


A Cenozoic tectonic reconstruction is presented for the Southwest Pacific region located east of Australia. The reconstruction is
constrained by large geological and geophysical datasets and recalculated rotation parameters for PacificAustralia and Lord Howe
RisePacific relative plate motion. The reconstruction is based on a conceptual tectonic model in which the large-scale structures of
the region are manifestations of slab rollback and backarc extension processes. The current paradigm proclaims that the
southwestern Pacific plate boundary was a west-dipping subduction boundary only since the middle Eocene. The new
reconstruction provides kinematic evidence that this configuration was already established in the Late Cretaceous and Early
Paleogene. From 82 to 52Ma, subduction was primarily accomplished by east and northeast-directed rollback of the Pacific
slab, accommodating opening of the New Caledonia, South Loyalty, Coral Sea and Pocklington backarc basins and partly
accommodating spreading in the Tasman Sea. The total amount of east-directed rollback of the Pacific slab that took place from
82 Ma to 52 Ma is estimated to be at least 1200km. A large percentage of this rollback accommodated opening of the South
Loyalty Basin, a northsouth trending backarc basin. It is estimated from kinematic and geological constraints that the eastwest
width of the basin was at least 750km. The South Loyalty and Pocklington backarc basins were subducted in the Eocene to
earliest Miocene along the newly formed New Caledonia and Pocklington subduction zones. This culminated in southwestward
and southward obduction of ophiolites in New Caledonia, Northland and New Guinea in the latest Eocene to earliest Miocene. It is
suggested that the formation of these new subduction zones was triggered by a change in PacificAustralia relative motion at
50 Ma. Two additional phases of eastward rollback of the Pacific slab followed, one during opening of the South Fiji Basin and
Norfolk Basin in the Oligocene to early Miocene (up to 650 km of rollback), and one during opening of the Lau Basin in the
latest Miocene to Present (up to 400km of rollback). Two new subduction zones formed in the Miocene, the south-dipping
Trobriand subduction zone along which the Solomon Sea backarc Basin subducted and the north-dipping New BritainSan
CristobalNew Hebrides subduction zone, along which the Solomon Sea backarc Basin subducted in the west and the North
LoyaltySouth Fiji backarc Basin and remnants of the South LoyaltySanta Cruz backarc Basin subducted in the east. Clockwise
rollback of the New Hebrides section resulted in formation of the North Fiji Basin. The reconstruction provides explanations for the

Corresponding author. Research School of Earth Sciences, Mills Road, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
Tel.: +61 2 6125 9959; fax: +61 2 6257 2737.
E-mail address: (W.P. Schellart).

0012-8252/$ - see front matter 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

EARTH-01424; No of Pages 43
2 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

formation of new subduction zones and for the initiation and termination of opening of the marginal basins by either initiation of
subduction of buoyant lithosphere, a change in plate kinematics or slabmantle interaction.
2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: subduction; slab; rollback; hinge-retreat; backarc; extension; spreading; Southwest Pacific; tectonics; geodynamics; reconstruction;
Cretaceous; Cenozoic

1. Introduction 1986; Yan and Kroenke, 1993; Mller et al., 2000).

Thus, one can rule out that the absolute motion of the
Most backarc basins have an extensional origin and Australian plate away from the eastern and northern
are characterized by their relatively short time-span of plate boundaries was the driving mechanism for
backarc activity (1030Myr). Several backarc regions extension and spreading in the basins. Potentially, the
experienced sequential opening of individual backarc older basins formed as backarc basins, just as the Lau
basins during distinct episodes. For example, in the Havre Basin, and would thus be genetically related to
Western Mediterranean region, two backarc basins can the Pacific subduction zone. This would imply eastward
be identified, which developed during distinct epi- to northeastward rollback of the Pacific slab to
sodes separated by a period of tectonic quiescence in accommodate the opening and extension of the basins
the overriding plate (Sranne, 1999). Backarc exten- along the eastern margin of the Australian plate. The
sion started with opening of the LiguroProvencal process of slab rollback has been proposed previously
Basin from 30 to 16Ma and resumed during for numerous backarc basins on Earth and is thought to
opening of the Tyrrhenian Basin from 10Ma to be driven by the negative buoyancy of the slab with
Present. In the Western Pacific, two backarc basins respect to the surrounding mantle (Elsasser, 1971;
can be identified which formed during two separate Molnar and Atwater, 1978; Garfunkel et al., 1986;
episodes. Opening of the PareceVela Basin from Hamilton, 1988; Lonergan and White, 1997; Wortel and
30 to 15Ma (Sdrolias et al., 2004a) was followed Spakman, 2000; Schellart et al., 2003; Funiciello et al.,
by a period of tectonic quiescence in the backarc 2003; Schellart and Lister, 2004; Schellart, 2004a,
region, while backarc basin formation resumed during 2005). The negative buoyancy force induces backward
opening of the Mariana Trough from 10Ma to sinking of the slab at an angle oblique to the dip of the
Present (Fryer, 1996). slab causing retreat of the hinge at the surface, which
Probably the most striking example of episodic basin forces the overriding plate to extend as it collapses
formation is located in the Southwest Pacific region east towards the retreating hinge (Elsasser, 1971; Schellart
of Australia (Fig. 1). Here, a sequence of five basins can and Lister, 2004).
be recognized trending northsouth to northwest A problem with the rollback model for the
southeast. From west to east, these basins include the Southwest Pacific marginal basins is that it requires
Tasman Sea Basin, the New Caledonia Basin, the west to southwestward subduction, but it is not clear
Norfolk Basin, the South Fiji Basin and the LauHavre how long the current Southwest Pacific subduction
Basin. The easternmost basin is an active backarc basin zone has been active. There is ample evidence for
and is bordered to the east by an active volcanic arc, the west to southwest-dipping Pacific subduction since
TongaKermadec arc, underneath which the Pacific 45Ma, based on arc volcanics from the Solomon
plate is subducting towards the west. The current rate of Ridge, Fiji block and Tonga arc dating back to the
opening in the LauHavre Basin increases from only Eocene (Hathway, 1993; Hawkins, 1995; Bloomer et
1.52.0 cm/yr in the south to 15.9cm/yr in the north al., 1995; Petterson et al., 1999; Crawford et al.,
(Wright, 1993; Bevis et al., 1995). 2003). Thus, rollback of the Pacific slab could
The opening of the previously mentioned five basins potentially explain opening of the South Fiji and
took place from the Late Cretaceous to Present, but the Norfolk basins in the Oligocene to early Miocene, and
reason for opening of these basins, in particular the Late opening of the LauHavre Basin from the latest
Cretaceous to Eocene ones, remains enigmatic. The Miocene to Present. However, the Tasman Sea Basin,
absolute motion of the Australian plate was northward Coral Sea Basin and New Caledonia Basin, as well as
to eastward, subparallel to subperpendicular to its two former backarc basins (the South Loyalty Basin
eastern and northern boundaries (Gordon and Jurdy, and the Pocklington Basin) formed well before 45 Ma.
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 3

Fig. 1. (a) Topography and bathymetry of the Southwest Pacific region (from Smith and Sandwell (1997)) and (b) regional tectonic setting of (a). Cfz,
Cook fracture zone; ChRfsz, Chatham Rise fossil subduction zone; d'ER, d'Entrecasteaux Ridge; EP, East Papua; ER, Efate Re-entrant; LPl, Louisiade
Plateau; LoR, Loyalty Ridge; LTr, Louisiade Trough; MaB, Manus Basin; MeR, Melish Rise; NB, New Britain; NBT, New Britain Trench; NCfsz,
New Caledonia fossil subduction zone; Nd'EB, North d'Entrecasteaux Basin; NHT, New Hebrides Trench; NLoB, North Loyalty Basin; NST, North
Solomon Trough; QT, Queensland Trough; ReB, Reinga Basin, ReR, Reinga Ridge; SCB, Santa Cruz Basin; SCT, San Cristobal Trench; SER, South
Efate Re-entrant; SLoB, South Loyalty Basin; SoS, Solomon Sea; SReT, South Rennell Trough; TaB, Taranaki Basin; TKR, Three Kings Ridge; ToT,
Townsville Trough; TrT, Trobriand Trough; VMfz, Vening Meinesz fracture zone; WoB, Woodlark Basin; WTP, West Torres Plateau. 1, normal fault;
2, strike-slip fault; 3, subduction zone; 4, spreading ridge (double line) and transform faults (single lines); 5, land; 68, sea, with 6, continental or arc
crust; 7, oceanic plateau; and 8, basin/ocean floor. Structures in light grey indicate that they are inactive. Thick continuous eastwest line at latitude 20
S in panel (a) shows location of cross-section plotted in Fig. 4h. Thick dashed line in panel (a) shows location of cross-section plotted in Fig. 5.

The nature of the plate boundary east of the Lord plate boundary. The reconstruction particularly focuses
Howe Rise since the Late Cretaceous and prior to on the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic periods and is
45Ma remains uncertain and is currently a matter of based on a large amount of geological data, geophysical
debate. Previous reconstructions have suggested it to data, and recalculated rotation parameters for Pacific
be an east-dipping subduction zone (Hall, 2002; Australia plate motion and Lord Howe RisePacific
Sdrolias et al., 2003, 2004b), a west-dipping subduc- plate motion. A detailed kinematic analysis shows that
tion zone (Veevers et al., 1991, Veevers, 2000a, the opening of the South Loyalty and New Caledonia
2000b), a west-dipping subduction zone before 55 Ma basins in the Late Cretaceous to earliest Eocene and part
(Crawford et al., 2003), a strike-slip boundary (Yan of the opening of the Tasman Sea requires the
and Kroenke, 1993; Mller et al., 2000), an undefined southwestern boundary of the Pacific plate to have
boundary (Sutherland et al., 2001; Norvick et al., retreated eastward at least 1200km with respect to
2001), or no boundary at all (e.g. the Lord Howe Rise Australia from 8252 Ma to accommodate this
being part of the Pacific plate (Steinberger et al., opening. This implies that the boundary was a west-
2004)). dipping subduction zone that rolled back eastward.
This paper presents a new reconstruction of the Furthermore, the reconstruction presented here provides
Southwest Pacific region in part to address the above- geometric and kinematic evidence from which the
mentioned uncertainty regarding the nature of the Pacific original size of the South Loyalty backarc Basin can be
4 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Table 1
Interpretation and age of basins and ophiolites in the Southwest Pacific
Basin name Interpretation and age Reference
Coral Sea Basin Marginal basin, spreading from 6252Ma. DSDP site Andrews et al., 1975b; Veevers et al., 1991;
287 drilled lower Eocene nanno chalk overlying basalt. Gaina et al., 1999
East Papua region Late CretaceousEarly Tertiary metamorphics and Pigram and Davies, 1987; Monnier et al., 1999,
intrusives, Late CretaceousTertiary sedimentary rocks, 2000
EoceneOligocene extrusives, Late CretaceousPaleocene
backarc ophiolites.
Emerald Basin Ocean basin, spreading from 45Ma to 11Ma. DSDP site Kennett et al., 1975a; Sutherland, 1995
278 drilled middle Oligocene (30 Ma) nanno chalk
overlying pillow basalt.
Havre Basin Backarc basin, extension from 7/6Ma to Present. Parson and Hawkins, 1994
Lau Basin Backarc basin, extension at 7/6Ma, spreading at 5.4/5Ma Parson and Hawkins, 1994
to Present.
Manus Basin Backarc basin, spreading from Pliocene to Present. Martinez and Taylor, 1996
New Caledonia Basin Continental or oceanic crust with Cretaceous opening Burns et al., 1973a; Uruski and Wood, 1991;
(based on rifting in the Taranaki Basin) or Late Willcox et al., 2001; Lafoy et al., 2005
Cretaceousearliest Paleocene extension and Paleocene
spreading in Central NCB. DSDP site 206 drilled mid
Paleocene fossil oozes.
New Caledonia ophiolite Cretaceous oceanic crust with predominant sub- Prinzhofer et al., 1980; Prinzhofer and Nicolas,
horizontal NS mineral lineations due to spreading, 1980; Leblanc, 1995; Auzende et al., 2000;
shallow NE-dipping foliation, potentially one NS or one Cluzel et al., 2001
NWSE transform fault structure.
New Caledonia Poya and Late Cretaceous (Campanian) to earliest Eocene Aitchison et al., 1995; Cluzel et al., 2001;
Pouebo terranes unmetamorphosed and metamorphosed backarc oceanic Spandler et al., 2005
crust, volcanics and sediments, radiometric and fossil
ages from 85/80 to 55 Ma.
North d'Entrecasteaux Basin Backarc oceanic crust, 8066 Ma? Lapouille, 1982; Maillet et al., 1983; this work
North Fiji Basin Backarc basin, spreading from 1211 MaPresent. Pelletier et al., 1993; Schellart et al., 2002a
North Loyalty Basin Backarc basin with oceanic crust of middlelate Andrews et al., 1975a; Maillet et al., 1983;
Eocene age ( 43.835.3). DSDP site 286 drilled Sdrolias et al., 2003
middle Eocene siltstone overlying basalt and intrusive
Northland allochthon Backarc oceanic crust, Late CretaceousPaleocene Hayward et al., 1989; Thompson et al., 1997;
ophiolites, Late CretaceousOligocene sediments. Also Whattam et al., 2004, 2005
contains late Oligocene ophiolites.
Reinga Basin Extended continental crust with Cretaceous extension, Herzer et al., 1997; Lafoy et al., 2005
potentially lasting until the Paleocene.
Resolution Basin Ocean basin, spreading from 45Ma to 11Ma. Sutherland, 1995
Santa Cruz Basin Backarc oceanic crust, possibly Cretaceous in age. Kroenke, 1984; this work
Solomon Sea Basin Backarc basin, spreading during Oligocene and Joshima et al., 1987; Joshima and Honza, 1987;
potentially Eocene, ceased at 28Ma. Hall, 2002
South Fiji Basin (north, Backarc basin, spreading in the Oligocene ( 3524Ma). Burns et al., 1973b; Andrews et al., 1975c;
Minerva Abyssal Plain) Anomalies 7A-12 identified in centre of basin ( 33 Weissel et al., 1982; Davey, 1982; Sdrolias et
26Ma or 30.925.2Ma). DSDP site 205 drilled middle al., 2003
Oligocene nanno ooze overlying basaltic pillow lava.
DSDP site 285 drilled lower middle Miocene silt
overlying intrusive diabase.
South Fiji Basin (south, Kupe Backarc basin, spreading probably in the Oligocene to Herzer et al., 2000; this work; Malahoff et al.,
Abyssal Plain) early/middle Miocene. Contrasting magnetic anomaly 1982; Sdrolias et al., 2003
interpretation of eastern half of 813 or predominantly
western half of 7No-12o.
South Loyalty Basin Initially backarc basin, oldest rocks date from Collot et al., 1987; Auzende et al., 2000; Cluzel
Cretaceous. Later in fore-arc position. et al., 2001
Tasman Sea Basin Marginal basin, spreading from 83/80 Ma52 Ma. Hayes and Ringis, 1973; Kennett et al., 1975b;
DSDP site 283 drilled Paleocene claystone overlying Gaina et al., 1998
highly altered basalt.
Woodlark Basin Backarc basin, spreading from 6Ma to Present. Taylor et al., 1995
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 5

estimated. This basin was almost completely subducted 2. Geological and tectonic setting of the Southwest
in the Eocene to earliest Miocene along the New Pacific
Caledonia subduction zone, which culminated in the
obduction of ophiolites in New Caledonia and North- The current tectonic setting of the Southwest Pacific
land, New Zealand. The reconstruction also provides an region is characterized by the Australian plate in the west
estimate for the total amount of Pacific slab that and the Pacific plate in the east (Fig. 1). The Pacific plate
subducted since 82 Ma, of which 47% resulted is subducting westward underneath the Australian plate
from slab rollback, while the remainder resulted from along the TongaKermadecHikurangi Trench, while
PacificAustralia plate convergence. Finally, the paper the Australian plate is subducting northward underneath
discusses the episodic nature of backarc basin formation, the Pacific plate along the New BritainSan Cristobal
subduction and slab rollback in the Southwest Pacific New Hebrides Trench. The region in between the eastern
and elaborates about potential explanations for this margin of the Australian continent and the Pacific plate is
episodic behaviour. defined by a number of basins and basin-bounding

