The Red Sea — A Geophysical Background

  • R. W. Girdler


The history and evolution of the Red Sea are considered in the light of the continental movement of Africa and Arabia. The relevant palaeomagnetic data pertaining to the latter are summarized. The Red Sea developed in phases, and it is likely that these correspond in time to phases of continental drift. The geophysical data for the Red Sea are summarized in a general résumé and in more detail by considering the Red Sea in three parts, viz. the northern Red Sea (north of 25°N), the central Red Sea (17° to 25°N) and southern Red Sea (south of 17°N). Structural differences from north to south are noted. Finally, a summary is given for the evolution of the Red Sea taking into account geophysical and geological data for the whole Afro-Arabian region.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allan, T.D.: A preliminary magnetic survey in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Boll. di Geof. Teorica ed Applicata, 6, 199 (1964).Google Scholar
  2. Allan, T.D., H. Charnock, and C. Morelli: Magnetic, gravity and depth surveys in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Nature, 204, 1245 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan, T.D. and M. Pisani: Gravity and magnetic measurements in the Red Sea (summary only). The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 62 (1966).Google Scholar
  4. Beadnell, H.J.L.: Central Sinai. Geogr. J. 67, 387 (1926).Google Scholar
  5. Birch, F.S. and A.J. Halunen: Heat-flow measurements in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea. J. Geophys. Res. 71, 583 (1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Briden, J.C.: Recurrent continental drift of Gondwanaland. Nature, 215, 1334 (1967a).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Briden, J.C.: A new palaeomagnetic result from the Lower Cretaceous of East-Central Africa. Geophys. J. Roy. Astron. Soc. 12, 375 (1967b).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Briden, J.C.: Palaeomagnetism of the Ntonya Ring Structure, Malawi. J. Geophys. Res. 73, 725 (1968).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brock, A.: Palaeomagnetic results from the Hook Intrusives of Zambia. Nature, 16, 359 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brock, A.: Palaeomagnetism of the Nuanetsi Igneous Province and its bearing upon the sequence of Karroo Igneous activity in Southern Africa. J. Geophys. Res. 73, 1389 (1968).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Sitter, L.U.: Structural development of the Arabian Shield in Palestine. Geol. en Mijnbouw, 41, 116 (1962).Google Scholar
  12. Discovery Cruise 16 Report Jan.–May 1967. National Inst. Oceanography Cruise Report Series: CR16 (1968).Google Scholar
  13. Drake, C.L. and R.W. Girdler: A geophysical study of the Red Sea. Geophys. J. Roy. Astron. Soc., 8, 473 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dubertret, L.: Les formes structurales de la Syrie et de la Palestine; leur origine. C.R. Acad. Sci. Colon., 195, 66 (1932).Google Scholar
  15. Dubertret, L.: Remarques sur le fosse de la Mer Morte et ses prolongements an Nord jusqu’an Taurus. Rev. de Géogr. Phys. et de Géol. Dyn., 9, 3 (1967).Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, Sir Ronald: Dispersion on a sphere. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond., A 217, 295 (1953).Google Scholar
  17. Freund, R.: A model of the structural development of Israel and adjacent areas since Upper Cretaceous times. Geol. Mag. 102, 189 (1965).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gass, I.G., D.I.J. Mallick, and K.G. Cox: Royal Society Volcanological Expedition to the South Arabian Federation and the Red Sea. Nature, 205, 952 (1965).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Geological Society of London: The Phanerozoic Time-scale-A Symposium dedicated to Professor Arthur Holmes (1964).Google Scholar
