Widespread Antarctic glaciation during the Late Eocene
Marine sedimentary rocks drilled on the southeastern margin of the South Orkney microcontinent in Antarctica (Ocean Drilling Program Leg 113 Site 696) were deposited between ∼36.5 Ma to 33.6 Ma, across the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition. The recovered rocks contain abundant grains exhibiting mechanical features diagnostic of iceberg-rafted debris. Sand provenance based on a multi-proxy approach that included petrographic analysis of over 275,000 grains, detrital zircon geochronology and apatite thermochronometry rule out local sources (Antarctic Peninsula or the South Orkney Islands) for the material. Instead the ice-transported grains show a clear provenance from the southern Weddell Sea region, extending from the Ellsworth–Whitmore Mountains of West Antarctica to the coastal region of Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica. This study provides the first evidence for a continuity of widespread glacier calving along the coastline of the southern Weddell Sea embayment at least 2.5 million yrs before the prominent oxygen isotope event at 34–33.5 Ma that is considered to mark the onset of widespread glaciation of the Antarctic continent.
Authors: Carter, Andrew, Riley, Teal R., Hillenbrand, Claus-Dieter, Rittner, Martin