Letter | Published:

Ultrabasic Liquids

Naturevolume 191pages158159 (1961) | Download Citation



THERE is a considerable body of geological evidence suggesting that, in a submarine environment, extrusion of silicate liquids with a composition comparable to peridotite occurs. Later, this material is hydrated to form serpentine. In part, this evidence comes from repeated association of serpentines with marine sediments such as greywackes and cherts, and repeated association with volcanics including pillow lavas. Further, the ultramafics of this environment show features to be expected from rocks which have flowed. An excellent description of such a situation is provided by Bailey and McCallien1. Hess2 has summarized some of the data from field evidence suggesting that many ultrabasic rocks were formed by intrusion of liquids. But laboratory investigation has consistently heaped difficulties on an extrusive explanation of such rocks. Known surface lava temperatures do not exceed 1,200° C. while the melting temperatures of the anhydrous equivalents of serpentine are of the order of 1,700° C. Clearly there are difficulties in moving such materials to the surface of the Earth, or even in forming liquids at reasonable depths in the crust. The following statement from Hess2 bears repeating : “For most of this century a magnificent argument has gone on between field geologists who have worked on the peridotites of alpine mountains and laboratory investigators of their chemistry (particularly Bowen). The former stoutly maintains that the evidence indicates that they were intruded in a fluid state, as magmas; and the latter equally forcefully has proved to his satisfaction that such magmas are not possible… At the other extreme we find Bailey and McCallien suggesting that the serpentines of Turkey are submarine lava flows.”

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Bailey, E. B., and McCallien, W. J., Trans. Roy. Soc. Edin., 62, Part 2, 403 (1953).

  2. 2

    Hess, H. H., Geol. Soc. Amer. Special Paper, 62, 391 (1955).

  3. 3

    Turner, F. J., and Verhoogen, J., Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1960).

Download references

Author information


  1. Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

    • R. H. CLARK
    •  & W. S. FYFE
  2. University of California, Berkeley

    • R. H. CLARK
    •  & W. S. FYFE


  1. Search for R. H. CLARK in:

  2. Search for W. S. FYFE in:

About this article

Publication history

Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.