Using a new tool of seafloor characterisation (sonar images from FARA-SIGMA cruise; Needham et al., 1992), coupled with submersible observations (DIVA1 cruise) we compare, at different scales of observation, three contiguous segments of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, South of the Azores Triple Junction, between 37° N and 38°30′ N.
The two northernmost segments (‘38°20′ N’ and Menez-Gwen) show unusual morphological features for the MAR; the rift valley is absent and the present-day magmatism is focused on shallow axial volcanoes. On the third segment (Lucky Strike), the morphology is the one usually found on the MAR. On the Menez-Gwen and ‘38°20′ N’ segments, volcanic constructional activity can obliterate, during periods of high magmatic supply, the morphology inherited from tectonic activity. The dive results constrain the recent evolution of each segment and show that a temporal variability in volcanic dynamics exists. On the three segments, outcrops of eruptive lavas alternate with large areas of explosive volcanic ejecta. This cycle in volcanic activity is influenced by changes in water depth, both spatially (i.e. between segments) and temporally (i.e. for the same segment through time).
Each segment has known a specific history in its accretionary processes with a succession of tectonic and volcanic predominance and changes in its volcanic phases between volcanic ejecta and effusive dynamics.
The hydrothermal activity is focused at the central part of each segment and is controlled by the presence of fresh lava and major tectonic features.