  20. Girdler, R.W.: The relationship of the Red Sea to the East African Rift System. Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 114, 79 (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Girdler, R.W.: The role of translational and rotational movements in the formation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 65 (1966).Google Scholar
  22. Girdler, R.W. and J.C. Harrison: Submarine gravity measurements in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Proc. Roy. Soc. A 239, 202 (1957).Google Scholar
  23. Girdler, R.W. and G. Peter: An example of the importance of natural remanent magnetization in the interpretation of magnetic anomalies. Geophys. Prosp. 8, 474 (1960).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gough, D.I. and A. Brock: The Palaeomagnetism of the Shawa Ijolite. J. Geophys. Res. 69, 2489 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gough, D.I. and N.D. Opdyke: The palaeomagnetism of the Lupata Alkaline Volcanics. Geophys. J. Roy. Astron. Soc. 7, 457 (1963).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gough, D.I., A. Brock, D.L. Jones, and N.D. Opdyke: The palaeomagnetism of the Ring Complexes at Marangudzi and the Mateke Hills. J. Geophys. Res. 69, 2499 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Graham, K.W.T. and A.L. Hales: Palaeomagnetic measurements on Karroo dolerites. Adv. Phys. 6, 149 (1957).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Graham, K.W.T. and A.L. Hales: Preliminary palaeomagnetic measurements on Silurian Sediments from S. Africa. Geophys. J. Roy. Astron. Soc. 5, 318 (1961).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grasty, R.L. Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of London (1965) quoted by Raja et al. (1966).Google Scholar
  30. Grommé, C.S. and R.L. Hay: Magnetization of basalt of Bed 1, Olduvai Gorge, Tanganyika. Nature, 200, 560 (1963).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grommé, C.S. and R.L. Hay: Geomagnetic polarity epochs: new data from Olduvai Gorge, Tanganyika. Earth & Plan. Sci. Letters, 2, 111 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gutenberg, B. and C.F. Richter: Seismicity of the Earth. Princeton University Press (1954).Google Scholar
  33. Hecker, O.: Bestimmung der Schwerkraft auf dem Schwarzen Meere und an dessen Küste sowie neue Ausgleichung der Schwerkraftmessungen auf dem Atlantischen, Indischen und Grossen Ozean. Veröffentl. des Zentralbureaus der Internat. Erdmessung, Neue Folge, 17 (No. 20) Berlin (1910).Google Scholar
  34. Heirtzler, J.R. and X. Le Pichon: Magnetic anomalies over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. J. Geophys. Res., 70, 4013 (1965).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Heiskanen, W.A. and F.A. Vening Meinesz: The earth and its gravity field, Part 10D, McGraw-Hill, 389 (1958).Google Scholar
  36. Herzen, R.P. von: Geothermal Heatflow in the Gulfs of California and Aden. Science 140, 1207 (1963).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heybroek, F.: The Red Sea Miocene Evaporite Basin. Salt Basins around Africa. Inst. of Petr. Lond. (1965).Google Scholar
  38. Holmes, Arthur: Principles of Physical Geology. Nelson, London (1965).Google Scholar
  39. Holwerda, J.G. and R.W. Hutchinson: Potash-Bearing Evaporites in the Danakil Area, Ethiopia. Econ. Geol. 63, 124 (1968).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hydrographie Office Chart C.6359: Red Sea Bathymétrie Chart Compiled by N.A.T.O. Research Centre, La Spezia, Scale 1:2,300,000 (at Lat. 21°). Mercator Projection (1965).Google Scholar
  41. Irving, E. and D.H. Tarling: The Palaeomagnetism of the Aden Volcanics. J. Geophys. Res. 66, 549 (1961).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knopoff, L. and J.C. Belshé: Gravity Observations of the Dead Sea Rift. The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 5 (1966).Google Scholar
  43. Knott, S.T., Elizabeth T. Bunce, and R.L. Chase: Red Sea Seismic Reflection. The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 33 (1966).Google Scholar