Table 2
Interpretation and age of plateaus, ridges and terranes in the Southwest Pacific
Name Interpretation and age Reference
d'Entrecasteaux Ridge (north) Continuation of New Caledonia Ridge. Contains Eocene Maillet et al., 1983; Collot et al., 1992; Coltorti
backarc or fore-arc volcanics. et al., 1994a,b; Crawford et al., 2003
d'Entrecasteaux Ridge (south) Continuation of Loyalty Ridge; Eocene arc volcanism Maillet et al., 1983; Collot et al., 1992; Baker et
(youngest volcanism on Bougainville Seamount dated at al., 1994
Fiji block Remnant of volcanic ridge, oldest arc material is late Hathway, 1993; Taylor et al., 2000
Eocene in age. Paleomagnetism implies 135
anticlockwise rotation starting at or before 10Ma.
Finistre arc terrane Arc terrane, oldest arc material middle Eocene. Pigram and Davies, 1987
Lau-Colville Ridge Remnant volcanic arc. Hawkins, 1995
Lord Howe Rise Continental ribbon split from Australia by spreading in Burns et al., 1973c; Hayes and Ringis, 1973;
Tasman Sea, Paleozoic basement, rift initiation in Weissel and Hayes, 1977; Willcox et al., 2001
Jurassic/Early Cretaceous. DSDP site 207 drilled
Maastrichtian glauconitic claystone and sandstone
overlying rhyolite tuffs and flows.
Louisiade Plateau Extended continental crust. Taylor and Falvey, 1977
Loyalty Ridge Eocene volcanic arc. Maillet et al., 1983; Baker et al., 1994; Cluzel et
al., 2001
Melanesian Border Plateau Volcanic plateau, unknown age, presumably similar to Hathway, 1993
OntongJava plateau.
New Britain Ridge Active volcanic arc, oldest arc rocks late Eocene. Madsen and Lindley, 1994
New CaledoniaNorfolk Ridge Continental crust (Permo-Jurassic basement (New Shor et al., 1971; Black, 1995; Cluzel et al.,
Caledonia), overlain with mid to Late Cretaceous rift 2001
related sediments and volcanics).
New Hebrides Ridge Active volcanic arc, oldest arc rocks late Oligocene in Falvey, 1978; Greene et al., 1994; Musgrave
age. Paleomagnetism implies 2852 clockwise and Firth, 1999
rotation since the late Miocene.
Northland Plateau Seamount Volcanic rocks dated at 20Ma; Most likely volcanic arc Herzer et al., 2000; this paper
Chain of NE-dipping South Loyalty slab.
OntongJava Plateau Volcanic plateau, formed at 120 Ma. Mahoney et al., 1993
Solomon Ridge Active volcanic arc, oldest arc material is Eocene. Petterson et al., 1999
Three Kings Ridge CretaceousEocene volcanic arc or latest Eocene to early Kroenke and Eade, 1982; Launay et al., 1982;
Miocene volcanic arc (volcanic dredge samples date from Herzer, 1995; Mortimer et al., 1998; Sdrolias et
37 to 19.7Ma). West-facing arc morphology. al., 2004b
TongaKermadec Ridge Active volcanic arc, oldest arc material is middle Eocene Sager et al., 1994; Hawkins, 1995; Crawford et
in age (4640Ma). Paleomagnetism implies that Tonga al., 2003
segment has rotated 20 clockwise since opening of
Lau Basin.
West Norfolk Ridge Continental crust, Permo-Triassic continental basement. Mortimer et al., 1998
West Torres Plateau Continental crust? this paper
6 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Table 3
Interpretation and age of structural lineaments in the Southwest Pacific
Name Interpretation and age Reference
Alpine fault, New Zealand Dextral lithospheric scale shear zone with subsidiary Kamp, 1986; this paper
component of convergence; active since 23Ma.
Cook fracture zone Sinistral transform fault of Norfolk backarc Basin, active in S. Meffre, personal communication
Miocene (20 Ma).
d'Entrecasteaux Ridge Ancient transform of subduction zone, active in Eocene to Maillet et al., 1983; this paper
accommodate tearing of slab and anticlockwise rotation of the
Loyalty arc.
Hunter fracture zone Transform fault of New Hebrides subduction zone to Schellart et al., 2002a,b
accommodate tearing of slab and clockwise rotation of the
New Hebrides arc.
Osbourn Trough Fossil spreading ridge, stopped spreading at 82Ma. Billen and Stock, 2000
Pocklington Trough Fossil subduction zone, active from Paleocene/Eocene to Cooper and Taylor, 1987
South Rennell Trough Fossil spreading ridge. Larue et al., 1977
Vening Meinesz fracture zone Dextral transform fault of Norfolk backarc Basin, active in early Herzer et al., 1997
to middle Miocene.
Vitiaz Trench Fossil subduction zone, active from (at least) Eocene to middle/ Hathway, 1993
late Miocene.

plateaus and elongated ridges. The ridges and plateaus in FijiLauColville Ridge, TongaKermadec Ridge).
the western part are underlain by extended continental Recent investigations of rock samples dredged from
crust (e.g. Dampier Ridge, Chesterfield Plateau, Lord the western part of the Three Kings Ridge, however,
Howe Rise, Challenger Plateau, Norfolk Ridge, Camp- suggest that it contains a continental crust component as
bell Plateau, Chatham Rise), which were rifted from well, probably also originating from the eastern margin
Australia and Antarctica in the Cretaceous (Hayes and of Australia (Crawford et al., 2004). Most of the basins
Ringis, 1973; Yan and Kroenke, 1993; Gaina et al., 1998, in the Southwest Pacific are underlain by oceanic crust
1999; Norvick et al., 2001; Sutherland et al., 2001). The (Tasman Sea, Coral Sea, Solomon Sea, South Fiji Basin,
ridges in the eastern part display more characteristic North Fiji Basin, North Loyalty Basin, North d'Entre-
features of remnant and active volcanic arcs (e.g. casteaux Basin, Santa Cruz Basin, Lau Basin, Reso-
Solomon Ridge, New Hebrides arc, Three Kings Ridge, lution Basin, Emerald Basin), some (New Caledonia

Table 4
Interpretation and timing of collision/obduction events in the Southwest Pacific
Name Interpretation and timing Reference
Collision proto-New Hebrides arc and Collision caused arc-polarity reversal and took Falvey, 1975; Hathway, 1993; this paper
Melanesian border plateau place before opening of North Fiji Basin
( 1211Ma). Subduction along Vitiaz trench
Collision New Guinea and Finistre arc Collision occurred in Pliocene. Abbott et al., 1994; Weiler and Coe, 2000
Collision Solomon Islands and Ontong Initial contact at 2520Ma, forceful collision Petterson et al., 1999
Java plateau since 4Ma.
Collision Hikurangi plateau and Initial contact probably several Myr before Billen and Stock, 2000; this paper
Chatham Rise 82Ma, the time when the Osbourn Trough
stopped spreading and subduction seized.
New Caledonia ophiolite obduction and Southwest-directed thrusting and obduction of Paris, 1981; Aitchison et al., 1995; Ali and
Poya and Poubo terrane thrusting the terranes and ophiolites in the latest Eocene Aitchison, 2000; Cluzel et al., 2001
to earliest Oligocene (3833.7Ma).
Northland allochthon obduction Southwest-directed obduction, from latest Sprli, 1989; Malpas et al., 1992; Herzer, 1995;
Oligocene to earliest Miocene (2522Ma or Rait, 2000; Mortimer et al., 2003
Papuan ophiolite obduction South-directed obduction, either in the Monnier et al., 1999; Pigram and Davies, 1987
Oligocene or middle Miocene.
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 7

Basin, Norfolk Basin) are at least partly underlain by Table 6

extended continental crust and some (Havre Trough, Finite Rotations of the Lord Howe Rise microplate relative to the
Australian plate. Data from Gaina et al. (1998). Negative rotations
Reinga Basin) are entirely underlain by extended indicate clockwise rotations when viewed from above the surface of
continental crust (see Table 1 for more details). the Earth and going backward in time.
Diffuse extensional deformation in the continental Age Latitude Longitude Rotation angle
parts of the region started in the Early Cretaceous, as (Ma) (N) (E) ()
evidenced by deformation in East Australia, New
52.0 0 0 0
Zealand and the offshore continental fragments, ridges 53.3 14.19 130.41 0.723
and plateaus (Weissel and Hayes, 1977; Uruski and 55.8 15.93 133.47 2.112
Wood, 1991; McDougall et al., 1994; Herzer et al., 57.9 16.93 136.23 3.792
1997; Norvick et al., 2001; Sutherland et al., 2001; 61.2 4.650 131.51 4.432
62.5 4.710 132.68 5.168
Willcox et al., 2001). This extension was followed by
64.0 0.190 130.37 5.461
episodic opening of a number of basins from the Late 65.6 3.990 131.80 6.735
Cretaceous to the Present (Table 1), including the
Tasman Sea, Coral Sea, Solomon Sea, New Caledonia,
Norfolk, South Loyalty, North Loyalty, South Fiji, Recalculated rotation parameters of the Pacific plate
North Fiji and LauHavre basins. relative to the Australian plate and the Lord Howe Rise
relative to the Pacific plate are plotted in Tables 5 and 7
3. Spatio-temporal constraints respectively. Rotation poles of the Lord Howe Rise
relative to the Australian plate are plotted in Table 6.
Constraints for the reconstruction are presented in The uncertainties associated with the reconstruction
Tables 17. These include the timing of basin formation will be discussed in Section 6. In particular, we will
or age of obducted ophiolites that represent remnants of elaborate on the available data for a number of
(backarc) ocean floor (Table 1), nature and age of plateaus problematic regions and structures. We present our
and ridges (Table 2), nature and timing of activity of large- interpretation of these regions and structures in order to
scale structural lineaments (Table 3), and nature and fit them into a logical tectonic reconstruction of the
timing of major collision/obduction events (Table 4). entire Southwest Pacific region.

Table 5 4. Reconstruction of the Southwest Pacific

Finite rotations of the Pacific plate relative to the Australian plate. Data
compiled, modified and recalculated from Cande and Kent (1995), Below we describe an evolutionary model for the
Cande et al. (1995, 2000), Huestis and Acton (1997), Royer and Rollet Southwest Pacific region. The model was constructed
(1997) and Royer and Sandwell (1989). Times for isochron picks have
been reassigned based on updated timescales of Huestis and Acton
with software to do reconstructions on a sphere, which
(1997) and Cande and Kent (1995). Negative rotations indicate was developed by the ACcESS MNRF (http://www.
clockwise rotations when viewed from above the surface of the Earth The Late Cretaceous and the Cenozoic
and going backward in time. See appendix for more detail. tectonic model of the region is presented in Figs. 2 and 3.
Age Latitude Longitude Rotation angle
(Ma) (N) (E) ()
0.0 0 0 0 Table 7
0.8 59.14405 177.6128 0.830711 Finite Rotations of the Lord Howe Rise microplate relative to the
2.6 59.91248 178.3630 2.941864 Pacific plate. Positive rotations indicate anticlockwise rotations when
5.9 60.48305 178.3839 6.566746 viewed from above the surface of the Earth and going backward in
9.0 59.63949 181.3727 9.823060 time.
12.6 58.53777 183.2443 13.84880
Age Latitude Longitude Rotation angle
17.6 52.16382 186.8310 22.14973
(Ma) (N) (E) ()
24.1 55.19854 183.9288 26.39683
26.1 55.15455 182.8670 28.95834 52.0 50.10 174.27 51.74
27.4 54.88977 182.0366 30.63211 53.3 50.88 174.52 51.46
33.5 52.15516 180.9583 37.07357 55.8 51.88 173.56 51.77
42.5 50.14776 177.4638 47.38101 57.9 53.06 172.82 51.60
47.9 50.45626 175.9420 50.26227 61.2 54.11 170.78 53.64
53.3 50.35134 173.9509 51.92256 62.5 54.48 169.85 54.06
61.1 50.32633 168.6213 55.98808 64.0 54.65 168.82 55.31
67.7 49.18015 164.2440 60.56760 65.6 55.20 168.00 55.36
8 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

In Fig. 4 the evolution of the region is illustrated with a also evident in seismic profiles across the Lord Howe
number of eastwest cross-sections (see Fig. 1 for Rise, Norfolk Ridge, Challenger Plateau, Campbell
location of cross-sections) to provide an additional Plateau, Chatham Rise, Marion Plateau, Queensland
perspective of the evolution of the AustralianPacific Plateau, Louisiade Plateau, Reinga Basin and New
plate boundary. In particular, the cross-sections provide Caledonia Basin, and from on-land geology in Northland
insight into the subduction processes and slab kinematics (Sprli, 1989; Herzer et al., 1997; Norvick et al., 2001;
in the region and into the amount of subduction of the Sutherland et al., 2001; Willcox et al., 2001; Lafoy et al.,
Pacific plate. 2005). Overriding plate extension ceased during the
Cenomanian, but resumed again during the Turonian to
4.1. Cretaceous Santonian (Figs. 2a, 4a) and the extension phase
subsequently led to spreading in the Tasman Sea
Initial widespread extension along the eastern margin (Norvick et al., 2001). Veevers (2000a,b) proposed that
of Australia and in the New Zealand region started in the a change in relative plate motion along the eastern
Early to mid Cretaceous. Volcanic sediments were margin of Australia from head-on subduction to sinistral
deposited along the East Australian margin in the Early motion at 99Ma caused a fundamental change along
Cretaceous (BarremianAlbian) (Bryan et al., 1997), the Southwest Pacific margin of Australia and New
and have been interpreted to result from widespread Zealand. In particular, it was proposed that a Chilean-
backarc extension (Norvick et al., 2001; Betts et al., type margin was present in the PaleozoicEarly
2002). If this interpretation is correct, it would imply that Cretaceous with the subduction zone located along the
the East Australian margin would have functioned as a continent, while a Mariana-type margin was present in
subduction zone at this time, and that extension in East the Late CretaceousPresent with subduction separated
Australia resulted from east to northeast-directed from the continent by a 3000km wide backarc or
rollback of a west to southwest-dipping subduction marginal sea complex.
zone (e.g. Lister and Etheridge, 1989; Veevers et al., Seafloor spreading in the Tasman Sea started at 85
1991, Veevers, 2000a,b; Cluzel et al., 2001; Betts et al., 80Ma (Santonian to Early Campanian) (Hayes and
2002; Forster and Lister, 2003). Widespread eastwest Ringis, 1973; Gaina et al., 1998; Norvick et al., 2001).
to northeastsouthwest-directed Cretaceous extension is Late Cretaceous extension in the Chatham Rise

Fig. 2. Reconstruction of the Southwest Pacific region for the Late Cretaceous period in an Australia-fixed reference frame. See Section 4 for
discussion. Note that the geographic outlines have been added to help identify the location of the present-day coastline but bear no paleogeographic
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 9

Fig. 3. Reconstruction of the Southwest Pacific region for the Cenozoic period in an Australia-fixed reference frame. See text for discussion. Cfz,
Cook fracture zone; d'ER, d'Entrecasteaux Ridge; LB, Lau Basin; MaB, Manus Basin; NBT, New Britain Trench; Nd'EB, North d'Entrecasteaux
Basin; NFB, North Fiji Basin; NFoB, Norfolk Basin; NHT, New Hebrides Trench; PuT, Puysegur Trench; ResB, Resolution Basin; SCT, San
Cristobal Trench; VMfz, Vening Meinesz fracture zone; VM-VdLfz, Vening MeineszVan der Linden fracture zone; WoB, Woodlark Basin. See
Section 4 for discussion. Note that the geographic outlines have been added to help identify the location of the present-day coastline but bear no
paleogeographic significance.
10 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Fig. 3 (continued).

Campbell Plateau region and the Ross Sea region of spreading in the Bounty Trough at 90 Ma (Eagles et
Antarctica is also interpreted as backarc extension due to al., 2004). Collision of the Hikurangi Plateau with the
subduction and rollback along the Chatham subduction Chatham Rise along the southwest-dipping Chatham
zone (Fig. 2a). Extension in the region started at subduction zone probably occurred in the Late Creta-
120Ma (Forster and Lister, 2003) and culminated in ceous ( 82 Ma) and would have led to cessation of
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 11

Fig. 3 (continued).

subduction along the Chatham subduction zone and became locked and the CampbellChathamHikurangi
termination of spreading along the Osbourn Trough block amalgamated with the Pacific plate, while the
(Fig. 2b) (Billen and Stock, 2000). The collision might spreading ridge jumped from the Bounty Trough to the
also have resulted in termination of backarc spreading in southern edge of the Campbell Plateau. Subduction and
the Bounty Trough, which stopped spreading at 83Ma slab rollback continued along the AustralianPacific
(Eagles et al., 2004). Subsequently, the subduction zone plate boundary further to the north, accommodating
12 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Fig. 3 (continued).

backarc extension and spreading in the overriding plate ophiolites and sediments in Northland (Hayward et al.,
(Fig. 2b), in particular backarc spreading in the South 1989; Malpas et al., 1992). The obducted rocks and
LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington Basin, which started terranes have backarc geochemical characteristics and
at 8580Ma. Subduction also continued further to the represent the remnants of these basins. The elongated
south along most of the Antarctic Peninsula (McCarron South Loyalty Basin was bordered to the west by the
and Larter, 1998; Larter et al., 2002). Norfolk Ridge, to the east by an active volcanic arc, and
to the south by the Vening MeineszVan der Linden
4.2. Paleocene fracture zone (Figs. 3ac, 4b). The South Loyalty Basin
continued northward as the Santa Cruz Basin, which
Diffuse extension occurred along the northeast again continued northwestward as the Pocklington
Australian margin in the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene Basin. These basins opened in the same time frame as
(Norvick et al., 2001), while opening of the Coral Sea the South Loyalty Basin, as deduced from Late
started at 62Ma (Gaina et al., 1999) (Figs. 3ac, 4b). Cretaceous to Paleocene obducted ophiolites and
Late Cretaceous to Paleocene extension also took place deep-sea sediments in Eastern New Guinea (Davies
in the region of the New Caledonia Basin, culminating and Jaques, 1984; Pigram and Davies, 1987), which
in 150 km of eastwest spreading in the Central New represent remnants of the Pocklington Basin. The age of
Caledonia Basin, which is suggested to have taken place the remaining part of the Santa Cruz Basin is uncertain,
from 62 to 56 Ma (Lafoy et al., 2005). The but was suggested to be of Cretaceous age (Kroenke,
reconstruction further shows continued spreading in 1984). Northeastsouthwest-directed spreading contin-
the South LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington Basin, from ued in the Tasman Sea during the Paleocene. In the
which the southern sub-basin (the South Loyalty Basin) reconstruction model, westward to southwestward
is estimated to have reached a width of at least 750km subduction continued along the Southwest Pacific
(see Section 6.1 for details). The 8580 Ma age for plate boundary during northeast to east-directed rollback
inception of spreading in the basin is suggested by the of the Pacific slab to accommodate backarc spreading in
Campanian to earliest Eocene overthrusted Poya and the New Caledonia Basin, the South LoyaltySanta
Pouebo terranes and the Cretaceous obducted ophiolites CruzPocklington Basin, the Coral Sea and part of the
in New Caledonia (Cluzel et al., 2001; Spandler et al., spreading in the Tasman Sea (Fig. 4b) (see Section 5 for
2005), and Late Cretaceous to Paleocene obducted more details).
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 13

