Tectonics of the Nereus Deep, Red Sea: A deep-tow investigation of a site of initial rifting

John D. Bicknell, Ken C. MacDonald, Stephen P. Miller, Peter F. Lonsdale, Keir Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Nereus Deep (23°N) lies in the central portion of the Red Sea, in a region which marks a transition between the nearly continuous axial rift valley of the southern Red Sea and the northern Red Sea, where a well defined axial rift is absent. The deep-tow survey and associated heat flow measurements reported here show that the Nereus Deep is a short segment of axial rift, and it is the northernmost deep where petrology, heat flow, magnetics, and morphology all indicate classic seafloor spreading. Heat flow measured in the Nereus Deep is characterized by non-linear gradients and closely-spaced variability indicative of active hydrothermal circulation associated with seafloor spreading. The two axial highs which we have mapped in Nereus differ markedly in that the southernmost appears younger or at least has had a more recent phase of volcanism. The two axial highs are offset left laterally approximately 2 km. This small offset or bend in the axial course has been labelled the Nereus 'shear zone', and, despite its small extent, it mimics many of the major features of small offset, slow-slipping transform faults. This shear zone may result from shear stresses associated with misalignments in succeeding volcanic episodes. The Nereus Deep appears to represent one of the earliest phases of seafloor spreading. The Red Sea seems to be opening towards the north, and the Nereus Deep is near the tip of propagation, but it is clear from this study that rift propagation in a site of initial rifting differs greatly from that observed along a well developed, fast spreading center like the East Pacific Rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-148
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Geophysical Researches
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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