The Transantarctic Mountains of southern Victoria Land: The application of apatite fission track analysis to a rift shoulder uplift

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A fission track study of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM) in the Granite Harbour and Wilson Piedmont Glacier areas of southern Victoria Land reveals information on the timing of uplift, the amount of uplift and erosion, and the structure of the mountains, especially the onshore Transantarctic Mountain Front (TAM Front), which represents the boundary between East and West Antarctica. Apatite ages are < 175 Ma and represent a thermal regime established after heating accompanying Jurassic magmatism. An apatite age profile from Mount England records a break in slope indicating uplift began at ∼55 Ma. Horizontal sampling traverses, plus fieldwork, delineate the structure of the TAM Front as a zone of north‐south striking, steeply dipping normal faults, with displacements, dominantly down to the east, of 40–1000 m. The overall structure of the mountains in the area studied can be envisaged as a large tilt block or flexure. Its westerly limb dips gently under the ice cap, compared to its faulted eastern edge, the TAM Front. The bounding structure to the south is the Ferrar fault and to the north is a graben through which the Mackay Glacier drains the polar plateau. The edge of the flexure, or axis of maximum uplift, lies at Mount Termination, ∼30 km west of the McMurdo Sound coast. There has been ∼6 km of uplift since the early Cenozoic and 4.5–5 km of erosion along this axis. The amount of uplift decreases to the west at the same rate as the decrease in dip of the Kukri Peneplain, but the amount of erosion decreases more quickly as indicated by the increasing height of the mountains to the west. The axis of maximum uplift is traced north to Granite Harbour. The axis does not parallel the coast but has a more northerly trend. North‐south striking longitudinal faults that delineate the structure of the TAM Front lie at an acute angle to the axis, indicating a dextral component to the dominantly east‐west extension in the Ross Embayment. Architecture of the TAM typifies the features of an upper plate passive mountain range, whereas the Ross Embayment has the characteristics of a lower plate. The TAM Front represents an upper plate breakaway zone. Transfer faults may exist up major outlet glaciers that cut the TAM. The inflection point in the coastline at the southern end of McMurdo Sound may be due to the presence of a major transfer fault up or near the Skelton Glacier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-662
Number of pages29
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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