4.3. Eocene ophiolites on top of the New Caledonia basement at

3833.7Ma as implied by structural, sedimentological
In the early Eocene, spreading stopped in the Tasman and paleomagnetic investigations (Figs. 3g, 4e) (Aitch-
Sea Basin ( 52 Ma) (Hayes and Ringis, 1973; Gaina et ison et al., 1995; Ali and Aitchison, 2000; Auzende et
al., 1998) and Coral Sea Basin (52 Ma) (Gaina et al., al., 2000; Cluzel et al., 2001). We suggest that
1999). Spreading also stopped in the South Loyalty obduction of the ophiolite was facilitated by a
Santa CruzPocklington Basin at 55 Ma (Figs. 3d, downward pull force exerted by the South Loyalty
4c), because the youngest known obducted ophiolite slab on the New Caledonia basement and by a push
remnants and terranes of this basin are Paleocene to force exerted by the backarc spreading ridge in the
earliest Eocene in age (Davies and Jaques, 1984; Pigram North Loyalty Basin on the obducting ophiolite (Fig.
and Davies, 1987; Hayward et al., 1989; Malpas et al., 4e). The second shortening event in the Pouebo terrane
1992; Cluzel et al., 2001; Spandler et al., 2005). It is in New Caledonia documented by Rawling and Lister
proposed that eastward subduction of the South Loyalty (1999, 2002) would have resulted from the obduction
backarc Basin commenced in the latest early Eocene to event.
earliest middle Eocene ( 50 Ma) along the newly The reconstruction requires the overthrusted Poya
formed New Caledonia subduction zone. The first terrane and Pouebo terrane in New Caledonia to have
shortening event accompanied by HP/LT metamor- formed in a backarc environment, e.g. the South
phism in the metamorphic Pouebo terrane in northwest Loyalty backarc Basin (Fig. 4e). This is indeed
New Caledonia (e.g. Rawling and Lister, 1999, 2002) suggested by geological and geochemical data from
could represent the formation of this incipient subduc- the obducted sediments and volcanics and blueschist
tion zone. The subduction zone formed in a trapped to eclogite facies metabasites and metasediments
backarc basin and therefore subduction could only be (Aitchison et al., 1995; Cluzel et al., 2001; Spandler
achieved by westward slab rollback. Such rollback et al., 2005). The Poya and Pouebo terranes are of
initiated extension in the region and splitting of the Campanian to earliest Eocene age as determined from
Loyalty arc from the outer arc (Figs. 3df, 4c, d). The microfossil assemblages in the Poya terrane (Cluzel et
first extension event documented in the HP/LT Pouebo al., 2001), UPb dating of inherited magmatic zircon
terrane in New Caledonia documented by Rawling and grains from the Pouebo metamorphic terrane ( 85
Lister (2002) would have resulted from this rollback 55 Ma, Spandler et al., 2005) and identification of
event. Northward subduction along the Pocklington Senonian ( 8965 Ma) Inoceramus fossils and Paleo-
Trough commenced in the middle Eocene with cene foraminifera in the Pouebo and Diahot metamor-
subduction of the Pocklington backarc Basin lithosphere phic terranes (Paris, 1981; Yokoyama et al., 1986).
(Fig. 3e). Explanations for the termination of backarc The reconstruction would further predict the New
basin opening at 5552 Ma (Tasman Sea Basin, Coral Caledonia ophiolite to have a Cretaceous backarc
Sea Basin, South LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington origin, cross-cut by younger ( 5030Ma) fore-arc
Basin) and the formation of the new subduction zones signatures. The age of the New Caledonia ophiolite is
at 5045 Ma (New Caledonia and Pocklington not accurately constrained, but it probably formed
subduction zones) are discussed in Sections 5 and 8.1. during the Cretaceous (Auzende et al., 2000; Cluzel et
Continued eastward subduction and westward roll- al., 2001). A range of unpublished ages shows clusters
back of the South Loyalty Basin lithosphere induced around 10077 Ma and 48Ma, which imply a complex
formation of the North Loyalty backarc Basin and was history (e.g. Prinzhofer (1981) as cited in Aitchison et
accompanied by volcanism along the Loyalty volcanic al. (1995)). The Late Cretaceous ages could be
arc and South d'Entrecasteaux Ridge, which took place interpreted as the formation age of the ophiolite. The
in the Eocene (Maillet et al., 1983; Baker et al., 1994; Eocene age approximately coincides with the sug-
Cluzel et al., 2001). Results from DSDP site 286 and a gested time of formation of the New Caledonia
recent reinterpretation of geophysical data indicate that subduction zone ( 50 Ma). If the ophiolite, however,
the crust in the North Loyalty Basin is of middle to late formed in the Early Cretaceous rather then the Late
Eocene age (Andrews et al., 1975a; Sdrolias et al., Cretaceous, then it could have been a trapped piece of
2003). In the latest Eocene to earliest Oligocene the oceanic lithosphere located along the eastern margin
northern part of the South Loyalty Basin lithosphere of Gondwana on which the Cretaceous outer arc was
had been subducted. This resulted in southwestward built (e.g. Cluzel et al., 2001). Early to mid Tertiary
thrusting of terrane slices (e.g. Poya and Pouebo low-Ca boninites located in between the Poya terrane
terranes) and southwestward obduction of fore-arc (formation des basalts) and the main ophiolite
14 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 15

Fig. 4. Eastwest cross-sections illustrating the evolution of the Southwest Pacific region since the Cretaceous in an Australia-fixed reference frame.
For location of final cross-section in Fig. 4h see Fig. 1. White arrows indicate convergence between Pacific plate and Australia. Black arrows illustrate
the sinking kinematics of a slab. Diagrams illustrate that subduction of Pacific lithosphere from the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene and subduction of
backarc lithosphere (e.g. South Loyalty slab) results primarily from slab rollback (i.e. negligible convergence between overriding and subducting
plate), leading to a simple slab geometry with draping of the slab over the upperlower mantle discontinuity. Subduction of the Pacific plate from the
Eocene to Present results from both slab rollback and convergence, leading to a more complex slab geometry with slab draping (due to rollback) and
folding (due to convergence). Slab kinematics was inspired by subduction models from Guillou-Frottier et al. (1995), Griffiths et al. (1995),
Funiciello et al. (2003) and Schellart (2004a, 2005). For a more extensive discussion of the reconstruction see text.

(Cameron, 1989) and sparse boninite dikes that cross- The reconstruction shows continued southward
cut the ophiolite (Cluzel, personal communication) rollback along the north-dipping Pocklington subduc-
imply that the New Caledonia ophiolite was in a fore- tion zone, which resulted in formation of the New
arc setting with respect to the Loyalty arc during Guinea arc and opening of the Solomon Sea as a backarc
subduction of the South Loyalty slab in the Eocene. basin in the late Eocene (Fig. 3fg). A progressive
16 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

change in relative motion between the Australian plate f). This new phase of Pacific rollback was potentially
and Pacific plate in the Eocene initiated spreading in the triggered by the push exerted by the backarc spreading
Resolution Basin located southwest of New Zealand at ridge in the North LoyaltySouth Fiji Basin, as the
4540 Ma (Sutherland, 1995), as the boundary northern part of the New Caledonia subduction zone
changed from a transform boundary (Emerald fracture experienced increasing resistance to rollback westward
zone) to an oblique divergent boundary (Resolution and finally became inactive in the Oligocene. Termina-
Ridge). The new boundary formed at an oblique angle to tion of subduction started in the north (New Caledonia)
the fracture zone, as evidenced by the obliquity between and migrated southward (Three Kings and Northland
the Resolution Ridge and fracture zones in the Tasman region). Thus it is likely that rollback of the Pacific slab
Sea. started in the north (proto Tonga section) and migrated
southward (proto Kermadec section) as well, which
4.4. Oligocene could explain the wedge-shaped opening of the South
Fiji Basin. Consumption of the Pocklington Basin was
After latest Eocene obduction in new Caledonia, the completed in the late Oligocene with collision of the
lithospheric mantle underneath the New Caledonia crust New Guinea arc with the passive margin of the Papua
delaminated from the crust and was subducted with the Louisiade Plateau and obduction of ophiolites onto the
South Loyalty slab during continued westward rollback New Guinea passive margin (Fig. 3h) (Monnier et al.,
or, alternatively, a major detachment fault formed 1999). This coincided with termination of spreading in
underneath the continental crust as the subduction the Solomon Sea, which took place in the late Oligocene
zone jumped from the east side to the west side of (Joshima and Honza, 1987; Joshima et al., 1987; Hall,
New Caledonia. Irrespective of the mechanism in- 2002). Remnants of the Pocklington Basin are found in
volved, the New Caledonia crust was transferred from the New Guinea orogen, with Late Cretaceous to
the subducting plate to the overriding plate as the new Paleogene aged sediments and metamorphic rocks,
incipient subduction zone formed to the west of New and Late Cretaceous to Paleocene ophiolites (Pigram
Caledonia (Fig. 4e) (Cluzel et al., 2005), as implied by and Davies, 1987). The ophiolites are thought to have
gravity and seismic data showing evidence for a fossil formed in a backarc setting (Monnier et al., 2000), e.g.
subduction zone along the southwestern margin of New the Pocklington backarc Basin, as shown in the
Caledonia (Regnier, 1988). During this phase part of the reconstruction (Fig. 3e). The reconstruction shows that
New Caledonia Basin was subducted by westward in the late Oligocene to earliest Miocene, consumption
rollback that could have induced extension in New of the remainder of the South Loyalty backarc Basin
Caledonia. This phase could be represented by the lithosphere in the south resulted from southwest-
second extension event documented by Rawling and directed rollback and led to obduction of ophiolites on
Lister (1999, 2002)). The phase of rollback was short- top of the Northland passive margin. The obduction of
lived, and soon the South Loyalty slab detached from ophiolites and sediments (e.g. Northland allochthon)
the trailing plate at the surface (Fig. 4f), inducing local onto the passive margin took place at 2522Ma or
granitoid magmatism at 2724Ma in southern New 2421 Ma with a displacement from northeast to
Caledonia (Cluzel et al., 2005). Recent results from southwest (e.g. Sprli, 1989; Malpas et al., 1992;
structural mapping in New Caledonia imply that the Herzer, 1995; Rait, 2000; Mortimer et al., 2003) (Fig.
latest extension event documented by Rawling and 3h, i). The obduction model for Northland is comparable
Lister (1999, 2002) was multidirectional, started after to the one proposed for New Caledonia and is similar to
the obduction event and lasted until after the middle a combination of two conceptual obduction models
Miocene, thus until after 11Ma (Lagabrielle et al., proposed by Dewey (1976, his Figs. 4ab and 8ac) and
2005). The multidirectional nature and timing of the conceptual obduction models proposed by Moores
extension would thus imply that at least the Miocene (1970) and Edelman (1988). The reconstruction model
extensional deformation was not related to slab rollback. can account for the make-up of the allochthon, which
Most likely, this extension resulted from the isostatic consists of Late Cretaceous to Oligocene sediments
rebound of the New Caledonia crust after slab (mainly flysch, sandstone and mudstone) and Late
detachment, because the regional extension is associated Cretaceous to Early Paleogene peridotite, gabbro and
with vertical uplift (e.g. Lagabrielle et al., 2005). pillow basalts (Hayward et al., 1989) that show
A new phase of eastward slab rollback of the Pacific geochemical signatures of both arc and backarc
plate along the outer arc accommodated spreading in the environments (Thompson et al., 1997; Nicholson et
South Fiji Basin during the Oligocene (Figs. 3g, h, 4e, al., 2000). Fossils recovered from a number of ophiolite
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 17

outcrops show a wide range of ages from 80 to 55Ma earliest phase of volcanism. The volcanism is aligned
(Whattam et al., 2004 and references therein), which along two closely spaced northwestsoutheast trending
coincides with the age in the Poya terrane in New belts, is commonly attributed to southwest-directed
Caledonia as determined from microfossils (Cluzel subduction (Sprli, 1989; Herzer, 1995; Hayward et al.,
et al., 2001). The reconstruction model can also accom- 2001) and took place from 23 to 16Ma (Herzer, 1995) or
modate recently published Oligocene radiometric ages 2511 Ma (Hayward et al., 2001). The widespread
(2926Ma) for igneous rocks from the allochthon with a distribution of volcanism (see Fig. 2 in Herzer (1995))
supra-subduction zone signature and paleomagnetic over an area with a low aspect ratio ( 210 km by
data that imply that the rocks formed at a latitude 350 km), however, suggests that the volcanism is not
close to the latitude ( 510 further north) of the related to subduction. It has recently been suggested that
Northland basement in the Oligocene (Whattam et al., the volcanism resulted from the Miocene extension in
2004, 2005). These Oligocene rocks would have formed the region (Crawford et al., 2003), but this does not
above the northeast-dipping South Loyalty slab as explain that the extension started several Myr after the
shown in Fig. 3hi. start of volcanism. Also, it would not explain the calc-
alkaline character of the volcanism in Northland,
4.5. Miocene because continental rift environments are associated
with alkaline magmatism and, to a lesser extent, with
East-directed rollback of the Pacific slab continued tholeiitic magmatism (Wilson, 1993). New research
until the latest Oligocene to early Miocene during indicates that the volcanism in Northland is best
opening of the South Fiji Basin and Norfolk Basin. explained by slab detachment of the northeast-dipping
Rollback first stopped in the north along the proto Tonga South Loyalty slab from the trailing Northland passive
section, as spreading in the northern South Fiji Basin margin lithosphere in the final stage of subduction
stopped at 2524Ma, but continued until 2016 Ma in (Schellart, in review). The conceptual scenario is similar
the south along the proto Kermadec section (Fig. 3j). In to the model of slab detachment and late to post-
the south, rollback was accommodated by opening of orogenic magmatism proposed previously for the Alps,
the southern South Fiji Basin and the Norfolk Basin. Carpathians and Apennines (von Blanckenburg and
WNWESE-directed spreading in the southern South Davies, 1995; Seghedi et al., 1998; Wortel and Spak-
Fiji Basin took place in the Oligocene to early/middle man, 2000). The new model for the Northland region
Miocene (Herzer et al., 2000). Extension in the explains the Cretaceous to Miocene geology of
NorfolkThree Kings region culminated in spreading Northland, can account for the geochemistry of the
in the Norfolk Basin, with NNESSW oriented early Miocene volcanism and also fits within the
spreading ridges that were active in the early Miocene Southwest Pacific tectonic framework (Schellart, in
(Crawford et al., 2003; Sdrolias et al., 2004b). The basin review) as presented here in Figs. 2 and 3. Slab
is bound by the sinistral Cook fracture zone in the north, detachment could also explain the post-obduction
which was active in the early Miocene ( 20 Ma (S. extension and uplift of the region by isostatic rebound
Meffre, personal communication)) and by the dextral of the Northland crust in a similar way as has been
Vening Meinesz fracture zone in the south, which was discussed in Section 4.4 for the New Caledonia region.
active in the early to middle Miocene (Herzer et al., Part of the extension, however, could also be attributed
1997). The spreading ridges in the Norfolk Basin and to eastward rollback of the Pacific slab.
the southern South Fiji Basin were connected via the Collision of the Ontong Java Plateau or related
triple junction in the central South Fiji Basin, from fragments with the Solomon arc along the North
which the northern arm in the northern South Fiji Basin Solomon Trench started in the early to middle Miocene
was no longer active, as it stopped spreading at 25 (Petterson et al., 1999; Hall, 2002). This collision
24 Ma. initiated southward subduction of the Solomon Sea
Extension in the Northland region was oriented along the Trobriand Trough and later also northward
northwestsoutheast and northeastsouthwest, took subduction along the New BritainSan Cristobal
place in the Miocene after ophiolite obduction and Trench. Collision of the Melanesian Border Plateau
persisted into the Quaternary (Sprli, 1982, 1989). The with the proto-New Hebrides arc and the Fiji block
ophiolite obduction temporarily overlapped with the along the Vitiaz Trench probably started in the middle
early phase of predominantly early Miocene andesitic Miocene (Fig. 3l). The collision caused northeastward
volcanism in Northland and thus it can be concluded subduction of the northern part of the South FijiNorth
that the extension phase in Northland started after the Loyalty Basin and the remainder of the Santa Cruz
18 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

