Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Keith A. Klepeis


In this thesis, I present structural and kinematic data on rock fabrics, shear zones and fault zones from the Cretaceous Malaspina orthogneiss and some of its satellite plutons in central Fiordland, New Zealand. Central Fiordland exposes a large tract of granulite- to eclogite-facies lower crust that was exhumed between late Mesozoic to Cenozoic times. The deformational structures of interest were formed and preserved during the lifecycle of a Cretaceous continental arc that involved thickening to over 60 km followed by collapse and rifting. As such, they provide an excellent opportunity to study strain localization in the deep crust and the process of exhumation.

Detailed structural mapping, analysis, and the construction of a 45-kilometer cross section through the Malaspina orthogneiss and adjacent plutons reveal the spatial distribution, sequence, and kinematics of crosscutting deformational structures. The earliest structures record Cretaceous magmatism, high-grade metamorphism at the granulite and eclogite facies, and ductile flow that resulted in widespread (over 1200 km2), disorganized magmatic foliations. These events were followed by regional extension that resulted in the formation of multiple, ≤0.5 km-thick ductile, upper amphibolite facies shear zones that record cooling, hydration, and horizontal flow during the Late Cretaceous. Extension continued but changed obliquity in the early to middle Tertiary and resulted in sets of strike-slip and normal brittle to semi-brittle faults forming a sinistral transtensional system. These faults are distributed across central Fiordland and crosscut and transpose the ductile shear zones and magmatic foliations. Lastly, a change in relative plate motions resulted in the inception of the Alpine fault and the development of a late Tertiary transpressional fault system that crosscuts all previous structures.

The dominant factors controlling strain localization in central Fiordland changed from magma, heat, and melting, to fluid activity, plate boundary reorganization, and reactivation of inherited structures. The succession of contrasting strain localization styles in response to changing tectonic and local conditions led to the development of multiple phases of deformation. These multiple phases of deformation allowed the deep crust to be exhumed in a heterogeneous and fragmented, or 'piecemeal', way. In particular, the inability of late Cretaceous ductile shear zones to fully exhume the lower crust was compensated by the ability of early Tertiary transtensional faults to simultaneously thin and further exhume the lower crust. Investigations of strain localization patterns in central Fiordland shed light on the causes and mechanisms of crustal exhumation, a phenomenon that is integral to the lifecycle of virtually all orogenic belts.



Number of Pages

111 p.

Included in

Geology Commons