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The Tertiary lavas and sediments of northwest Rhum, Inner Hebrides

  • C. H. Emeleus (a1)


Several small outliers of Tertiary lavas and sediments rest with strong unconformity on a buried landscape eroded from Torridonian sediments and Tertiary granophyre. Erosion continued during the period of sediment and lava accumulation. Four formations are recognized; these are, in order of increasing age, the Orval Formation (hawaiite and basaltic hawaiite lavas), the Guirdil Formation (icelandite lavas, interbedded conglomerates), the Upper Fionchra Formation (tholeiitic basaltic andesite lavas, hyaloclastite deposits, basal conglomerate) and the Lower Fionchra Formation (alkali and transitional basalt, basaltic hawaiite and hawaiite lava flows, basal conglomerate); each is separated by an erosional interval. Clasts in the conglomerates reveal a history of erosion of a terrain exposing gneisses, Torridonian sediments, igneous rocks derived from the Rhum Tertiary Central Complex (including allivalites), and Tertiary lavas of local origin but also including, in the oldest conglomerates, tholeiitic basalts not now preserved on or near Rhum. Prior to and during lava and sediment accumulation, erosion on Rhum had cut down to a level similar to that of the present day, although not to the extent that high-grade thermally altered rocks, which are a marked feature of the Central Complex, were being eroded in any quantity. A sequence of east–west trending valleys, possibly initiated on the line of the earlier Main Ring Fault, drained the area of the Central Complex which then, as now, must have been high ground. Small lakes occasionally formed in the valleys allowing the accumulation of fine-grained sediment with plant remains, and promoting the formation of hyaloclastite deposits when buried by later flows. No source for any of the lava formations is preserved on Rhum; they are thought to have come from feeders north of Rhum, possibly near Canna, and to have ponded against the hills and valleys near and in the Central Complex.

The oldest tholeiitic lavas, not now found in situ, were followed by alkali and transitional flows compositionally similar to the Skye Main Lava Series but characteristically feldsparphyric; the most mafic also contain phenocrysts of magnesian olivine (with included Cr-Al-rich spinels) and aluminous spinel. Both the early alkalic/transitional basalts and the youngest hawaiites and basaltic hawaiites equilibrated at pressures < 9 kb; the tholeiitic basaltic andesites and icelandites equilibrated at relatively shallows depths.

Apart from a few N–S to NW–SE-trending basalt dykes, the lava formations represent the youngest Tertiary igneous event on Rhum.



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The Tertiary lavas and sediments of northwest Rhum, Inner Hebrides

  • C. H. Emeleus (a1)


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