South Loyalty Basin along the newly formed New south (Bevis et al., 1995), resulting from asymmetric
Hebrides Trench (Fig. 3l, m, 4g). This subduction zone slab rollback, inducing the formation of a wedge-shaped
soon started to retreat southwestward forming the North Lau backarc Basin. Subduction of the Australian plate
Fiji backarc Basin in its wake. Spreading started at 12 continues along the New BritainSan CristobalNew
11 Ma (Pelletier et al., 1993). Hebrides Trench. Continued clockwise rollback of the
The PacificAustralia rotation poles indicate that in slab subducting along the New Hebrides Trench is
the Alpine fault region of New Zealand, highly oblique responsible for the wedge-shaped opening of the North
convergence started at 2520 Ma and made way for Fiji Basin. The clockwise rollback along the New
predominant dextral shearing with a subsidiary compo- Hebrides Trench necessitates the formation of a tear at
nent of convergence since 20 Ma. This is in agreement the southeastern end of the slab, the surface trace of
with the age of inception of the modern Alpine fault in which is the Hunter Fracture zone (Schellart et al.,
New Zealand at 23 Ma (Kamp, 1986). Spreading in 2002b; Govers and Wortel, 2005). The complex
the Resolution Basin located southwest of New Zealand spreading pattern in the North Fiji Basin is most likely
stopped at 11Ma (Sutherland, 1995) as the Pacific the result of the asymmetric wedge-shaped opening of
Australia relative plate motion in this region changed the basin and the collision of the arc with the
from oblique divergent to oblique convergent. Contin- d'Entrecasteaux Ridge and West Torres Plateau (Schel-
ued oblique convergence initiated subduction along the lart et al., 2002a). The clockwise rollback of the New
Puysegur Trench with eastward subduction of the Hebrides and Tonga slabs was probably facilitated by
Australian plate underneath the Pacific plate. lateral flow of mantle material around the lateral slab
edge towards the mantle wedge side (Schellart, 2004a).
4.6. Pliocene Such flow can indeed explain the well-defined curved
geometry of the Tonga slab near its northern edge,
Continued subduction along the New Hebrides which is concave towards the mantle wedge side. For
Trench and clockwise rollback of the subducting slab the Tonga region, such lateral flow has also been
resulted in the wedge-shaped opening of the North Fiji suggested from arc and backarc geochemistry of
backarc Basin and clockwise rotation of the New volcanic rocks (Wendt et al., 1997; Turner and Hawkes-
Hebrides arc (Figs. 3m, n, 4h) (Hathway, 1993; Schellart worth, 1998) and seismic shear wave splitting (Smith et
et al., 2002a). A new phase of eastward rollback of the al., 2001).
Pacific plate resulted in formation of the LauHavre The present-day slab geometry in the TongaNew
Basin in between the remnant FijiLauColville arc and Hebrides region as postulated in Fig. 4h shows
the active TongaKermadec arc (Figs. 3m, n, 4h). similarity with a tomographic eastwest cross-section
Rifting started at 76 Ma, while spreading in the Lau across the New Hebrides and Tonga arc from Hall and
Basin started at 5 Ma (Parson and Hawkins, 1994). Spakman (2002) (Fig. 5). The image shows the
Opening of the Woodlark Basin started at 6 Ma westward-dipping Tonga slab continuing down to the
(Taylor et al., 1995), potentially related to northward
rollback of the Solomon Sea plate subducting along the
Trobriand Trough. Spreading in the Manus Basin started
in the Pliocene (Martinez and Taylor, 1996), partly
driven by south to southeastward rollback of the
Solomon Sea slab subducting along the New Britain

4.7. Present

At present, the Alpine fault in New Zealand

accommodates dextral transpression. Eastward subduc-
tion of the Australian plate occurs along the Puysegur
Trench, while westward subduction and eastward Fig. 5. Eastwest tomographic cross-section along a 30 great circle
rollback of the Pacific plate along the TongaKermadec segment down to a depth of 1500km (simplified from Hall and
Spakman (2002)), illustrating subduction of both the New Hebrides
trench drives active spreading in the Lau Basin and slab and Tonga slab. White dots represent hypocenters of earthquakes
active extension in the Havre Trough (Fig. 3n). Backarc that occurred within 50km of the cross-section plane. See Fig. 1 for
spreading is much faster in the north compared to the location. Dashed line represents upperlower mantle discontinuity.
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 19

upperlower mantle discontinuity, where it is deflected large-scale undefined blob. The lower mantle blob is
horizontally for some distance until it penetrates the interpreted as a folded slab pile, as illustrated in Fig. 4h.
discontinuity and continues into the lower mantle as a It is explained to have resulted from convergence

Fig. 6. Displacement of the Pacific plate, Lord Howe Rise microplate and the AustralianPacific plate boundary relative to Australia for successive
5Myr periods from 65 Ma to Present. Rotation parameters for the Pacific plate relative to Australia and the Lord Howe Rise relative to Australia are
presented in Tables 5 and 6 respectively. See text for discussion.
20 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Fig. 6 (continued).

between the Australian plate and the Pacific plate, while potentially earlier at 99 Ma (Veevers, 2000a,b). This
the horizontal part resting on the discontinuity is collision locked the subduction zone in the Chatham
interpreted to have resulted from slab rollback processes region and would have stopped spreading along the
(see also Section 5). The eastward-dipping New Osbourn Trough, resulting in amalgamation of the
Hebrides slab can also be observed in Fig. 5, dipping Hikurangi plate located south of the Osbourn Trough
at a somewhat steeper angle than the Tonga slab and with the Pacific plate (Fig. 2). Subperpendicular
reaching a subduction depth close to the upperlower subduction along the AustralianPacific plate bound-
mantle discontinuity. ary stopped at this time and the motion along the
boundary became predominantly strike-slip. This
5. Relative plate motions and plate boundary strike-slip motion along the plate boundary has been
migration illustrated in Fig. 6ac for the period 6550Ma. As
can be observed, relative motion in the south along the
West-directed displacement and subduction of Emerald fracture zone is very small, because both the
oceanic lithosphere underneath the Australian conti- Lord Howe Rise and the Pacific plate are moving
nent took place during most of the Paleozoic and towards the northeast at a similar velocity. Along the
Mesozoic periods (Veevers et al., 1991; Collins, 2003; eastern and northern boundary, Pacific plate motion
Veevers, 2004). However, in the Late Cretaceous, relative to the boundary is primarily strike-slip.
west-directed displacement was disrupted, most likely However, subduction continued along the eastern
due to collision of the Hikurangi Plateau with the and northern plate boundary due to east-directed and
Chatham Rise at 82 Ma (Billen and Stock, 2000) or northeast-directed rollback of the Pacific slab. This
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 21

rollback and hinge-migration provided space to in the north. This points to an average convergence
accommodate opening of the South LoyaltySanta velocity of 1.22.3cm/yr.
CruzPocklington Basin, New Caledonia Basin and On top of the convergence due to Tasman Sea
Coral Sea Basin and partly accommodated opening of spreading, geological evidence points to a minimum
the Tasman Sea Basin. eastwest width of the South Loyalty Basin at 55Ma
Fig. 7 shows how much of the Tasman Sea opening of 750 km (see Section 6.1). Paleontological and
was accommodated by east-directed slab rollback in radiometric data point to an age for the South Loyalty
the Paleogene. Here, the relative motion of the Lord Basin of 8085 to 55 Ma (Cluzel et al., 2001; Spandler
Howe Rise microplate with respect to Australia has et al., 2005). This would imply an average eastwest
been plotted for the period 6552 Ma, resulting from spreading rate of 3.0cm/yr. Finally, the latest results
the opening of the Tasman Sea. Also plotted is the from a geophysical investigation of the New Caledonia
motion of the Pacific plate relative to Australia. The Basin suggest that the basin opened up in an eastwest
difference in motion between the Lord Howe Rise fashion from the Late Cretaceous to the Paleocene, with
microplate and the Pacific plate indicates the relative extension until 62 Ma and spreading in the Central
motion between the two. The microplate is moving New Caledonia Basin from 62 Ma until 56Ma
faster towards the east than the Pacific plate, implying (Lafoy et al., 2005). The amount of extension remains
convergence between the two plates. The convergence unquantified, but the amount of eastwest spreading is
is oriented eastwest and is only 25 km in the south 150 km, implying an average spreading rate of
(along the northeastern extent of the Emerald fracture 2.5cm/yr. These calculations would thus point to a
zone), with an additional 25 km of dextral strike-slip, maximum east-directed migration of the Pacific plate
but increases along the northsouth striking eastern boundary from 62 to 56Ma of 7.8 cm/yr relative to
boundary from 150 km in the south up to 300km Australia to accommodate the spreading in the three
basins. The migration rates from 80 to 62 Ma and from
56 to 52 Ma were smaller, but were still several
centimeter per year. As shown in Fig. 4ac, we argue
that this migration is accommodated by east-directed
retreat of the subduction hinge and rollback of the
Pacific slab relative to Australia. Subduction during this
time was thus accommodated entirely by slab rollback
processes. Geodynamic modelling (e.g. Griffiths et al.,
1995; Funiciello et al., 2003; Schellart, 2004a) implies
that such subduction would result in backward (east-
ward) sinking of the slab and a relatively simple slab
geometry, in which the slab is draped on top of the
upperlower mantle discontinuity. This has been
illustrated in Fig. 4ac.
At 50Ma, a change in relative displacement along
the plate boundary occurred from strike-slip to oblique
convergent motion (Fig. 6d). This change would have
induced an increase in compressive stress across the
subduction plate boundary (Schellart, 2005), which
would have promoted subduction hinge-advance, short-
ening in the overriding plate and potentially formation
of new subduction zones in the backarc region of the
overriding plate (e.g. east-dipping New Caledonia
subduction zone and north-dipping Pocklington sub-
Fig. 7. Displacement of the Lord Howe Rise microplate (LHRmp) duction zone). Evidence for such regional shortening
relative to Australia (e.g. Table 6) and displacement of the Pacific plate has been recorded in exhumed high-pressure/low-
relative to Australia (e.g. Table 5) for the period 65 Ma to 52 Ma. The temperature (HP/LT) metamorphic rocks in northern
difference between these two relative displacements illustrates the
convergence between the Lord Howe Rise microplate and the Pacific
New Caledonia (Rawling and Lister, 2002), for which
plate (grey lines). Lord Howe Rise microplatePacific plate rotation peak high pressure metamorphism has been dated at
parameters are presented in Table 7. 44Ma (Spandler et al., 2005). The newly formed
22 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

subduction zones with small subduction perturbations unravel the complex geological history remain sparse or
were located in locked backarc basin settings, implying even absent. In other cases, former backarc basins have
that continued subduction was primarily accommodated completely disappeared due to subduction and only
by slab rollback and was therefore driven by the obducted ophiolites and deep-sea sediments testify to
negative buoyancy of the short slab. Dynamic modelling their former existence. This makes parts of the proposed
of subduction shows that a slab length of 100150 km is reconstruction speculative. However, overall, the recon-
already sufficient for subduction and slab rollback to struction provides a logical synthesis of the region and
become self-sustaining (Gurnis et al., 2004; Schellart, shows that the dominant structural features can be
2005). Thus, it is expected that the South Loyalty slab explained by subduction, slab rollback and backarc
and Pocklington slab started to retreat westward and extension processes.
southward, initially slowly ( 12 cm/yr), but progres- The large-scale plate motions in the plan-view
sively faster with progressive lengthening of the slab reconstruction in Figs. 3 and 6 are accurately con-
(510 cm/yr) (Fig. 6dh) (e.g. Funiciello et al., 2003; strained by rotation parameters presented in Tables 57.
Schellart, 2004a, 2005), extending the overriding plate The rotation parameters since 45Ma presented in
and forming new backarc basins (e.g. North Loyalty Table 5 are in close agreement with previously
Basin and Solomon Sea). The progressive change in published data on the PacificAustralia relative plate
PacificAustralian relative plate motion that started at motions for this time frame (e.g. Sutherland, 1995;
50Ma continued until 30Ma, when convergence Cande and Stock, 2004a). Adopting the rotation
was approximately perpendicular to the eastern subduc- parameters from these authors instead of the ones
tion zone and oblique to the northern subduction zone presented here will not make any significant difference
(045) (Fig. 6g). for the reconstruction and will not influence any of the
The AustralianPacific plate convergence, which conclusions drawn from the reconstruction. There is a
started at 50Ma and continued up to the Present, degree of incertitude in the PacificAustralia rotation
complicated the slab kinematics significantly. Subduction parameters prior to 45 Ma (see also Appendix) due to
was now accommodated by convergence with a relatively potential deformation in Antarctica. The amount of
stable subduction hinge, while a large part of the slab was deformation and timing of deformation are, however,
already resting on the upperlower mantle discontinuity not accurately quantified and have therefore not been
in the early Eocene (Fig. 4c). Geodynamic modelling of incorporated here. We have assumed no deformation at
subduction implies that in such a scenario, subduction is all for this time frame, resulting in convergence between
accommodated by slab folding, resulting in piling up and the Lord Howe Rise and the Pacific plate (e.g. Fig. 7).
folding of the slab at the discontinuity (Fig. 4d, e) (e.g. Steinberger et al. (2004) have taken the other extreme
Griffiths et al., 1995; Schellart, 2005). As convergence assuming that the Lord Howe Rise is attached to the
continued and two additional rollback episodes took Pacific plate, resulting in a large extensional deforma-
place, one in the Oligocene to early Miocene (opening of tion (400450km) in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.
the South Fiji Basin) and one in the latest Miocene to The reality could potentially lie somewhere in the
Present (opening of the LauHavre Basin), a slab folding middle, with a moderate amount ( 100km) of defor-
geometry, to accommodate subduction due to plate mation in Antarctica (e.g. Cande and Stock, 2004b),
convergence, was superposed on a slab draping geometry, which would result in a reduced amount of Lord Howe
to accommodate subduction due to slab rollback (e.g. Fig. RisePacific convergence. In any case, even by taking
4fh). The final slab geometry in Fig. 4h resembles the the other extreme standpoint or an intermediate
slab geometry suggested by the tomography in Fig. 5, and standpoint, this would not change the conclusions
thus the reconstruction provides a consistent and coherent drawn about the Late Cretaceous to earliest Eocene
kinematic model for the present-day mantle structure. The plate boundary at the southwestern edge of the Pacific
horizontal slab segment on top of the discontinuity has plate. One would still require a convergent plate
already been explained previously as a result of eastward boundary, represented by a west-dipping eastward
rollback of the Pacific slab (van der Hilst, 1995). retreating subduction zone, between the Lord Howe
Rise microplate and the Pacific plate to accommodate
6. Uncertainties in the reconstruction the 900 km of Late Cretaceous to earliest Eocene
eastwest spreading in the New Caledonia backarc
A large part of the Southwest Pacific region remains Basin and the South Loyalty backarc Basin. The 900km
poorly explored. For a number of basins, ridges and of required slab rollback is a minimum, because it is
plateaus deep-sea drilling data and seismic sections to based on the minimum width of the South Loyalty
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 23

Basin, while (unquantified) Late Cretaceous and Early of elongated ridge segments that link up with New
Paleogene extension in the overriding plate (e.g. Lord Caledonia. The southern ridge consists of separate
Howe Rise, New Caledonia Basin) is not taken into guyots that are continuous with the Loyalty ridge in the
account either. south. The ridge structure was active in the Eocene, as
The time of opening of a large number of basins determined from dredged Eocene volcanics from the
(Tasman Sea, Coral Sea, North Fiji Basin, northern northern ridge (Maillet et al., 1983) and drilled upper
South Fiji Basin, LauHavre Basin, North Loyalty Eocene andesitic volcanics from Bougainville guyot
Basin) and the time of obduction events (New located on the southern ridge, which stopped activity at
Caledonia, Northland, New Guinea) are accurately 37Ma (Baker et al., 1994; Quinn et al., 1994). It has
dated, putting additional constraints on the reconstruc- also been suggested that the subducted part of the
tion. The largest degree of uncertainty in the plan-view northern ridge potentially consists of highly attenuated
reconstruction originates from the extent of the South continental crustal slivers (Laporte et al., 1998) that
LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington Basin. In Section 6.1 originated from the Gondwana margin. Late Eocene
we discuss one important constraint that places a ( 37Ma) volcanics retrieved from Bougainville guyot
minimum on the width of the South Loyalty Basin. are typical intra-oceanic arc volcanics (Maillet et al.,
The cross-section reconstruction in Fig. 4 contains a 1983; Baker et al., 1994; Quinn et al., 1994; Crawford et
relatively large degree of uncertainty concerning the al., 2003), while primitive arc tholeiitic magmas
exact slab geometry, sinking kinematics and (dis) retrieved from underneath middle Eocene sediments
continuity of the Pacific and South Loyalty slabs. on the North d'Entrecasteaux Ridge imply a backarc or
However, the amount of Pacific subducted slab has been fore-arc origin (Coltorti et al., 1994a,b; Crawford et al.,
constrained by the amount of convergence-induced 2003). All these dates agree with the proposed Eocene
subduction and rollback-induced subduction as pre- age for the Loyalty arc (Maillet et al., 1983; Baker et al.,
sented in Figs. 3 and 6 (see also Section 7). Also, the 1994; Cluzel et al., 2001). The origin of the structure is
relative motion between the Australian plate, Pacific unclear and it has been suggested that it is a fossil
plate and the Lord Howe Rise microplate, as well as the transform fault similar to the Hunter fracture zone
opening of backarc basins constrain the amount of (Maillet et al., 1983). We also interpret the ridge to be a
migration of the trench (see previous section). With fossil transform fault that was active and connected with
these constraints and important insights obtained from the New Caledonia subduction zone that rolled back
dynamic subduction models (e.g. Guillou-Frottier et al., anticlockwise and consumed the South Loyalty Basin
1995; Griffiths et al., 1995; Funiciello et al., 2003; lithosphere. In this scenario, the fault essentially
Schellart, 2004a, 2005), a subduction reconstruction has represents the surface expression of the subvertical
been built that is geometrically, kinematically and slab tear of the northernmost edge of the South Loyalty
geologically constrained and is geodynamically slab (compare with Fig. 2 in Schellart et al. (2002b)).
feasible. This model fits with the geochemistry from the andesitic
Some of the least explored and problematic rocks from Bougainville guyot at ODP site 831, which
geological structures in the Southwest Pacific include show a weak subduction-related signature superimposed
the South Rennell Trough, the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge, on a MORB character of the volcanics (Baker et al.,
the Norfolk Basin, the North d'Entrecasteaux Basin and 1994). Rollback-induced clockwise mantle return flow
the Santa Cruz Basin. Below we will describe in some around the northern slab edge towards the mantle wedge
more detail the available data for these problematic (e.g. Schellart, 2004a) would suppress a subduction
regions and structures, and present our interpretation in signature vertically above the slab edge, as the mantle
order to fit them into a logical tectonic synthesis of the return flow would drag the geochemical signature
entire Southwest Pacific region. We will also discuss released near the slab edge southward.
some of the uncertainties related to the New Caledonia The d'Entrecasteaux Ridge probably had a similar
subduction zone, the spreading patterns in the backarc function during opening of the North Loyalty Basin as
basins and the Pacific subduction zone prior to 45Ma. the Hunter fracture zone had during opening of the
North Fiji Basin. The final arcbackarc geometry of the
6.1. The d'Entrecasteaux Ridge Loyalty arc resembles the New Hebrides arcbackarc
geometry, with anticlockwise rotation of the Loyalty arc
The d'Entrecasteaux Ridge is located north of New contemporaneous with dextral shearing along the
Caledonia and consists of two distinct ridges, a northern d'Entrecasteaux Ridge, similar to clockwise rotation of
and a southern ridge (Fig. 1). The northern ridge consists the New Hebrides arc contemporaneous with sinistral
24 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

