Tectonic evolution of the Pacific margin of Antarctica 2. Structure of Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary plate boundaries in the Bellingshausen Sea from seismic reflection and gravity data

Interpretations of multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection and potential field data suggest that some prominent gravity anomalies in the Bellingshausen Sea are associated with plate boundaries that were active during the Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary. Between 83degrees and 93degreesW, a belt of negative anomalies extends along the West Antarctic continental slope, which we term the continental slope gravity anomaly (CSGA). MCS profiles show that the CSGA coincides with an acoustically opaque structural high imaged beneath the lower slope. We interpret this structure as the upper part of an accretionary prism which formed during southward subduction of the Phoenix and Charcot plates, before Chatham Rise separated from West Antarctica. MCS profiles crossing the same margin to the northeast show no evidence of an extensive buried accretionary prism, but instead reveal an abrupt northeastward steepening of the continental slope near 78degreesW. We attribute this change in tectonic style, at least in part, to subduction erosion resulting from subduction of rough oceanic basement which formed at the Antarctic-Phoenix ridge after an abrupt decrease in spreading rate at chron 23r (52 Ma). Near 95degreesW, the Bellingshausen gravity anomaly (BGA) consists of a prominent low-high gravity couple which crosses the West Antarctic continental shelf, slope, and rise. The BGA corresponds to a buried asymmetric basement trough, where Cretaceous oceanic basement dips beneath more elevated basement to the east. The trough probably formed after subduction of Charcot plate ocean floor stalled at the nearby Antarctic Peninsula margin, near the end of the Cretaceous Normal Superchron. Ocean floor to the east of the BGA became attached to the Antarctic Peninsula, and the BGA trough subsequently accommodated a small amount of convergent motion between the Antarctic Peninsula and the ocean floor to the west (initially part of the Marie Byrd Land plate and later part of the Bellingshausen plate). Tectonism probably ceased at the BGAat chron 27 (61 Ma), as a result of a general plate reorganization in the South Pacific.


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Authors: Cunningham, Alex P., Larter, Robert D. ORCIDORCID record for Robert D. Larter, 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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