Tectonic evolution of the Pacific margin of Antarctica. 1. Late Cretaceous tectonic reconstructions

We present new Late Cretaceous tectonic reconstructions of the Pacific margin of Antarctica based on constraints from marine magnetic data and regional free-air gravity fields. Results from interpretation of new seismic reflection and gravity profiles collected in the Bellingshausen Sea are also incorporated in the reconstructions. The reconstructions show regional constraints on tectonic evolution of the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas following the breakup between New Zealand and West Antarctica. The breakup began at c. 90 Ma with the separation of Chatham Rise, probably accompanied by the opening of the Bounty Trough. Campbell Plateau separated from West Antarctica later, during chron 33r (83.0-79.1 Ma). A free-air gravity lineation northeast of Chatham Rise represents the trace of a triple junction that formed as a result of fragmentation of the Phoenix plate a few million years before Chatham Rise separated from West Antarctica. Remnants of the western fragment, the Charcot plate, are preserved in the Bellingshausen Sea. Subduction of the Charcot plate stopped before 83 Ma, and part of it became coupled to the Antarctic Peninsula across the stalled subduction zone. Subsequent convergence at the western margin of this captured ocean floor produced the structures that are the main cause of the Bellingshausen gravity anomaly. Part of a spreading ridge at the western boundary of the Phoenix plate (initially Charcot-Phoenix, evolving into Marie Byrd Land-Phoenix, and eventually Bellingshausen-Phoenix (BEL-PHO)) probably subducted obliquely beneath the southern Antarctic Peninsula during the Late Cretaceous. All of the Phoenix plate ocean floor subducted at the Antarctic Peninsula margin during the Late Cretaceous was probably <14 Myr old when it reached the trench. Several observations suggest that independent Bellingshausen plate motion began near the end of chron 33n (73.6 Ma). Reconstructions in which part of the West Antarctic continental margin, including Thurston Island, is assumed to have been within the Bellingshausen plate seem more plausible than ones in which the plate is assumed to have been entirely oceanic.


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Authors: Larter, Robert D. ORCIDORCID record for Robert D. Larter, Cunningham, Alex P., Barker, Peter F., Gohl, Karsten, Nitsche, Frank O.

On this site: Robert Larter
1 January, 2002
Journal of Geophysical Research / 107
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