shearing along the Hunter fracture zone (Schellart et al., 1994). Others have argued that collision might have
2002a,b). Both faults accommodated asymmetric roll- occurred further south along the New Hebrides arc, but
back and tearing of the slab, arc rotation and asymmetric that the arc morphology has returned to normal south of
backarc opening. the Efate re-entrant (Meffre and Crawford, 2001). The
The eastward extent of the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge location of this dent can give an indication of the
prior to its subduction along the New Hebrides trench minimum eastward extent of the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge
gives an important constraint on the minimum eastward by reconstructing the New Hebrides arc back to its
extent, and therefore, the width of the South Loyalty original position prior to opening of the North Fiji Basin
Basin. The geometry of the present-day remainder of the (Fig. 8). The New Hebrides arc can be rotated back to its
d'Entrecasteaux Ridge implies that its eastward contin- original position, in alignment with the fossil Vitiaz
uation was striking approximately eastwest. It has been Trench, by rotating it 45 anticlockwise around a pole
argued that the first collision of the d'Entrecasteaux with longitude 166 E and latitude 09 S. As can be
Ridge with the New Hebrides arc sometime in the late observed in Fig. 8, the Efate re-entrant places the extent
Miocene or Pliocene resulted in the formation of the of the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge as far east as 173 E and
Efate re-entrant, a dent in the New Hebrides arc located at 15 S. This implies that the minimum eastwest
at 167 30 E 17 30 S, to the northwest of the island width of the South Loyalty Basin at the end of spreading
of Efate (Fig. 1) (Greene and Collot, 1994; Greene et al., at 5550 Ma was 750km, as illustrated in Fig. 3d.

Fig. 8. Reconstruction of the clockwise rotation of the New Hebrides arc during opening of the North Fiji backarc Basin, resulting in collision of the
arc with the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge and formation of the Efate re-entrant during initial collision. Location of the initial collision site provides an
estimate of the eastward continuation of the d'Entrecasteaux Ridge, and therefore an estimate of the eastwest width of the South Loyalty Basin
( 750km). Location of the rotation pole is indicated by the black dot and the curved arrow. Numbers indicate approximate amount of rotation of the
New Hebrides arc since opening of the North Fiji Basin at 1211 Ma. Australia is fixed. Hfz, Hunter fracture zone; LB, Lau Basin; NFB, North Fiji
Basin; NHT, New Hebrides Trench; SCT, San Cristobal Trench.
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 25

The initial collision could have occurred further south, Most recently, it has been suggested that the Norfolk
forming a similar well-defined dent in the New Hebrides Basin consists of remnants of Cretaceous basin floor in
arc located southwest of the Island of Efate (named the between younger early to middle Miocene parts of
South Efate re-entrant in Fig. 1). In that scenario, the backarc oceanic floor (Crawford et al., 2003; Sdrolias et
reconstruction implies that the eastwest extent of the al., 2004b). Combining ages of dredge samples from the
basin was 900 km. Norfolk Basin and Three Kings Ridge with a reinter-
pretation of gravity and magnetic data from the basin led
6.2. The Norfolk Basin Sdrolias et al. (2004b) to conclude that the plateau
segments in the basin formed in the Cretaceous, while
The age of the Norfolk Basin has been debated for the deeper parts of the basin formed during spreading in
several decades, but conclusive data from deep-sea the early to middle Miocene.
drilling have been lacking. It has been suggested that We adopted this new model for the age of the Norfolk
the basin is underlain by oceanic crust formed during Basin from Crawford et al. (2003) and Sdrolias et al.
the Cretaceous. Examination of seismic and magnetic (2004b) into the reconstruction. As can be observed in
data in the basin suggested that it formed during the Fig. 3, the reconstruction can accommodate the primary
Cretaceous quiet superchron (Launay et al., 1982; geological events of the region, including eastward
Collot et al., 1987; Eade, 1988; Auzende et al., 2000). subduction underneath the Three Kings Ridge, Three
The basin was interpreted to have formed as a backarc Kings Ridge arc volcanism at 3720 Ma contempora-
basin above an east-dipping subduction zone located neous with opening of the South Fiji Basin, the
west of the Norfolk Ridge. It was assumed that this Cretaceous remnants in the Norfolk Basin (e.g. remnants
subduction zone was continuous with the fossil of the South Loyalty Basin), the early Miocene spreading
subduction zone located west of New Caledonia. in the Norfolk Basin contemporaneous with spreading in
There is good evidence for a fossil subduction zone the southern South Fiji Basin, shearing along the Vening
west of New Caledonia (Regnier, 1988), but there are Meinesz and Cook fracture zones, and southwestward
no data supporting the existence of a fossil subduction obduction of ophiolites in Northland at 2522Ma.
zone located west of the southern Norfolk Ridge
(Uruski and Wood, 1991). 6.3. The North d'Entrecasteaux Basin, South Rennell
It has also been suggested that the basin formed Through and Santa Cruz Basin
during the early Miocene, due to eastward rollback of a
westward-dipping subduction zone located immediately Not much is known about the age and origin of the
east of the Three Kings Ridge (Herzer et al., 1997; North d'Entrecasteaux Basin, the Santa Cruz Basin and
Mortimer et al., 1998; Hall, 2002). Data from dredge the South Rennell Trough. The North d'Entrecasteaux
samples point to volcanic activity on the Three Kings Basin is continuous with the northernmost part of the
Ridge during the early Miocene (Mortimer et al., 1998). New Caledonia Basin, which is suggested to have
In addition, seismic data across the Reinga Ridge opened in the Cretaceous (Uruski and Wood, 1991) or
indicate that the Vening Meinesz Fracture zone the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene (Lafoy et al., 2005).
(supposedly a backarc transform) was active in the The North d'Entrecasteaux Basin has been interpreted to
early to middle Miocene (Herzer et al., 1997). A number be of Late Cretaceous age ( 8066 Ma), based on
of dredge samples of volcanic rocks that have been identification of magnetic anomalies, which strike at
collected from the Norfolk Basin floor indicate an early high angle and cross the South Rennell Trough
to middle Miocene age (Mortimer et al., 1998; Sdrolias (Lapouille, 1982; Maillet et al., 1983). This interpreta-
et al., 2004b). Seismic profiles across the Three Kings tion appears incompatible with the proposed structural
Ridge, however, show an arc morphology that suggests origin of the South Rennell Trough, which is supposed
a fossil subduction zone located to the west of the ridge to be a fossil spreading ridge (Larue et al., 1977). If the
and not to the east (Kroenke and Eade, 1982). This is trough is indeed a fossil spreading ridge, then one would
supported by recently dredged fore-arc boninites from expect the magnetic lineations in the North d'Entrecas-
the western side of the Three Kings Ridge, which are teaux Basin and the Santa Cruz Basin to align with the
similar to the boninites from the obducted ophiolites in elongated trough, unless the trough is a relatively young
New Caledonia (Crawford et al., 2004). In addition, structure and therefore cross-cuts the magnetic anoma-
more recent data indicate that Three Kings Ridge lies. We interpret the North d'Entrecasteaux Basin to be
volcanism was active from the latest Eocene to the early the northwestern extent of the New Caledonia Basin and
Miocene ( 3720Ma (Sdrolias et al., 2004b)). therefore interpret it to be of Late Cretaceous to
26 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Paleocene age. Part of the basin was subducted/under- constraint is that the subduction zone must have formed
thrusted during the final stage of subduction rollback before 44 Ma. The PacificAustralia rotation parameters
along the east-dipping New Caledonia subduction zone indicate that the relative motion changed from strike-slip
in the late Eocene to Oligocene (Fig. 3fh). to oblique convergent at 50 Ma. As indicated by
The Santa Cruz Basin probably developed in the Late dynamic modelling of subduction, an increase in trench-
Cretaceous to Paleocene as the northwestern continua- perpendicular velocity of the subducting plate promotes
tion of the South Loyalty Basin (Fig. 3ac). In this light, subduction-hinge-advance and compression in the
the South Rennell Trough could have functioned as a overriding plate (Schellart, 2005). Such a mechanism
Late Cretaceous to Paleocene spreading ridge to could thus have induced formation of the New
accommodate arc-parallel extension behind the arc- Caledonia subduction zone at 50 Ma. The total amount
shaped subduction zone. This fits with the interpretation of PacificAustralia convergence velocity in this region
of Larue et al. (1977) that extension along the trough from 50Ma to 44 Ma is 100150km. If it is assumed that
increases from southwest to northeast. The spreading all the convergence in this period is accommodated
ridge would thus have formed a connection between along the incipient subduction fault dipping 30 or 45,
spreading in the New CaledoniaNorth d'Entrecasteaux and subduction is only accomplished by convergence
Basin and the South LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington (not by a combination of convergence and gravitational-
Basin. induced rollback of the slab itself), then the basin
sediments and volcanics would have been brought to a
6.4. New Caledonia subduction zone depth of 5075km or 71106km respectively. These
depths are sufficient to explain the HP/LT metamor-
The age of formation of the New Caledonia phism at 44Ma. Depending on the dip of the incipient
subduction zone remains speculative, but is here subduction zone one could argue that most of the
indirectly constrained from predetermined ages of convergence (30 fault dip) between the Australian and
geological entities related to the subduction zone. The the Pacific plates was accommodated by the incipient
first constraint is the age of the South Loyalty backarc subduction zone or only partly (45 fault dip), while part
Basin, which subducted along the New Caledonia continued to be accommodated by the Pacific subduc-
subduction zone. The basin formed in the Late tion zone. Considering the PacificAustralia plate
Cretaceous to earliest Eocene (80/85Ma to 55Ma) kinematics and the discussion from above it is
(Cluzel et al., 2001; Spandler et al., 2005). It is most concluded that 50 Ma is the most reasonable time for
reasonable to assume that the New Caledonia subduc- New Caledonia subduction zone initiation. An earlier
tion zone, which formed inside the South Loyalty age of subduction initiation between 55Ma and 50 Ma
backarc Basin, formed after termination of spreading in cannot be excluded, but in this case there is no driving
the basin, because it is a backarc basin. This assumption mechanism that can account for the formation of the
is reasonable, because there is ample evidence that a new subduction zone.
new subduction zone, which forms inside a backarc/ One might consider the opposite-dipping New
marginal basin, only forms after cessation of spreading Caledonia and Pacific subduction zones as illustrated
in the backarc/marginal basin. Examples include the in the reconstruction in Fig. 3d and e kinematically
formation of the Japan Sea incipient subduction zone in unfeasible, as it might result in space-problems at depth,
the Japan Sea backarc Basin, the New Hebrides where the tip of the new Caledonia slab might collide
subduction zone in the South Fiji Basin (Fig. 3) and with the Pacific slab at 200 km depth. Fig. 4c and d
the New BritainSan Cristobal and Trobriand subduc- show, however, that such collision at depth does not
tion zones in the Solomon Sea (Fig. 3). Thus, the New occur. A number of reasons can be invoked for this non-
Caledonia subduction zone most likely formed after event. First, the New Caledonia trench probably formed
55Ma, the time of cessation of spreading in the South at least 300 km to the west of the Pacific trench,
Loyalty Basin. because the distance between the Loyalty arc and the
Some of the South Loyalty backarc Basin sediments southwesternmost extent of the New Caledonia ophio-
were subjected to 1.92.3GPa HP/LT metamorphism at lites is presently 200 km. Second, the Pacific slab most
44Ma (Aitchison et al., 1995; Carson et al., 1999; likely had a dip close to vertical at the time of New
Rawling and Lister, 2002; Fitzherbert et al., 2004; Caledonia subduction zone formation, because the
Spandler et al., 2005) (equivalent to a depth of 58 Pacific trench was relatively stable or slowly migrating
70km), here interpreted to have been induced by the forward, promoting a subvertical slab signature in the
initial formation of the subduction zone. Thus, another upper mantle (e.g. Schellart, 2005). Third, after
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 27

formation of the incipient New Caledonia subduction rotation of the ophiolite during and after obduction onto
zone, subduction became self-sustaining, driven by the the New Caledonia basement (Fig. 3dh).
negative buoyancy of the South Loyalty slab itself, and More recently, it was proposed that a northwest
was almost entirely realised by slab rollback, implying southeast striking shear zone in the ophiolite in the
that the slab sank backward with sinking vectors northwesternmost part of New Caledonia represents a
oriented westward and dipping at 6570 (Fig. 4c, d) fossil transform fault (Leblanc, 1995). Such an interpre-
(e.g. Schellart, 2004a, 2005). These three points tation of a northwestsoutheast striking transform fault
combined indicate that the slabs did not collide at cannot be incorporated into the reconstruction, and is at
depth and that the opposite-dipping subduction setting is odds with previous results from Prinzhofer and Nicolas
geometrically and kinematically feasible. The setting is (1980) and Prinzhofer et al. (1980). We add that the
also geodynamically plausible, because formation of the structural data and geological interpretation from
New Caledonia subduction zone was triggered by the Prinzhofer and Nicolas (1980) and Prinzhofer et al.
start of convergence between the Australian and Pacific (1980) are more robust because they include both
plates, while continued subduction and rollback was mineral lineations and foliations, and because the
primarily driven by the negative buoyancy of the South structures were mapped in a structurally less complicated
Loyalty slab itself. region (Southeast New Caledonia) where the ophiolite
sheet is continuous and relatively intact. The northwest
6.5. Spreading patterns in the backarc basins southeast striking shear zone from Leblanc (1995) is
actually the northwestern part of a controversial structure
There is evidently some degree of uncertainty in the named the sillon (see Baldwin et al. (in press) for
location and orientation of the former spreading ridges overview). The structure extends for the entire length of
in the backarc basins of the region. In particular, this is New Caledonia and is a crustal or lithospheric scale
so for the basins that were subsequently (almost) dextral strike-slip fault that was active after ophiolite
completely subducted, such as the Pocklington Basin obduction (Brothers and Blake, 1973). Such a strike-slip
and the South Loyalty Basin. For these basins, the structure with its alignment parallel to the fossil New
spreading ridges were drawn striking subparallel to the Caledonia subduction zone and its dextral sense of shear
trench and subperpendicular to the trench retreat could be incorporated into the reconstruction. It would
direction, as this is observed in most arcbackarc here be interpreted as a dextral transcurrent fault in the
systems that open approximately symmetrically (Schel- overriding plate above the New Caledonia subduction
lart et al., 2002a). The backarc spreading pattern in the zone (e.g. comparable to the Sumatran fault (Fitch,
Santa Cruz Basin and the northernmost part of the South 1972)) accommodating the trench-parallel component of
Loyalty Basin was probably rather complex, as it took overriding plate-subducting plate oblique convergence.
place behind a curved subduction zone and arc that were The oblique subduction resulted from anticlockwise
increasing in arc-parallel length during the Late rollback of the slab along the curved New Caledonia
Cretaceous and Paleocene. Thus, one could expect subduction zone, which would induce dextral strike-slip
arc-perpendicular spreading ridges (e.g. South Rennell motion along the sillon (Fig. 3h).
Trough), arc-parallel spreading ridges and curved The southern termination of the South Loyalty Basin
transform faults to accommodate the complex multidi- is interpreted to be a large northwestsoutheast striking
rectional extension behind the curved arc. A structural strike-slip fault zone (Fig. 3ac), the Van der Linden
analysis of the obducted New Caledonia ophiolite has fault zone, which is located just northeast of Northland
identified a northsouth oriented shear zone interpreted and is clearly visible on magnetic maps of the region.
as a fossil transform fault and northsouth oriented The northwestern continuation of this fault zone, the
mineral lineations interpreted as striking parallel to the Vening Meinesz fracture zone, was active during
fossil spreading direction (Prinzhofer and Nicolas, opening of the Central New Caledonia Basin (Lafoy et
1980; Prinzhofer et al., 1980). The spreading pattern al., 2005) and was later reactivated during opening of the
for the northern South Loyalty Basin as drawn in the Norfolk Basin. The topographic expression of the Van
reconstruction can accommodate these observations, der Linden fault zone was annihilated after consumption
where the initial spreading direction and the strike of of the South Loyalty Basin and southwestward obduc-
transform faults in the Northern South Loyalty Basin tion of ophiolites on top of the Northland basement (Fig.
were oriented northeastsouthwest (Figs. 2b and 3a). 3i), but is still visible on magnetic maps of the region. As
These structures were later reoriented in a position shown in the reconstruction, the spreading orientation in
striking northsouth due to 45 of anticlockwise the southernmost part of the South Loyalty Basin is
28 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