  44. Lamare, P.: Les Manifestations Volcaniques post-Crétacées de la Mer Rouge et des Pays Limitrophes. Mém. Géol. Soc. France New Series 14, 21 (1930a).Google Scholar
  45. Lamare, P.: Nature et Extension des Dépôts Secondaires dans l’Arabie, l’Ethiopie et les Pays Somalis. Mém. Géol. Soc. France New Series, 14, 49 (1930b).Google Scholar
  46. Lamare, P.: Observations relatives à la structure des pays limitrophes de la Mer Rouge et du Golfe d’Aden. Compt. Rend. Somm. Séances Soc. Géol. de France, 72 (1930c).Google Scholar
  47. Langseth, M.G. and P.T. Taylor: Recent heat-flow measurements in the Indian Ocean. J. Geophys. Res. 72, 6249 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lartet, L.: La Géologie de la Palestine. Ann. Sci. Géol., 1, 1, 1 (1869).Google Scholar
  49. Laughton, A.S.: The Gulf of Aden. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. A 259, 150 (1966a).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Laughton, A.S.: The Gulf of Aden, in relation to the Red Sea and the Afar Depression of Ethiopia. The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 78 (1966b).Google Scholar
  51. McElhinny, M.W. and D.L. Jones: Palaeomagnetic measurements on some Karroo Dolerites from Rhodesia. Nature, 206, 921 (1965).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McElhinny, M.W. and N.D. Opdyke: Palaeomagnetism of some Carboniferous glacial Varves from Central Africa. J. Geophys. Res. 73, 689 (1968).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. MacFadyen, W.A.: The Geology of the Farsan Islands, Gizan and Kamaran Island, Red Sea. Geol. Mag. 67, 310 (1931).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. MacFadyen, W.A.: On the Volcanic Zebayir Islands, Red Sea. Geol. Mag. 69, 63 (1932).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. MacFadyen, W.A.: Geology of British Somaliland. Gov. of Somali Protectorate, 87 p (1933).Google Scholar
  56. Masson, P.A.A.H. and F.J. Agnich: Seismic survey of Sinai and the Gulf of Suez. Geophysics, 23, 329 (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mitchell, R. C: Fault patterns of Northwestern Hegaz. Saudi Arabia. Eclogae Geol. Helvétiae, 50, 257 (1957).Google Scholar
  58. Mohr, P.A.: The Geology of Ethiopia. Univ. Coll. Addis Ababa. Press, 268 p (1962).Google Scholar
  59. Mohr, P.A.: Major volcano-tectonic lineament in the Ethiopian Rift System. Nature, 213, 664 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Montanaro-Gallitelli, E.: Foraminiferi, posizione stratigrafica e facies di un calcare a “Orperculina” dei Colli di Ebud (Sahel Eritreo). Palaeontogr. Ital., 40, 67 (1941).Google Scholar
  61. Mussett, A.E., T.A. Reilly, and P.K.S. Raja: Palaeomagnetism in East Africa. Proc. E. Afr. Acad., 2, 27 (1964).Google Scholar
  62. Nafe, J.E., J.F. Hennion, and G. Peter: Geophysical measurements in the Gulf of Aden. Preprints Int. Ocean. Congr. New York, 42 (1959).Google Scholar
  63. Nairn, A.E.M.: A palaeomagnetic survey of the Karroo System. Overseas Geol. & Min. Res., 7, 398 (1960).Google Scholar
  64. Nairn, A.E.M.: Palaeomagnetic measurements on Karroo and Post-Karroo Rocks; Second Progress Report. Overseas Geol. and Min. Res., 9, 302 (1964).Google Scholar
  65. Neev, D. and K.O. Emery: The Dead Sea: Depositional Processes and Environments of Evaporites. Israel Geol. Surv. Bull 41, 1 (1967).Google Scholar
  66. Opdyke, N.D.: The Palaeomagnetism of Some Triassic Red Beds from N. Rhodesia. J. Geophys. Res. 69, 2495 (1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Owen, L.: Origin of the Red Sea Depression. Bull. Amer. Assoc. Petr. Geol. 22, 1217 (1938).Google Scholar
  68. Picard, L.: Thoughts on the graben system in the Levant. The World Rift System. Geol. Surv. Canada Paper 66-14, 22 (1966).Google Scholar
  69. Plaumann, S.: Kontinuierliche Schweremessungen im Roten Meer mit einen Askania-Seagravimeter vom Typ Gas 2 nach GRAF. Zeit für Geophysik, 29, 233 (1963).Google Scholar
