The distribution, mineralogy, petrology and bulk and stable isotope chemistry of altered volcanic ash beds in the marine sediments of Mid-Triassic age (Etalian) at Kaka Point, New Zealand, are described and related to lithofacies and the geological processes controlling their development.
Three varieties of altered ash occur in the Kaka Point sediments — porcellanite, claystone (bentonite) and albite-rich. Porcellanites are quartz-rich and may contain analcime and heulandite: they are restricted mainly to the on-shore facies. Claystones are rich in smectitic clay minerals and occur in both the on-shore and off-shore facies. They often contain diagenetic nodules of analcime, quartz, apatite and carbonates. The authigenic carbonates of the on-shore facies are variable in composition (sideritic, rhodochrositic, calcitic), whereas in the off-shore facies they consist only of calcite. The albite-rich lithology is very rare and is known only from the off-shore facies.
The development of the porcellanite and albite-rich lithologies was restricted to slowly deposited, relatively coarse-grained ash sediments in which extensive interchange took place between the sediment's pore-waters and ambient seawater, resulting in enhanced microbial activity and high pH throughout the pore-waters of the suboxic zone beneath the water-sediment interface. The high pH increased the rate of volcanic ash hydrolysis and provided the conditions necessary for the precipitation of zeolite, feldspar and quartz. The development of smectitic claystones was associated with more rapid deposition and limited interchange between the pore-waters of the parent ash and ambient seawater. The pore-water alkalinity was generally lower and enhanced microbial activity and high pHs were restricted to patches of sediment at which quartz, analcime, apatite and carbonates formed diagenetic nodules. Modelling of the stable isotopes of the smectitic clays (δ18O, δD) and diagenetic carbonates (δ18O, δ13C) suggest that: (1) ash argillization in the on-shore facies took place in brackish water (∼25% meteoric water) at an average temperature of ∼50°C and in the off-shore facies in marine pore-waters (∼10% meteoric waters) at ∼40°C and (2) diagenetic carbonate precipitation in the near-shore facies took place at ∼30°C and in the off-shore facies at 60–80°C.
The pattern of ash alteration in the marine Triassic sediments at Kaka Point is considered to represent an early stage in the development of the zeolite pattern associated with the classic area of zeolite facies metamorphism in the Taringatura and Hokonui Hills.