eastwest, subperpendicular to the trench. The recon- interpreted striking ENEWSW (Weissel et al., 1982;
struction predicts that fossil spreading orientations in the Sdrolias et al., 2003), but this orientation is speculative,
obducted Northland allochthon, which originated from as magnetic data from the basin are not well resolved
the southern South Loyalty Basin, would vary between and do not provide an unambiguous and clear anomaly
eastwest and northeastsouthwest, because the alloch- pattern. The anomalies strike parallel to the d'Entrecas-
thon rotated up to 45 anticlockwise from subduction teaux Ridge and perpendicular to the Loyalty arc. This
initiation (Fig. 3f) until obduction (Fig. 3j). This appears to be at odds with observations from active arc
prediction agrees with findings from structural investi- backarc systems, where magnetic anomalies run sub-
gations of the Northland allochthon. The obducted parallel to the arc and strike subperpendicular to fracture
allochthon contains pre-obduction mafic dikes oriented zones. Potentially, the anomaly pattern in the North
northsouth to northwestsoutheast that suggest a Loyalty Basin is very complex, as it developed behind a
spreading direction oriented eastwest to northeast rotating arc in a similar fashion as the North Fiji Basin,
southwest (Sprli, 1982), in agreement with the which also has a complex spreading pattern. In the
reconstruction. The anticlockwise rotation of the North Fiji Basin, however, the complex spreading
allochthon discussed above is in contrast with the large pattern is observed in the northwestern corner close to
clockwise rotation (> 60) suggested by Whattam et al. the pole of rotation for the arc, and not in the region
(2005) based on a paleomagnetic study of rocks from the close to the Hunter fracture zone, where the anomalies
allochthon. Their paleomagnetic data, however, show run subparallel to the arc and strike at high angle to the
both apparent clockwise and apparent anticlockwise fracture zone (Schellart et al., 2002a). Thus, from the
rotations, but the apparent anticlockwise rotations were analogous development of the two basins, one would
assumed to result from paleomagnetic poles that formed expect the magnetic anomalies in the North Loyalty
during a reversed magnetic polarity chron, thereby Basin to strike NNWSSE, subparallel to the Loyalty
forcing these data to fit into a clockwise rotation model arc and subperpendicular to the d'Entrecasteaux Zone,
as well. Turning the assumption around for the apparent as illustrated in the reconstruction (Fig. 3e-g).
clockwise and apparent anticlockwise rotations would
make the data fit an anticlockwise rotation model. In any 6.6. Pacific subduction prior to 45Ma
case, it is difficult to incorporate a large clockwise
rotation for the Northland allochthon into the recon- The reconstruction shows the presence of a west to
struction presented in Fig. 3 or any previously proposed southwest-dipping Pacific subduction zone prior to
Southwest Pacific reconstruction, including the one 45 Ma. Previously, it has been suggested that this
proposed by Whattam et al. (2005). We thus conclude subduction zone only formed at 2743 Ma (Yan and
that the scattered paleomagnetic data could equally be Kroenke, 1993) or 4045Ma (Bloomer et al., 1995;
interpreted the opposite way (e.g. anticlockwise rotation Mller et al., 2000; Hall, 2002). For the time prior to
of the allochthon) or that the data represent local block 45 Ma it has been suggested to be an east-dipping
faulting rotations rather then rotation of the allochthon as subduction zone (Hall, 2002; Sdrolias et al., 2003,
a whole. 2004b), a west-dipping subduction zone (Veevers et al.,
The spreading pattern in the Solomon Sea backarc 1991, Veevers, 2000a,b), a west-dipping subduction
Basin and the northeastern part of the North Loyalty zone before 55Ma (Crawford et al., 2003), a strike-slip
South Fiji backarc Basin are also somewhat speculative, boundary (Mller et al., 2000), an undefined boundary
because large parts have been subducted along the (Sutherland et al., 2001; Norvick et al., 2001), or no
Trobriand Trough and the New BritainSan Cristobal boundary at all (e.g. the Lord Howe Rise being part of
New Hebrides Trench. Magnetic anomalies have been the Pacific plate (Steinberger et al., 2004)). As shown in
documented for the Solomon Sea and strike eastwest the reconstruction in Figs. 3, 6 and 7, and as discussed in
(Joshima et al., 1987), which fits with the reconstruc- Section 5 it is kinematically evident that the western
tion, as it would also predict such an orientation based boundary of the Pacific plate must have accommodated
on the strike and direction of retreat of the Pocklington eastwest opening of the South Loyalty Basin and New
subduction zone. For the subducted part of the North Caledonia Basin, and part of the Tasman Sea spreading
LoyaltySouth Fiji Basin, the spreading ridges have from 8052 Ma. The fact that the remnants of the
been interpreted to strike NNESWW, following a South Loyalty Basin and Pocklington Basin show
similar strike as the magnetic anomalies in the South Fiji backarc geochemical signatures (e.g. Aitchison et al.,
Basin (e.g. Davey, 1982; Weissel et al., 1982). Magnetic 1995; Thompson et al., 1997; Monnier et al., 1999;
anomalies for the North Loyalty Basin have been Nicholson et al., 2000; Cluzel et al., 2001; Crawford et
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 29

al., 2003; Spandler et al., 2005) make it therefore most Hellenic arc (Kahle et al., 1998)). The three Mediter-
logical to interpret the Southwest Pacific plate boundary ranean subduction zones are characterized by a limited
as a west to southwest-dipping subduction zone that amount of arc volcanism, producing only a small
retreated east to northeastward. number of isolated volcanoes.
Geological evidence for a westward-dipping subduc- A final point should be discussed concerning
tion zone in the mid Cretaceous comes from Barremian to subduction kinematics of very wide subduction zones.
earliest Cenomanian calc-alkaline and andesitic volcanic The Southwest Pacific subduction zone is sketched as a
rocks in Eastern Australia (Bryan et al., 1997). This has long and continuous zone during the Late Cretaceous
led several authors to suggest the presence of a mid and Early Paleogene with a total trench length of
Cretaceous volcanic arc and subduction zone running 6300km at 50 Ma (Figs. 2 and 3). As discussed in
roughly northsouth along the Eastern margin of Sections 5 and 8.3, the predicted rate of rollback of the
Australia (e.g. Veevers et al., 1991; Norvick et al., 2001; eastern segment of the subduction zone is several
Sutherland et al., 2001; Betts et al., 2002; Crawford et al., centimeters per year with a potential maximum of
2003). The volcanic deposits are mainly found in 7.8cm/yr in the late Paleocene. Current and ongoing
extensional and sag basins along the East Australian research by the first author and colleagues indicates that
coast, suggesting they resulted from backarc extension. present day very wide subduction zones are close to
As backarc extension and spreading continued during the stationary or retreat very slowly at up to only 2 cm/yr
Late Cretaceous to earliest Eocene, arc volcanism would (Stegman et al., in press; Schellart et al., unpublished
have migrated towards the east and northeast along with results). This could imply that the continuous subduc-
the retreating subduction zone (Figs. 2 and 3ac). tion zone sketched in Figs. 2 and 3ad is actually
Remnants of Late Cretaceous to early Eocene arc segmented in two or more sections separated by small
volcanism are not overwhelmingly present in the offsets or slab tears, which would allow the separate
Southwest Pacific, but could be expected in the New sections to retreat at relatively fast rates and induce
Guinea, Solomon, New Caledonia, Loyalty, Three backarc extension and spreading due to more efficient
Kings and Northland regions. In the New Caledonia mantle return flow around the slab tears or edges.
region, Late Cretaceous calc-alkaline volcanic rocks Obviously, it is not possible to plot the location of such
have indeed been documented in extensional basins offsets or tears in the reconstruction with any degree of
(Paris, 1981; Black, 1995; Cluzel et al., 2001). In the accuracy, and the speculative nature forced us to not
Northland region, geochemical analysis of volcanics incorporate such features in the reconstruction. Retreat
also suggests the presence of a Late Cretaceous to Early of a wide subduction zone was recently proposed to
Tertiary arc above a west-dipping subduction zone explain widespread Cenozoic extensional and strike-slip
(Nicholson et al., 2004). Most of the Late Cretaceous to deformation in East and Southeast Asia. The widespread
Early Tertiary arc material in the Southwest Pacific, deformation was suggested to have resulted from east
however, was probably destroyed or severely disrupted and southward retreat of slab segments of the East and
during phases of slab rollback leading to intra-arc Southeast Asian subduction zones, for which the
extension, arc splitting and backarc extension, or during cumulative length was more than 7000 km (Schellart
collision and obduction events, or arc-polarity reversals and Lister, 2005). The rate of retreat along these
(Fig. 3). In addition, one would not expect a large subduction segments was not quantified, but could
amount of subduction-induced volcanism to have been locally have amounted to several centimeter per year in
produced during this period in the first place, because the Oligocene and Miocene.
subduction settings, in which subduction largely results
from slab rollback, produce only a limited amount of arc 7. Amount of Pacific plate subduction since 82 Ma
volcanism. For example, along the Hellenic, the
Calabrian and Betic-Rif arcs, subduction is almost The total amount of Pacific plate subduction since
entirely accomplished by slab rollback at rates of several 82Ma was calculated from the reconstruction at the
centimeters per year (Lonergan and White, 1997; Wortel location of the cross-section reconstructions presented in
and Spakman, 2000). Subduction due to convergence is Fig. 4. A total of 2650km (150km) of Pacific plate
very small, due to the high obliquity between the was subducted due to PacificAustralia plate convergence
convergence direction and strike of the trench and due to (primarily since 50 Ma), while a minimum of 2350km
the slow convergence between the overriding European (350km) of Pacific plate was subducted due to trench
plate and subducting African plate (increasing from retreat and rollback of the Pacific slab relative to the
0.4cm/yr near the Betic-Rif arc to 0.8cm/yr near the Australian plate (Fig. 9). Uncertainty in the amount of
30 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

almost exclusively from slab rollback. In any case, trench-

perpendicular absolute motion of the overriding plate
away from the subduction zone would modify the
percentage of subduction due to slab rollback, but
would not alter the total amount of subduction, as this is
only dependent on the motion of the subduction hinge
relative to the subducting plate.
The total slab length due to Pacific plate subduction
since 82Ma is of the order 5000km (Fig. 9). One can
assume that Pacific lithosphere that was subducted at
82Ma has now reached a depth of 1800km, which is the
maximum depth of the high-velocity anomaly represent-
Fig. 9. Amount of subduction of the Pacific plate since 82Ma along the ing the Tonga slab in tomography from Krason and van
cross-section in Fig. 4. Subduction results from both convergence der Hilst (2000). By tracing the high velocity anomaly in
between the Australian plate and Pacific plate and from rollback of the
Fig. 5 and in the tomography of Krason and van der Hilst
Pacific slab.
(2000), assuming that the slab is planar and not tightly
folded, the slab length only measures 2600km. This
subduction due to convergence results from incertitude in leaves 2400km of slab unaccounted for, implying that
the AustralianPacific relative plate motion. The relative the maximum slab depth is greater than the 1800km as
motion is least constrained for the Late Cretaceous and is shown by the tomography or that the slab geometry near
better constrained for the Cenozoic. The total error the transition zone and in the lower mantle is not planar
probably amounts to not more than 150 km and is but more complicated, with tight folding of the slab. Such
smaller than the total error in estimating the amount of folding of the Pacific slab is schematically illustrated in
subduction due to rollback. The rollback component was Fig. 4 and could be interpreted from the tomography in
calculated from the amount of eastwest opening of the Fig. 5, where the indicated lower mantle high-velocity
backarc basins (New Caledonia Basin, South Loyalty anomaly (with P-wave velocities 0.21.0% higher) is
Basin, Norfolk Basin, North Loyalty Basin, South Fiji 500km wide by 500km thick. Slab folding near and
Basin, LauHavre Basin) and from part of the Tasman Sea below the transition zone is indeed predicted by fluid
opening. The estimate of subduction due to rollback dynamic modelling of subduction, when a slab
should be seen as a minimum, because only a minimum approaches a viscosity gradient near the upperlower
eastwest width could be estimated for the South Loyalty mantle transition zone (Guillou-Frottier et al., 1995;
Basin and extensive northeastsouthwest to eastwest Griffiths et al., 1995; Schellart, 2005).
extension in the Lord Howe Rise and New Caledonia
Basin was not taken into account, because the amount of 8. Discussion
extension is hard to quantify. The extension predomi-
nantly took place in the Late Cretaceous, and therefore the 8.1. Episodic backarc extension
amount of subduction prior to 65Ma as postulated in
Fig. 9 is the least constrained. An additional degree of The formation of most backarc basins can be
uncertainty in the amount of subduction due to rollback is considered as a direct consequence of hinge-retreat of
present, because the component also depends on how the subducting plate and collapse of the overriding plate
much of the backarc extension is caused by absolute towards the retreating hinge (Elsasser, 1971; Lonergan
trench-perpendicular motion of the overriding Australian and White, 1997; Hamilton, 1988; Schellart et al.,
plate away from the subduction zone. The absolute 2002b; Schellart and Lister, 2004). Thus, to understand
motion of the Australian plate was primarily northward to the episodic nature of backarc basins, the episodic
eastward during the Cenozoic (Gordon and Jurdy, 1986; behaviour of hinge-migration needs to be investigated.
Yan and Kroenke, 1993; Mller et al., 2000; Hall, 2002). From the reconstruction presented in Figs. 2, 3, 4 and 6
Absolute motion of the Australian plate was thus it is clear that the structure of the region is a direct result
subparallel to the eastern plate boundary or subperpendi- of a number of distinct slab rollback events, which
cular and converging with the eastern plate boundary. lasted 1025Myr. Absolute motion of the Australian
Therefore backarc opening did not result from Australian plate cannot be invoked to explain opening of the
plate motion away from the eastern plate boundary (e.g. Southwest Pacific basins in the Late Cretaceous and
westward motion of the Australian plate) but resulted Cenozoic, because it was moving eastward to
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 31

northward, subparallel to subperpendicular to the ics due to interaction between the slab tip and upper
eastern and northern boundaries. This absolute motion, lower mantle transition.
in combination with the PacificAustralia relative The episodic nature of subduction hinge-migration
strike-slip motion before 50 Ma and the relative has been investigated previously with fluid dynamical
convergent motion from 50 Ma imply that there was laboratory models simulating subduction and slab
no significant movement of the Australian plate away rollback (Funiciello et al., 2003; Schellart, 2004a,
from the subduction zone. 2005). Schellart (2005) particularly investigated the
A number of causes can be responsible for the behaviour of the subduction hinge during progressive
episodic behaviour of subduction zone hinges. The most subduction for a number of trench-perpendicular sub-
obvious cause is the arrival of buoyant crust (e.g. ducting plate velocities. The models consist of a dense
continent, arc, ridge, plateau) on the subducting plate at high-viscosity plate (e.g. oceanic lithosphere) subduct-
the trench, which would cause slab rollback to stop or ing into a less dense low-viscosity upper mantle. Results
be retarded and could lead to an increase in compres- indicated that the episodic nature of hinge-migration
sional stresses across the subduction interface. Indeed, mainly results from interaction of the slab with the
for the Solomon Sea backarc Basin, the end of a upperlower mantle discontinuity, which retards or
rollback episode responsible for basin formation stops further penetration into the lower mantle and slows
resulted from the consumption of the entire Pocklington down hinge-retreat. The modelling results further
Basin lithosphere and arrival of more buoyant passive indicated that a decrease in trench-perpendicular sub-
margin lithosphere (New Guinea passive margin) at the ducting plate velocity significantly increases the slab
trench. This appears not to have happened after rollback rate. This could possibly explain the initiation
consumption of the South Loyalty Basin in the New of backarc spreading in the South LoyaltySanta Cruz
Caledonia region in the latest Eocene to earliest Pocklington Basin and spreading in the TasmanCoral
Oligocene, as spreading continued in the northern Sea Basin at 8580 Ma. At this time subperpendicular
South Fiji Basin until the latest Oligocene to earliest convergence across the AustralianPacific plate bound-
Miocene. Presumably, the ridge push force from the ary stopped due to termination of spreading along the
backarc spreading ridge was strong enough to initiate a Osbourn Trough ( 82 Ma (Billen and Stock, 2000))
new eastward rollback event along the proto Tonga (Fig. 2). With a trench-perpendicular subducting plate
Kermadec trench at 35 Ma. Also, the combination of velocity close to zero, this would have triggered the
ridge push from the backarc spreading ridge and slab onset of relatively fast east to northeast-directed slab
pull from the South Loyalty slab was strong enough to rollback of the Pacific slab, inducing backarc spreading.
accrete the New Caledonia basement to the overriding The experimental results of Schellart (2005) further
plate as the subduction zone jumped to the west of New indicate that episodic hinge-migration is dramatically
Caledonia. This was possible, because the New amplified if the subducting plate has a relatively high
Caledonia Ridge was a relatively narrow ridge absolute trenchward plate velocity. Phases of hinge-
( 100km), while it was not possible in the New retreat were observed to alternate with phases of slow
Guinea passive margin region, because it was bordered hinge-retreat, hinge-stability or hinge-advance with a
by an extensive continental hinterland. periodicity of 1020Myr for subducting plate veloc-
For other regions, the termination of backarc opening ities scaling to >4 cm/yr. This episodic behaviour at high
appears to be unrelated to the arrival of buoyant plate velocities could explain the termination of opening
lithosphere at the trench. For example, there is no of the northern South Fiji Basin at 2524Ma and the
geological evidence for initiation of subduction of southern South Fiji Basin and Norfolk Basin at 20
buoyant crust along the Pacific trench, which could be 16 Ma, and the initiation of opening of the LauHavre
responsible for the termination of opening of the South Basin at 75Ma, because the absolute velocity of the
LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington Basin, New Caledo- subducting Pacific plate was relatively high at this time
nia Basin, Tasman Sea Basin, and Coral Sea Basin at ( 6.313.3 cm/yr (Wessel and Kroenke, 1997)). Epi-
5652 Ma, nor for the termination of spreading in the sodic migration of the subduction hinge along the
northern South Fiji Basin at 2524 Ma and southern AustralianPacific plate boundary would have been
South Fiji Basin and Norfolk Basin at 2016Ma. further amplified by a change in PacificAustralia
Other potential causes for episodic backarc opening and relative plate motion along the outer subduction zone
hinge-migration in these regions should be considered, from almost pure strike-slip to oblique convergence
such as change in convergence velocity, change in between 55 and 45 Ma (Fig. 6). The change in
convergence direction, or change in subduction dynam- convergence direction would have caused additional
32 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

