Geology of the Caribbean Crust

  • Paul J. Fox
  • Bruce C. Heezen


The Caribbean presents several provocative geotectonic problems. Water depths are less than in the main ocean basins. Over most of the Caribbean Basin, seismic-refraction measurements reveal (Fig. 1) crustal thicknesses of 12 to 15 km, much greater than the 6 km crust generally observed beneath the main ocean basins (Officer et al., 1959; Ewing et al., 1960; Edgar et al., 1971). In addition, the seismic-velocity sequence of the Caribbean crust is varied and contrasts sharply with the simple velocity structure generally attributed to crust beneath the main ocean basins (Fig. 1). Correlatable magnetic anomalies of the type characteristic of oceanic crust generated at middle or low latitudes are absent in the Caribbean which is characterized by a relatively quiet field (Ewing et al., 1960; Pitman, personal communication). Recently, however, Christofferson (1973) has attempted to correlate a series of magnetic anomalies observed in the southern Colombia Basin with the Late Cretaceous sequences established for the deep-sea crust. Differences in geophysical character of the Caribbean and the main ocean basins suggest a fundamental difference in composition, origin, and history. Some investigators have suggested that the Caribbean is a former piece of the deep-sea floor in the process of becoming a continent (Ewing et al., 1957; Officer et al., 1959).

Fig. 1

A map of the Caribbean showing the location of seismic-refraction studies and the results of those studies. Data derived from Officer et al., 1959; Ewing et al., 1960; and Edgar et al. , 1971. The vertical scale for the velocity sections is in increments of 5 km; the velocity is in km/sec.


Oceanic Crust Volcanic Center South Wall Virgin Island Compressional Wave Velocity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul J. Fox
    • 1
  • Bruce C. Heezen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesState University of New York at AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA

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