Products and processes in Pliocene-Recent, subaqueous to emergent volcanism in the Antarctic Peninsula: examples of englacial Surtseyan volcano construction

Pliocene–Recent volcanic outcrops at Seal Nunataks and Beethoven Peninsula (Antarctic Peninsula) are remnants of several monogenetic volcanoes formed by eruption of vesiculating basaltic magma into shallow water, in an englacial environment. The diversity of sedimentary and volcanic lithofacies present in the Antarctic Peninsula outcrops provides a clear illustration of the wide range of eruptive, transportational and depositional processes which are associated with englacial Surtseyan volcanism. Early-formed pillow lava and glassy breccia, representing a pillow volcano stage of construction, are draped by tephra erupted explosively during a tuff cone stage. The tephra was resedimented around the volcano flanks, mainly by coarse-grained sediment gravity flows. Fine-grained lithofacies are rare, and fine material probably bypassed the main volcanic edifice, accumulating in the surrounding englacial basin. The pattern of sedimentation records variations in eruption dynamics. Products of continuous-uprush eruptions are thought to be represented by stacks of poorly bedded gravelly sandstone, whereas better bedded, lithologically more diverse sequences accumulated during periods of quiescence or effusive activity. Evidence for volcano flank failure is common. In Seal Nunataks, subaerial lithofacies (mainly lavas and cinder cone deposits) are volumetrically minor and occur at a similar stratigraphical position to pillow lava, suggesting that glacial lake drainage may have occurred prior to or during deposition of the subaerial lithofacies. By contrast, voluminous subaerial effusion in Beethoven Peninsula led to the development of laterally extensive stratified glassy breccias representing progradation of hyaloclastite deltas.


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Authors: Smellie, J.L., Hole, M.J.

1 July, 1997
Bulletin of Volcanology / 58
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