Review of my work submitted to gsl for sp 328. Its recommendation to reject was accepted. Six recommendations to accept were ignored

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The following is the one, negative review of my work submitted to GSL for SP 328. Its recommendation to reject was accepted. Six recommendations to accept were ignored.
My responses to Prof. Burkes criticisms are in bold letters.

Geological Society, London, Special Publications


Titles: (1) In-situ Caribbean: interpretation of data, implications and suggested tests

(2) In-situ Caribbean – discussion of data

Referee's name: Kevin Burke


D: Not acceptable


If you wish to make specific comments on the manuscript, please do so in pencil.


  1. Do the papers represent a significant advance in theory or knowledge? No

  2. Are the interpretations and conclusions sound and justified by the evidence? No

  1. To your knowledge, has any of the material been published previously? Yes

4. Is the subject of international rather than of parochial interest? Not applicable

  1. Does the paper contain any expression liable to give offence?

Presentations :

This section is irrelevant because the bad basic science overwhelms these considerations
1. Are the titles and summaries informative and relevant? Not applicable

2. Are the texts clear and well written? Not applicable

  1. Could the texts be shortened with advantage Not applicable

4. Could complex tables or detailed data be included in the online data repository

and replaced by summaries? Not applicable
Figures and tables

  1. Are the illustrations clear, well presented and suitable for reproduction? Not at all clear: for example

one map (Fig.4 in paper 1) shows Cuba, the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico on a “Pangean reconstruction” although none of them existed during the time that Pangea was extant.

These elements are shown for reader orientation. Certainly, they did not exist in their present form. Data, however, suggest that their foundations were present. This is explained in the text.

  1. Are all the figures relevant and essential? No

  1. Are any large folded figures necessary in their present form? No

Please write detailed comments for the authors on a separate sheet.HERE ARE MY COMMENTS:

The crux of the author’s argument for an in situ origin of the Caribbean is that there is no ocean floor in the Caribbean. But because the average water depth in the Caribbean is ca.4.5 km it is certainly underlain by ocean floor.

The crux of my argument is that all available data converge to suggest that the geology of Middle America reflects continental extension, continuing the geology known along the eastern seaboard of N America and related to the Gulf of Mexico.

I am sorry that Prof Burke can recognize no more important data than water depth to determine crustal type. Water depth in the Caribbean ranges from zero to over 5,000 metres - hardly a reliable tool for deciding whether crust is oceanic, continental or extended continental. Data such as crustal thickness, gravity, chemistry, seismic structure and velocities, presence of ancient zircons that predate “ocean” spreading, tectonic fabric and regional geology are far more important. Moreover, shallow marine carbonates now at great depths show that considerable foundering has occurred.
Nowhere on the earth does stretched continent extend below ca.3 km below sea level. How can Prof Burke justify this statement? He should be aware that as hydrocarbon exploration, the most potent data gatherer, steps out into deeper and deeper water, more and more examples of hydrocarbon systems related to continental breakup and extension are being discovered. That is why the latest drilling ships are rated close to 4,000 metre water depth capacity. In addition, literature references several places in the “oceans” where there is evidence of continental crust. He might like to study, for example, AGU Monograph 77 on the Pacific Ocean.
I am all for giving heterodox authors the opportunity to make their case but, as the references show, this author has had ample opportunity already.
It is the Society’s policy normally to give referees’ names to authors—let us know if you wish to remain anonymous

My Name is Kevin Burke

Confidential comments for Editor, suggesting how, if necessary, the paper should be revised (please continue overleaf or an additional sheet if required).
This paper rejects all kinds of familiar and well-documented properties of the region it discusses while treating the Caribbean in a totally cavalier way and selectively reporting some valid, although not new, information. The author has used several previous papers to make the same points. I have pointed out that his idea is precluded by the water depth. I expect that he will get back to you with an explanation of how he can accommodate that observation but I do not think that a revised version could ever be acceptable because that is such a strange idea.

Far from treating the Caribbean in a “totally cavalier” way, I have tried my best to assemble data that together suggest a different interpretation of Middle American geology. I do not reject all kinds of familiar and well-documented properties (geology?); I discuss data and their implications. Prof Burke is most welcome to let me know what I have (selectively) left out.
Perhaps I owe you a bit more information. (1) The Caribbean Large Igneous Province was erupted, as LIPs of the past 300 My have been, vertically above the edge of the Pacific Large Low Shear Wave Velocity Province( see the present site of the Galapagos over that edge today) References are Torsvik et al. G.J.Intl.2006, Burke et al, EPSL 2008. We have not used CARIB to rotate because of an unknown amount of plate convergence at the Central American subduction zone. We have a new way of doing that (Torsvik et al EPSL in press) but have not yet published on CARIB.
I hope Prof Burke is aware that the origin of LIPS is much discussed and that fragments of continental crust have been found in “oceanic” LIP magmas. Stating his own understanding of the Caribbean so-called LIP does not invalidate the data summarized in my paper.
(2) Two ETH Ph.D students working in Ecuador Lusieux (?) and Villejo have in EPSL ( 2005 +/-2) generated good new information on the CARIB LIP including the first zircon U/Pb age ( ca.90Ma). They have also documented the time at which the LIP and the bounding arc on its east flank “The Great Arc of the Caribbean” were in collision with South America in Ecuador (ca.70 Ma).

It is presumptuous to state that Ecuador has anything to do with the Caribbean. There are indeed age equivalent arc rocks there. Arc activity occurred along most of western S America since at least the Lias. There are age equivalent arc rocks in Mexico and California also. None of these is part of a Caribbean arc.

It is not that there is “controversy” between Jim Pindell and Keith James. Keith James is just out of touch with modern geology. There is plenty that Jim does with which I disagree but James is so far out of touch that he would not be able to spot Jim’s weaknesses.

I have purchased ten texts this year alone to keep myself in touch with modern geology. I spend large amounts of time in my university library. I read at least one geological article per day. I am a member of AAPG, AGGEP, AGU, GSA and GSL (CGEOL). My paper lists references as recent as 2008. My database on the Caribbean contains more than 5,000 personally précised articles. My last employment was as Chief Geoscientist of the Conoco, Houston, international exploration team. Before that I was a global Geological Advisor with Shell International, The Hague.
As for Jim’s weaknesses, to which Prof Burke is privy but I am not, I note that Jim Pindell does little to address arguments I have carefully documented and discussed in past publications. I am not aware that Prof Burke has made any attempt to address them either. Both Jim Pindell and Prof Burke should heed the editors’ introduction to Geologica Acta, 2006, vol. 4, p. 2 –

In the second group of papers pro and con arguments of an autochthonous versus allochthonous model of the Caribbean tectonic plate are discussed by Giunta and Beccaluva, Pindell et al., and James. The last author criticizes, in great detail, most of the basic tenet (sic) of the allochthonous model. Even if one does not agree with his in situ tectonic concept, we strongly recommend that this paper be read with care because it introduces many important questions.”
Discussion of published questions would be constructive. Silence is evasive. Prof Burke would do better to refrain from insult and instead join scientific debate. Unfortunately, his review shows that he is unwilling, or unable, to contribute more than a few incorrect generalizations.

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