Tectonic Evolution of West Antarctica and Its Relation to East Antarctica
Ian W. D. Dalziel
West Antarctica consists of five major blocks of continental crust separated by deep sub-ice basins. Marie Byrd Land appears to have been rifted off the adjacent margin of the East Antarctic craton along the line of the Transantarctic Mountains during the Mesozoic. Ellsworth-Whitmore mountains and Haag Nunataks blocks were also rifted from the margin of the craton. They appear to have moved together with the Antarctic Peninsula and Thurston Island blocks, segments of a Pacific margin Mesozoic-Cenozoic magmatic arc, during the Mesozoic opening of the Weddell Sea basin. Paleomagnetic data suggest that all four of these blocks remained attached to western Gondwanaland (South America-Africa) until approximately 125 m.y. ago, and that the present geographic configuration of th Antarctic continent was essentially complete by the mid-Cretaceous, although important Cenozoic rifting has also occurred.
Fragmentation of the Gondwanaland supercontinent was preceded in the Middle to Late Jurassic by an important and widespread thermal event of uncertain origin that resulted in the emplacement of an extensive bimodal igneous suite in South America, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia. This was associated with the development of the composite back-arc basin along the western margin of South America. Inversion of this basin in the mid-Cretaceous initiated Andean orogenesis.
The presentation will include new data from the joint U.S.-U.K. West Antarctic Tectonics Project.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91038©1987 AAPG Annual Convention, Los Angeles, California, June 7-10, 1987.