Fission track analysis of apatites from basement rocks of the Wright Valley in southern Victoria Land provides information about the timing, the amount and hence the rate of uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains in this area. Apatite ages increase systematically with elevation, and a pronounced break in the age versus elevation profile has been recognised at about 800 m on Mt. Doorly near the mouth of Wright Valley. The apatite age of about 50 Ma at this point approximates the time at which uplift of the mountain range began. Samples lying above the break in slope lay within the apatite fission track annealing zone prior to uplift, during a Cretaceous to Early Cenozoic period of relative thermal and tectonic stability. At the lower elevations samples had a zero apatite fission track age before the onset of rapid uplift and have track length distributions indicating rapid cooling. Some 4.8-5.3 km of uplift are estimated to have occurred at an average rate of about 100 ± 5 m/Ma since uplift began. From the total stratigraphic thickness known above the uplifted apatite annealing zone it can be estimated that the Late Cretaceous/Early Cenozoic thermal gradient in the area was about 25-30°C/km. The occurrence and pattern of differential uplift across the Transantarctic Mountains can be estimated from the vertical offsets of different apatite fission track age profiles sampled across the range. These show the structure of the mountain range to be that of a large tilt block, dipping gently to the west under the polar ice-cap and bounded by a major fault zone on its eastern side. Offset dolerite sills at Mt. Doorly show the mountain front to be step-faulted by 1000 m or more down to the McMurdo Sound coast from an axis of maximum uplift just inland from Mt. Doorly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science