The Shiant Isles Main Sill, of Tertiary age, is a classic example of a composite, differentiated alkaline basic sill. The first unit to be intruded was a 2 m thick olivine teschenite which was emplaced with phenocrysts of olivine (mg > 83) [mg ≡ Mg#] and, perhaps, plagioclase. This was intruded by a 24 m thick picrite sill consisting of a mush of melt and suspended olivine phenocrysts (mg > 83) with a D-shaped modal profile. The 140 m thick picrodolerite-crinanite unit was formed by a magma carrying ∼ 10% olivine (mg > 83) as the main phenocryst phase, together with some calcic plagioclase phenocrysts, being emplaced into the top of the picrite unit before the host rock was completely solidified. The olivine phenocrysts settled towards the bottom to form the picrodolerites. In-situ differentiation processes occurred under conditions of almost perfect fractional crystallization, during which very strongly zoned ophitic crystals of olivine (fayalitic rims) and clinopyroxene (hedenbergitic rims), and zoned laths of plagioclase (anorthoclase rims), formed. The last unit consists of ∼ 2 m of granular olivine picrodolerite which was intruded into the upper crinanites, again before the host rock was fully solid.
The mineral zoning patterns are interpreted using published cation diffusion coefficient data, and used to show that the picrite unit might have cooled to the blocking temperatures for Mg and Fe diffusion in < 5 years, and that even the relatively thick crinanite unit cooled very fast, so preserving the zoned Fe-Mg olivine and pyroxene compositions. The compositions of coexisting ilmenites and spinels define a redox trend which initially lies close to fayalite-magnetite-quartz buffer conditions, but later becomes more reducing and approaches magnetite-wustite buffer conditions. The final stages of development occurred during sub-solidus deuteric processes and involved formation of analcime and zeolites, as well as localized sulphide mineralization.