compressive stresses along the outer arc, leading to a This correlates with the first shortening event reported
stable hinge or hinge-advance and termination of by Rawling and Lister (1999, 2002). The initiation of
opening of the TasmanCoral Sea Basin, New Caledo- convergence led to westward advance of the Pacific
nia Basin and South LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington subduction hinge and would have been responsible for
Basin at 5652 Ma. the formation of an east-dipping incipient subduction
zone fault in the backarc region of the overriding plate.
8.2. High-pressure rocks in New Caledonia The rotation parameters indicate that from 50 to 44 Ma
the amount of AustralianPacific plate convergence in
The reconstruction presented in this paper has some this region totals 100150km. If this convergence
bearing on mechanisms proposed for the formation would have been accommodated by the incipient
and later exhumation of high-pressure eclogite and subduction zone fault in the backarc dipping eastward
blueschist facies metamorphic rocks in northeast New at 30, then sediments and backarc crust on the lower
Caledonia. These coherent sheets of rock have been plate would have been transported to a depth of 50
subjected to a number of subsequent shortening and 75 km. Such depths are sufficient to explain the
extension events (Rawling and Lister, 1999, 2002). The formation of the HP/LT metamorphic assemblages in
bulk percentage of the rocks has been interpreted as New Caledonia, which reached blueschist and eclogite
metasediments and metabasites that formed on the conditions with pressures up to 1.92.3 GPa at 44 Ma
ocean floor of a backarc basin to be subsequently (Aitchison et al., 1995; Carson et al., 1999; Rawling and
metamorphosed under blueschist and eclogite condi- Lister, 2002; Fitzherbert et al., 2004). At 44 Ma, the
tions (Aitchison et al., 1995; Cluzel et al., 2001). In the incipient slab could thus have been up to 100150km
structurally highest levels of the metamorphic terrane, long. Dynamic modelling of subduction shows that a
ultramafic serpentinites are found in sheet and lenticular slab length of 100150 km is already sufficient for
shaped bodies (Cluzel et al., 2001; Rawling and Lister, subduction and slab rollback to become self-sustaining
2002). These ultramafic rocks have been interpreted to (Gurnis et al., 2004; Schellart, 2005). Dynamic
originate from the mantle of the overriding plate side of modelling of subduction further shows that in a scenario
a subduction zone that were incorporated in the in which the trench-perpendicular plate velocity is close
metabasite and metasediment rock pile during subduc- to zero (fixed trailing edge scenario in Schellart (2005),
tion (Cluzel et al., 2001; Fitzherbert et al., 2004). which is applicable to the South Loyalty slab) a 120km
Spandler et al. (2005) showed that eclogite facies high- long slab can grow to 150km length in 2Myr, with a
pressure metamorphism in northeast New Caledonia total amount of rollback of 60 km and a hinge-retreat
took place at 44 Ma, using SHRIMP geochronology velocity increasing from 0.4cm/yr to 3.5 cm/yr
on zircon rims. Rawling and Lister (2002) used 40Ar/ (Schellart, 2005). Once the slab is 150km long it can
Ar geochronology to show that exhumation in grow to 400km in length in 4 Myr, with a total amount
extensional shear zones had taken place by 40 Ma. A of rollback of 250 km and a hinge-retreat velocity
more recent and complete 40Ar / 39Ar and fission track increasing to 6.7 cm/yr (Schellart, 2005). Westward
thermochronology study was undertaken by Baldwin et rollback of the east-dipping South Loyalty slab could
al. (in press), leading the authors to concluded that rapid thus have accelerated quickly since 44 Ma, causing
exhumation ( 5mm/yr) via ductile shearing occurred extension in the overriding plate, culminating in
from 40 to 34 Ma followed by much slower splitting of the arc and formation of the North Loyalty
exhumation (< 0.3 mm/yr) due to brittle normal faulting backarc Basin. This extensional phase can be correlated
and erosion. Thus, it is conclude that the HP event took with the first extension phase along low-angle shear
place well before the obduction of the main ophiolite zones in the HP/LT metamorphic rocks reported by
sheet in New Caledonia at 3833.7 Ma, while the Rawling and Lister (1999, 2002) and with the
exhumation event started before and continued during exhumation at 4034 Ma (Baldwin et al., in press). It
obduction. is proposed that rapid west-directed rollback of the
The New Caledonia data can be accommodated into South Loyalty slab significantly reduced compressive
the reconstruction proposed in this paper. Figs. 3d and stresses in the subduction channel and in the overriding
4c shows that from 50 Ma, lithospheric shortening plate and facilitated rapid exhumation of the high-
would have been initiated in the backarc region of the pressure rocks when earlier formed thrust faults in the
overriding plate above the west-dipping Pacific sub- upper level of the subduction channel were reactivated
duction zone, driven by the onset of convergent motion as low-angle normal faults. Ultramafics from the
between the Australian and Pacific plates at that time. overriding plate hanging wall mantle were incorporated
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 33

in the upper levels of the sheet of metasediment and rollback of the South Loyalty slab after jumping of the
metabasite during exhumation. Continued westward subduction zone from the east of the New Caledonia
rollback subsequently led to collision of the Loyalty basement to the west of the New Caledonia basement
fore-arc with the Norfolk Ridge, overthrusting of the and to subsequent slab detachment. The reconstruction
Poya and Pouebo terranes and obduction of the main model would thus predict that the first shortening event
mass of the New Caledonia ophiolite at 3833.7Ma and the first extension event only occurred in the HP
(Cluzel et al., 2001). The ophiolite would have metamorphic terranes (Pouebo, Diahot), that the second
overridden the exhumed HP/LT rocks in northern New shortening event occurred in the overthrusted terranes
Caledonia, and caused the second period of shortening (Poya, Pouebo, Diahot), the obducted ophiolite, and
reported by Rawling and Lister (1999, 2002) forming potentially in the New Caledonia basement close to the
crustal-scale upright folds. thrust faults, while the second extension event occurred
It is further proposed that the South Loyalty slab in the overthrusted terranes, the obducted ophiolite and
(partly or wholly) delaminated the mantle lithosphere the New Caledonia basement.
from the New Caledonia basement crust or that a Subduction along the New Caledonia subduction
detachment fault formed below the New Caledonia crust zone ended when the slab started to detach from the
while the trench jumped from the east to the west of the lithosphere at the surface, potentially due to initiation of
New Caledonia basement crust, which was thereby subduction of extended continental crust from the North
accreted to the overriding plate. After jumping of the d'EntrecasteauxNew Caledonia Basin. Such detach-
subduction zone, a short phase of subduction and ment would then have caused rebound of New
rollback of the North d'EntrecasteauxNew Caledonia Caledonia crust. The slab detachment process might
Basin lithosphere continued to the west of New also have been responsible for the late stage plutonism
Caledonia (Fig. 4e). This short rollback stage could be of granitiods in New Caledonia, which took place at
represented by the early phase of the late-stage normal 2724 Ma (Cluzel et al., 2005) and post-obduction
faulting episode in New Caledonia as reported by multidirectional extension in New Caledonia that lasted
Rawling and Lister (2002) and Lagabrielle et al. (2005). until after the middle Miocene (Lagabrielle et al., 2005).
A comparable conceptual model of jumping of subduc-
tion zones across narrow continental slivers has recently 8.3. Comparison with previous reconstructions
been proposed for the Late Cretaceous to Present
evolution of the Hellenic subduction zone. This A number of Late CretaceousCenozoic recon-
subduction zone is characterized by a continuous and structions of the Southwest Pacific region have been
undisrupted Hellenic slab down to 1600km depth, presented previously (e.g. Veevers et al., 1991; Yan
which implies continuous subduction without breaking and Kroenke, 1993; Gaina et al., 1998; 1999; Mller
of the slab during accretion of continental slivers to the et al., 2000; Norvick et al., 2001; Sutherland et al.,
overriding plate (van Hinsbergen et al., 2005). 2001; Hall, 2002; Sdrolias et al., 2003, 2004b;
From the discussion above it is clear that the two Crawford et al., 2003). Some of these reconstructions
shortening events and the two extension events reported primarily focused on extensional features in the basins
by Rawling and Lister (1999, 2002) can indeed be or continental shelf (Norvick et al., 2001; Sutherland
incorporated into the reconstruction. Thus, the first et al., 2001) or on spreading patterns in ocean basins
shortening event is attributed to the formation of the (Veevers et al., 1991; Gaina et al., 1998, 1999). Such
incipient subduction zone fault zone with HP metamor- reconstructions do not offer much insight into the
phism of sediments and volcanics that were incorporated kinematic development of the southwestern plate
into the fault zone. The first extension event is related to boundary of the Pacific plate. A number of recon-
exhumation of the HP metasediments and metabasites as structions do illustrate the evolution of the southwest-
the incipient subduction zone evolved into a self- ern boundary of the Pacific plate, but do not
sustaining subduction zone. The subduction zone started incorporate primary geological data from one or
to roll back and releases pressure in the subduction more key locations in the Southwest Pacific (e.g.
channel, resulting in exhumation to upper crustal levels New Caledonia, Northland, New Guinea), which
of the HP rocks in the subduction channel region close to makes those reconstructions inconsistent with these
the overriding plate hanging wall. The second shortening data.
event is attributed to the obduction of the fore-arc Yan and Kroenke (1993) show the development of
ophiolites on top of the New Caledonia basement. The two new large-scale ( 4000km long) intra-oceanic
second extension event is attributed to the renewed volcanic arcs, one at 40 Ma (the proto Solomon
34 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

VitiazFiji arc) and one at 27Ma (the proto Tonga long subduction zone (e.g. Hall, 2002; Sdrolias et al.,
Kermadec arc) in the middle of the Pacific domain, due 2003) or the formation of two 4000 km long
to the formation of new intra-oceanic subduction zones. subduction zones in the middle of the Pacific domain
Other reconstructions show the boundary between the (e.g. Yan and Kroenke, 1993) are not in agreement with
Pacific and Australian plates as a large-scale ( 5000km onshore geological and offshore geophysical data, and
long) east to northeast-dipping subduction zone in the appear geodynamically implausible.
Late Cretaceous to Eocene, part of which corresponds In another reconstruction presented by Sdrolias et al.
with the New Caledonia subduction zone (Hall, 2002; (2004b) the opening of the Norfolk Basin is shown to
Sdrolias et al., 2003, 2004b). However, this east- take place in the early to middle Miocene, while the
directed New Caledonia subduction zone was probably southern South Fiji Basin is suggested to be no longer
only 2500 km long, bound to the north by the active. Herzer et al. (2000), however, suggested that the
d'Entrecasteaux transform zone and to the south by southern South Fiji Basin was active in the early/middle
the southern margin of the South Loyalty Basin (e.g. Miocene based on seismostratigraphic interpretations of
northeastern passive margin of Northland) (Fig. 3dh). seismic profiles across the Northland passive margin
Sdrolias et al. (2003) show that their inferred large-scale and ages of volcanics dredged from seamounts on the
east-dipping subduction zone was preceded by a west- Northland Plateau. A problem with the model from
dipping subduction zone in the Early Cretaceous, while Sdrolias et al. (2004b) is that it requires the Cook and
both Sdrolias et al. (2003) and Hall (2002) show that the Vening Meinesz fracture zones to continue eastward
east-dipping subduction zone was succeeded by a west some thousand kilometers to the proto-Kermadec trench
to southwest-dipping subduction zone in the late Eocene cutting through the southern South Fiji Basin (inactive
to Present. This would require two subduction polarity in their model) and the Colville arc to allow for the
reversals along a 5000 km long subduction zone in a Norfolk Basin opening to be accommodated by
relatively short time-span, which could be geodynami- eastward slab rollback (as shown in their Fig. 11 in
cally unlikely. In addition, it cannot explain the backarc the 20 Ma and 15 Ma diagram). This does not appear to
origin and age ( 8055Ma) of the obducted ophiolites be a plausible structural configuration and no present-
and deep-sea sediments in New Caledonia and North- day examples exist on Earth with a comparable
land. Furthermore, the models from Sdrolias et al. geometry. In addition, their 15Ma diagram shows that
(2003) and Hall (2002) are not in agreement with the northern part of the Pacific subduction zone (proto-
geological age constraints from New Caledonia. Geo- Tonga trench) has retreated eastward relative to the
logical data imply that subduction continued until location of the trench at 20Ma, presumably to prevent
33.7Ma, the last stage of ophiolite obduction in the formation of a kink in the trench near its intersection
New Caledonia (Cluzel et al., 2001), or potentially even with their eastern extent of the Cook fracture zone.
several million years longer to produce the 2724 Ma However, spreading in the northern South Fiji Basin,
granitoid intrusives in New Caledonia during the latest which could have accommodated this eastward rollback,
stage of subduction (Cluzel et al., 2005). Thus, the New had already stopped in the latest Oligocene at 25 Ma
Caledonia subduction zone did not become inactive at (Weissel et al., 1982; Sdrolias et al., 2003). Thus, this
45Ma or 50Ma as proposed in the reconstructions trench section should not have retreated eastward,
of Sdrolias et al. (2003) and Hall (2002). In addition, contrary to what is shown in the diagrams in their Fig.
further south, subduction continued until 2221 Ma, 11. Finally, the reconstruction from Sdrolias et al.
the last stage of ophiolite obduction in Northland (Fig. (2004b) does not take the latest Oligocene to earliest
3i). The 33.7Ma age from New Caledonia is very Miocene obduction event in Northland into account. In
important, because it implies that the middle to late conclusion, geological data and structural and kinematic
Eocene North Loyalty Basin and Loyalty arc formed arguments support the model in which opening of the
above an east-dipping subduction zone, as shown in Fig. Norfolk Basin was contemporaneous with the last phase
3eg and also suggested by Cluzel et al. (2001) and of opening in the southern South Fiji Basin, as shown in
Crawford et al. (2003), and not above a 5000 km long Fig. 3ij and as proposed in the reconstruction from
west-dipping subduction zone as in Sdrolias et al. Crawford et al. (2003).
(2003) and Hall (2002). Finally, a west-dipping The reconstruction presented in Fig. 3 shows
eastward retreating Pacific slab since the Late Creta- conceptual similarities with a reconstruction presented
ceous is required to accommodate extension and by Crawford et al. (2003), who show the formation of a
spreading in the overriding plate backarc basins. Thus, backarc basin (South Loyalty Basin) in the Late
two subduction polarity reversals along a 5000km Cretaceous to Paleocene behind a west-dipping eastward
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 35

retreating Pacific subduction zone. In addition, Crawford scenarios it would imply that the amount and direction
et al. (2003) argue for the formation of an east-dipping of PacificAustralia relative motion in the Northland
New Caledonia subduction zone at 5550 Ma, which region or Hikurangi trench region should be of
consumes the South Loyalty backarc Basin during comparable magnitude and direction as that for the
westward rollback similar to the reconstruction pre- obduction of the Northland allochthon at the time of
sented in Fig. 3df. Crawford et al. (2003) show that this obduction ( 2522Ma). Structural investigations in-
new subduction zone forms by a polarity reversal, in dicate that the direction of Northland allochthon
which the west-dipping Pacific subduction zone is obduction ranges between 185 and 238 with a
replaced at 5550 Ma by the east-dipping New mean of 216 (Rait, 2000). The PacificAustralia
Caledonia subduction zone, while a new west-dipping relative motion along the Hikurangi trench at 2520Ma
Pacific subduction zone forms in a later period from is oriented WNW ( 290) and the amount of
45 to 35Ma. Although there is no geological or displacement in this 5 Myr period is 194 km in the
geophysical data available that could disprove this north and 163 km in the south (Fig. 6i), while in the
aspect of their reconstruction, we do question the Northland region it is oriented WNW (285) and the
physical viability of the large-scale polarity reversals amount of displacement in this time frame is 190km.
between 55 and 45 Ma. At present, there is no record The PacificAustralia relative plate motion in the
of a geological event that could have been responsible Hikurangi trench region and Northland region thus
for such a large-scale reversal along a 3000 km long strikes at high angle ( 74 and 69 respectively)
subduction zone. The change in AustralianPacific with the average direction of obduction (216). Such a
relative plate motion that occurred at 50Ma (see Fig. high strike angle makes it unlikely that the obduction
6ce) would have induced additional compressive was driven by the PacificAustralia relative plate
stresses across the subduction zone to form a new motion. Furthermore, the Northland allochthon thrust
subduction zone in the backarc region, but is unlikely front strikes northwestsoutheast and thus strikes at a
that the change would have resulted in termination of low angle ( 30) with the direction of Pacific
the Pacific subduction zone. Termination of a mature Australia relative plate motion in the Northland region
subduction zone would require locking of the (285). In the 3 Myr period of obduction, the total
subduction zone by arrival of buoyant material at amount of thrust front-perpendicular PacificAustralia
the trench (e.g. Regard et al., 2003) and subsequent convergence only amounts to 57 km and the amount
detachment of the slab from the trailing plate (e.g. of convergence parallel to the average ophiolite
Wortel and Spakman, 2000). However, no geological displacement direction (216) is only 41 km. Con-
event has been documented to cause such locking sidering that the amount of southwestward displace-
during this time interval in the Southwest Pacific ment of the obducted sheet is at least 200 km
region. Slab pull forces exerted from the slab towards (calculated from the offshore thrust front southwest of
the trailing plate at the surface would have sustained Northland (Fig. 1 in Rait, 2000) to the shelf edge
progressive subduction (e.g. Schellart, 2004b) and northeast of Northland) it is clear that the Pacific
would therefore not have allowed termination of Australia convergence is insufficient to explain such a
subduction of the Pacific plate. Indeed, progressive minimum distance of southwest-directed obduction.
lengthening of the slab along the Southwest Pacific Even when considering that the obduction period lasted
subduction zone would have increases slab pull forces, 6 Myr instead of 3Myr and took place at any time in the
which would have forced the trailing Pacific plate to period 30 Ma to 20 Ma, then still the amount of
move in a more westerly direction. This could have convergence is only 100 km, which is only half the
attributed to the change in motion of the Pacific plate minimum amount required for obduction of the
that started at 50 Ma. ophiolite sheet. As shown in the reconstruction in
Numerous reconstructions have been proposed for Fig. 3, southwestward rollback of the South Loyalty
the Northland region. A number of these reconstruc- slab can explain both the direction (southwestward) and
tions imply that Northland allochthon obduction is scale (minimum of 200km) of the obduction event
driven by southwestward Pacific plate subduction without any difficulty. This new model for ophiolite
underneath Northland or that obduction is driven by obduction in Northland is kinematically and dynami-
southwestward South Fiji Basin subduction underneath cally feasible, and is supported by the geological,
Northland resulting from collision of the Hikurangi structural and petrological characteristics of the region.
Plateau with New Zealand (Herzer et al., 1997, 2000; The structural setting for ophiolite obduction with a
King, 2000; Whattam et al., 2004, 2005). In both slab dipping away from the continental passive margin
36 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

has been proposed previously as a geodynamically quantified. An average of 5.5cm/yr can be calculated for
sound setting to explain ophiolite obduction at many the period 62 Ma to 56Ma (750 km/25 Myr + 150 km/
other sites around the globe (Moores, 1970; Dewey, 6Myr). Finally, a rate of 3.0 cm/yr can be calculated for
1976; Edelman, 1988). the period 56 Ma to 55 Ma. These rates imply a
It has recently been suggested that the Lord Howe significant additional component of convergence on
Rise was not a separate microplate at 8352 Ma, but top of the component calculated from the Lord Howe
was part of the Pacific plate (Steinberger et al., 2004). RisePacific convergence. This convergence occurred
This model would predict a large amount of extensional between the outer arc and the Pacific plate and was
deformation in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica (400 accommodated by eastward rollback of the Pacific slab.
450 km). We show that, by using the rotation poles from Thus, the Lord Howe Rise could not have been attached
Table 7 for the Lord Howe RisePacific relative motion to the Pacific plate from 83 Ma to 52Ma.
(and assuming no deformation in Antarctica prior to The plate boundary between the Challenger Plateau
45Ma), there is convergent motion for the period 65 on the Lord Howe Rise microplate and the Campbell-
52Ma between the Lord Howe Rise microplate and the Chatham block on the Pacific plate was probably
Pacific plate (Fig. 7). The convergent motion is very represented by the northeastern continuation of the
small in the south, with only 25 km of convergence Emerald fracture zone. The diagram in Fig. 7 shows
across the northeastern extent of the Emerald fracture 25km of dextral strike-slip and 25 km of conver-
zone, but increases along the eastern boundary from gence along this fault segment, which would translate
150km of eastwest convergence in the southeast to into an average of 2mm/yr dextral strike-slip and
300km of eastwest convergence in the northeast. 2mm/yr convergence across the plate boundary. On
Such large amounts of convergence in an oceanic setting the South Island of New Zealand, there is structural
would require a subduction boundary in between the and geochronological evidence for dextral shearing in
microplate in the west and the Pacific plate in the east, in mylonites from the Fraser complex during the Late
which the Pacific plate rolled back eastward at an Cretaceous to Early Tertiary (White and Green, 1986;
average rate of 1.2 cm/yr in the southeast to 2.3 cm/ Rattenbury, 1987). The foliation in the mylonites is
yr in the northeast. Thus, our data do not support the subvertical, dipping slightly towards and striking
assumption that the Lord Howe Rise was attached to the parallel to the Alpine fault, while the lineations
Pacific plate from 6552Ma. In addition, our recon- indicate a dextral sense of shear and vary between
struction has identified another plate boundary in horizontal and 45 (Rattenbury, 1987), which could
between the Lord Howe Rise microplate and the Pacific be the result of the dextral oblique convergence as
plate, i.e. the backarc spreading ridge in the South implied by the Lord Howe RisePacific relative plate
LoyaltySanta CruzPocklington backarc Basin. The motion (Fig. 7).
backarc basin opened from 80Ma to 55 Ma and
reached an eastwest width of 750km or more. Also, 9. Conclusions
the latest results from a geophysical investigation of the
New Caledonia Basin suggest the existence of an We have presented a tectonic reconstruction of the
additional backarc spreading ridge. The new Caledonia Southwest Pacific region for the Late Cretaceous and
Basin opened up in an eastwest fashion from the Late Cenozoic periods. The reconstruction provides a
Cretaceous to the Paleocene, with extension until coherent and logical synthesis of the region, in which
62Ma and spreading in the Central New Caledonia the large-scale structures resulted primarily from
Basin that was suggested to occur from 62 Ma until subduction, slab rollback and backarc extension pro-
56Ma (Lafoy et al., 2005). The amount of extension cesses. The first order structures resulted from episodic
remains unquantified, but the amount of eastwest eastward to northeastward rollback of the subducting
spreading amounts to 150 km. This would imply two Pacific plate during the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic,
northsouth striking spreading ridges in between the leading to the formation of several backarc basins bound
Lord Howe Rise and the Pacific plate. The rate of east by continental fragments and volcanic ridges (e.g. New
west opening for these two basins is not accurately Caledonia Basin, South LoyaltySanta CruzPockling-
constrained, but a number of average rates can be ton Basin, South Fiji Basin, Norfolk Basin, LauHavre
calculated. A minimum average of 3.0 cm/yr can be Basin, Coral Sea). From the reconstruction a minimum
calculated for the period 80 Ma to 62 Ma (750 km/ eastwest width of the South Loyalty Basin is estimated
25Myr), without taking into account the amount of at 750km. Slab rollback also accommodated part (150
extension in the New Caledonia Basin, as it is not 300km) of the eastwest component of opening in the
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 37

Tasman Sea Basin during the Paleocene and earliest Appendix A

Eocene. The second order structures resulted from
subduction and rollback of backarc basin lithosphere. The PacificAustralia and Lord Howe RisePacific
Subduction of the South Loyalty and Pocklington relative plate motions were calculated using the
backarc basins took place from the Eocene to earliest PacificWest AntarcticaEast AntarcticaAustralia
Miocene, induced arc volcanism in the LoyaltyThree Lord Howe Rise plate circuit. PacificAntarctic
Kings arc and New Guinea arc, induced formation of the relative plate motions were calculated previously by
North Loyalty and Solomon Sea backarc basins, and fitting of magnetic anomalies across the Southwest
culminated in the obduction of the New Caledonia, Pacific Ridge (Cande et al., 1995), AntarcticAustralia
Northland and New Guinea ophiolites in the latest relative plate motions were calculated previously by
Eocene to earliest Miocene. In the early to middle fitting of magnetic anomalies across the southeast
Miocene, two additional subduction zones formed in the Indian Ridge (Royer and Sandwell, 1989; Royer and
backarc region, namely the Trobriand subduction zone, Rollet, 1997; Cande et al., 2000), and Lord Howe
along which the Solomon Sea was subducted south- RiseAustralia relative plate motions were calculated
ward, and the New BritainSan CristobalNew Heb- previously by fitting of magnetic anomalies across the
rides subduction zone, along which the Solomon Sea, Tasman Sea (Gaina et al., 1998). Motion between East
the North LoyaltySouth Fiji Basin and the remains of and West Antarctica along a diffuse plate boundary was
the Santa CruzSouth Loyalty Basin were subducted quantified by Cande et al. (2000), who determined the
northward. Southeastward rollback along the New motions to close the gap between the Pacific and
Britain trench partly accommodated opening of the Australian plates that had been a result of previous
Manus backarc Basin from 6 Ma to Present, while reconstruction parameters. It was found that this motion
clockwise rollback along the New Hebrides trench occurred between anomaly 20n (y) (42.5 Ma) and
accommodated opening of the North Fiji Basin from anomaly 8n.1n (o) (26.1 Ma). We assumed that the
1211 Ma to Present. The episodic phases of slab entire rotation of 1.7 had occurred at a constant rate
rollback and backarc opening in the region can be over this period. This is equivalent to a rotation rate of
explained by either a change in subducting plate density 0.104 Myr 1. Any rotation pole required for a certain
(e.g. arrival of buoyant lithosphere at the trench), a time (tr) during this period is located at the same place
change in subduction dynamics related to slab tip as the pole describing the entire rotation, and has
mantle transition zone interaction during rapid subduct- magnitude equal to (tr 26.1) 0.104 Myr 1 . We
ing plate motion, or a change in large-scale plate assumed that for times from anomaly 8n.1n(o)
kinematics. All these processes can potentially initiate (26.1 Ma) to the Present there was no relative motion
or stall hinge-retreat and might cause hinge-advance. between East and West Antarctica (Cande et al., 2000).
Such hinge-advance could result in formation of a new We also assumed that there was no relative motion
subduction zone in the backarc region of the overriding prior to 20n (y). It has, however, been suggested that
plate. there was relative motion between East and West
Antarctica prior to 42.5 Ma, but the amount of motion
Acknowledgments is probably small and not well quantified ( 100km),
and the time frame for this motion is also not well
Discussions on Southwest Pacific geology with Tony constrained (Cande and Stock, 2004b). Steinberger et
Crawford, Robert Hall, Dominique Cluzel, Mike Hall, al. (2004) argued for a large amount of extension (400
Tim Rawling, Joann Stock and Sebastian Meffre are 450 km) between East and West Antarctica prior to
greatly appreciated. Comments by Gideon Rosenbaum 42.5 Ma, predicted by a plate-circuit reconstruction in
and Rupert Sutherland on an early version of the which the Lord Howe Rise is assumed to be attached to
manuscript and official reviews from John Veevers and the Pacific plate prior to 45 Ma. This plate circuit was
an anonymous reviewer are also appreciated. The chosen to avoid a circuit going through East and West
reconstruction software was provided by the Australian Antarctica. With such a circuit, in which it was
Computational Earth Science Simulator Major National assumed that no deformation occurred between East
Research Facility (the ACcESS MNRF) (http://www. and West Antarctica prior to 42.5 Ma, the rotation This research was supported by two parameters from Steinberger et al. (2004) predicted
Discovery Grants from the Australian Research Coun- large amounts of convergence in the New Zealand
cil, from which one was awarded to W. P Schellart and region from 6547 Ma for which they claimed there is
one was awarded to G. S. Lister. no geological evidence. However, such a large amount
38 W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx

Table A1
Total poles of rotation to reconstruct the position of the first-listed plate relative to the second-listed plate at the given time from its present-day
position. Positive rotations indicate anticlockwise rotations when viewed from above the surface of the Earth and going backward in time
Magnetic anomaly a Age Latitude Longitude Rotation Reference
(Ma) a (N) (E) ()
PacificWest Antarctica
1 [1n (o)] 0.8 [0.8] 64.25 79.06 0.68 Cande et al., 1995
2a [2An.1n (y)] 2.6 [2.6] 67.03 73.72 2.42 Cande et al., 1995
3a [3An.1n (y)] 5.9 [5.9] 67.91 77.93 5.42 Cande et al., 1995
4a [4An (m)] 8.9 [9.0] 69.68 77.06 7.95 Cande et al., 1995
5a [5An.2n (m)] 12.3 [12.6] 71.75 73.77 10.92 Cande et al., 1995
5d [5Dn (m)] 17.5 [17.6] 73.68 69.85 15.17 Cande et al., 1995
6c [6Cn.3n (m)] 24.1 [24.1] 74.72 67.28 19.55 Cande et al., 1995
10 [10n.1n (y)] 28.3 [27.4] 74.55 67.38 22.95 Cande et al., 1995
13o [13n (o)] 33.5 [33.5] 74.38 64.74 27.34 Cande et al., 1995
20 [20n (y)] 42.5 [42.5] 74.90 51.31 34.54 Cande et al., 1995
21 [21n (o)] 47.9 [47.9] 74.52 50.19 37.64 Cande et al., 1995
24 [24n.3n (o)] 53.3 [53.3] 73.62 52.50 40.03 Cande et al., 1995
27 [27n (m)] 61.1 [61.1] 71.38 55.57 44.90 Cande et al., 1995
31 [31r (m)] 67.7 [67.7] 69.33 53.44 51.05 Cande et al., 1995

East AntarcticaAustralia
5 [5r.1n (y)] 10.5 [11.3] 12.5 36.7 6.62 Royer and Sandwell, 1989
6 [6n (o)] 20.5 [20.2] 14.5 32.8 11.98 Royer and Sandwell, 1989
13o [13n (o)] 33 [33.5] 13.696 33.975 20.485 Cande et al., 2000
18 [18n.2n (o)] 40.1 [40.1] 14.32 31.75 23.77 Royer and Rollet, 1997
20 [20n (o)] 46.2 [43.8] 15.1 31.3 24.50 Royer and Sandwell, 1989
24 [24n.3n (o)] 53.3 [53.3] 12.65 32.76 25.24 Royer and Rollet, 1997
30 [30n (y)] 65.6 [65.6] 11.79 32.96 26.05 Royer and Rollet, 1997
31 [31n (y)] 68.5 [67.7] 8.7 33.2 25.83 Royer and Sandwell, 1989

West AntarcticaEast Antarctica

8 [8n.1n(o)] 26 [26.1] 0 0 0 Cande et al., 2000
13o [13n (o)] 33 [33.5] 18.146 17.847 0.696 Cande et al., 2000
20 [20n (y)] 43 [42.5] 18.146 17.847 1.700 Cande et al., 2000
[31n (y)] [67.5] 18.146 17.847 1.700 Cande et al., 2000
Isochrons and ages on the left are from the reference in the sixth column, while isochrons and updated ages in the square brackets are correlations
by current authors.

of convergence is not observed in the reconstruction which the Lord Howe Rise is attached to the Pacific
here, with only 25km of convergence in the New plate cannot be adopted.
Zealand region from 65 Ma to 52Ma (Fig. 7) and only The various poles of rotation used in the Pacific
15km of convergence from 52 Ma to 47Ma. This West AntarcticaEast AntarcticaAustralia plate cir-
translates into convergence velocities of only 2 mm/ cuit calculations are listed in Table A1. The ages
yr and 3 mm/yr respectively. Thus, assuming no assigned to isochron picks by previous authors were
deformation between East and West Antarctica prior to reassigned based on the updated timescales of
42.5 seems warranted, at least until deformation prior Huestis and Acton (1997) and Cande and Kent
to 42.5 Ma is better quantified, as it only produces a (1995). Correlation of isochrons in the source data
small amount of convergence in the New Zealand was carried out by determining the age the authors
region, for which there is indeed geological evidence assigned to an isochron, reading off the exact
(e.g. Fraser complex, see Section 8.3). In addition, as isochron with that age in the timescale they had
shown in the reconstruction and discussed throughout used, and then determining the age for that isochron
the paper, geological and kinematic data demonstrate in the updated timescales. The methods outlined in
that the Lord Howe Rise was not attached to the Pacific Cox and Hart (1987) were applied to the data plotted
plate prior to 45 Ma, but was separated from it by two in Table A1 to calculate the new rotation parameters
backarc spreading/extensional zones and a west- for PacificAustralia motion (Table 5) and Lord
dipping subduction zone. Therefore, a plate-circuit in Howe RisePacific motion (Table 7).
W.P. Schellart et al. / Earth-Science Reviews xx (2006) xxxxxx 39

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