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To investigate the initial phases of magmatism at the leading edge of the upwelling mantle plume, we mapped, photographed, and collected samples from two long, deep-water lava flows located at the western base of the Galápagos Platform using the remotely operated vehicle Hercules. Lavas were recovered from four areas on the seafloor west of Fernandina volcano, including the western flow fronts of two deep-water flows, heavily sedimented terrain between the two flows, and the eastern, shallower end of one flow. The sediment cover and morphologies are distinct between the western flow fronts and the eastern region based on seafloor imagery, suggesting that the long lava flows are not a single eruptive unit. Major and trace element concentrations reveal both tholeiitic and alkalic compositions and support the interpretation that multiple eruptive units comprise the deep-water flows. Alkalic lavas have higher [La/Sm]N ratios (2.05–2.12) and total alkali contents (5.18–5.40) compared to tholeiitic lavas, which have [La/Sm]N ratios ranging from 1.64 to 1.68 and total alkali contents ranging from 3.07 to 4.08 wt%. Radiogenic isotope ratios are relatively homogeneous, suggesting a similar mantle source. We use petrologic models to assess three alternative mechanisms for the formation of the alkalic magmas: (1) high-pressure crystallization of clinopyroxene, (2) mixing of high silica and mafic magmas, and (3) variable extents of melting of the same mantle source. Our modeling indicates that the alkalic samples form from lower extents of melting compared to the tholeiitic lavas and suggests that the deep-water alkalic lavas are analogous to the initial, preshield building phase observed south of Hawaii and at the base of Loihi Seamount.

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This document was originally published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems by Wiley on behalf of the American Geophysical Union. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1029/2018GC007632