  70. Quennell, A.M.: The geology and mineral resources of (Former) Trans-Jordan. Col. Geol. & Min. Res., 2,85 (1951).Google Scholar
  71. Quennell, A.M.: The structural and geomorphic evolution of the Dead Sea Rift. Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lond., 114, 1 (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Raja, P.K.S., T.A. Reilly, and A.E. Mussett: The palaeomagnetism of the Turkana Lavas. J. Geophys. Res., 71, 1217(1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Raisin, C.A.: Perim Island and its relations to the area of the Red Sea. Geol. Mag. 9, 132 and 206 (1902).Google Scholar
  74. Richard, J.J. and M. Neumann van Padang: Catalogue of the active volcanoes of the world including Solfatara Fields; Part IV Africa and the Red Sea. I.A.V. (1957).Google Scholar
  75. Rothé, J.P.: La Zone séismique Médiane Indo-Atlantique. Proc. Roy. Soc. A 222, 387 (1954).Google Scholar
  76. Sclater, J.G.: Heat-flow in the North West Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. A 259, 271 (1966).Google Scholar
  77. Shalem, N.: The Red Sea and the Erythrean Disturbances. Congr. Géol. Int. Algér 1952, Section XV. La Palaeovolcanologie et ses Rapports avec la Tectonique, 17, 223 (1954).Google Scholar
  78. Swartz, D.H. and D.D. Arden: Geologic history of the Red Sea Area. Bull. Amer. Assoc. Petr. Geol., 44, 1621 (1960).Google Scholar
  79. Sykes, L.R. and M. Landisman: The seismicity of East Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian and Red Seas. Bull. Seism. Soc. Amer., 54, 1927 (1964).Google Scholar
  80. Tarling, D.H., M. Sanver, and A.M.J. Hutchings: Further palaeomagnetic results from the Federation of South Arabia. Earth & Plan. Sci. Letters, 2, 148 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Taylor, M.H.: Geologic structures in the Ethiopian Region of East Africa. Trans. New York Acad. Sci. Ser. 11, 14, 220 (1952).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Triulzi, A.E. von: Expedition S.M. Schiff POLA in das Rote Meer, nördliche Hälfte. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse 11. Relative Schwerebestimmungen. Denkschr. K. Akad. Wiss. Math-Nat. Classe, 65, 131 (1898).Google Scholar
  83. Triulzi, A.E. von: Expedition S.M. Schiff POLA in das Rote Meer, südliche Hälfte. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse XII. Relative Schwerebestimmung. Denkschr. K. Akad. Wiss. Math-Nat. Classe, 69, 143 (1901).Google Scholar
  84. Tromp, S.W.: Blockfaulting phenomena in the Middle East. Geol. en Mijn. New Ser. 2, 273 (1949).Google Scholar
  85. Tromp, S.W.: The age and origin of the Red Sea Graben. Geol. Mag. 87, 385 (1950).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Van Zijl, J.S.V., K.W.T. Graham, and A.L. Hales: The palaeomagnetism of the Stormberg Lavas 11. Geophys. J. Roy. Astron. Soc, 7, 169 (1962).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Vening Meinesz, F.A.: Gravity expeditions at sea II, 1923–1932. Delft (1934).Google Scholar
  88. Vening Meinesz, F.A.: Les Graben Africains, résultat de compression ou de tension dans la croûte terrestre. Bull. des Séances Inst. Roy. Colon. Bélge., 21, 539 (1950).Google Scholar
  89. Vine, F.: Spreading of the ocean floor: new evidence. Science, 154, 1405 (1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wegener, A.: “Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane.” English Translations of 3rd (1922) and 4th (1929) Editions, Methuen, Lond. (1924 and 1967).Google Scholar
  91. Wellings, F.E.: Observations of Dead Sea Structure. Bull. Geol. Soc. Amer. 49, 659 (1938).Google Scholar
  92. Wetzel, R. and D.M. Morton: Contribution a la Géologie de la Transjordanie. Notes et Mém. sur le Moyen-Orient, 7, 95 (1959).Google Scholar
  93. Zak, I. and R. Freund: Recent strike slip Movements along the Dead Sea Rift. Israel J. Earth-Sciences, 15, 33 (1966).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Girdler
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PhysicsUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations