Death and Transfiguration of a Triple Junction in the South Atlantic

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Science  11 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5310, pp. 243-245
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5310.243

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Three major lithospheric plates—Antarctic, South American, and African—meet in the South Atlantic near Bouvet Island where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR), and the American Antarctic Ridge converge toward a fast evolving triple junction. A major magmatic pulse has recently built a new, swollen segment of the SWIR (Spiess Ridge) that is propagating toward the MAR at a rate of 4 to 5 centimeters per year, disrupting a former ridge-ridge-ridge (RRR) triple junction. A new triple junction will be established about 70 kilometers to the north when the propagating SWIR/Spiess segment will impact with the MAR, probably within the next 1 million years. The American Antarctic Ridge will take advantage of the MAR/SWIR duel by capturing an approximately 70-kilometer stretch of MAR, whereas the Antarctic plate will increase its size.

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