Cenozoic glacial record of the Prydz Bay continental shelf, East Antarctica

hannes.grobe [ at ] awi.de


Drilling was undertaken at five sites (739-743) on ODP Leg 119 on a transect across the continental shelf of Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, to elucidate the long-term glacial history of the area and to examine the importance of the area with respect to the development of the East Antarctic ice sheet as a whole. In addition to providing a record of glaciation spanning 36 m.y. or more, Leg 119 has provided information concerning the development of a continental margin under the prolonged influence of a major ice sheet. This has allowed the development of a sedimentary model that may be applicable not only to other parts of the Antarctic continental margin, but also to northern high-latitude continental shelves.The cored glacial sedimentary record in Prydz Bay consists of three major sequences, dominated by diamictite:1. An upper flat-lying sequence that ranges in thickness from a few meters in inner and western Prydz Bay to nearly 250 m in the outer or eastern parts of the bay. The uppermost few meters consist of Holocene diatom ooze and diatomaceous mud with a minor ice-rafted component overlying diamicton and diamictite of late Miocene to Quaternary age. The diamictite is mainly massive, but stratified varieties and minor mudstone and diatomite also occur.2. An upper prograding sequence cored at Sites 739 and 743, unconformly below the flat-lying sequence. This consists of a relatively steep (4° inclination) prograding wedge with a number of discrete sedimentary packages. At Sites 739 and 743 the sequence is dominated by massive and stratified diamictite, some of which shows evidence of slumping and minor debris flowage.3. A lower, more gently inclined, prograding sequence lies unconformably below the flat-lying sequence at Site 742 and the upper prograding sequence at Site 739. This extends to the base of both sites, to 316 and 487 mbsf, respectively.It is dominated by massive, relatively clast-poor diamictite which is kaolinite-rich, light in color, and contains sporadic carbonate-cemented layers. The lower part of Site 742 includes well-stratified diamictites and very poorly sorted mudstones. The base of this site has indications of large-scale soft-sediment deformation and probably represents proximity to the base of the glacial sequence.Facies analysis of the Prydz Bay glacial sequence indicates a range of depositional environments. Massive diamictite is interpreted largely as waterlain till, deposited close to the grounding line of a floating glacier margin, although basal till and debris flow facies are also present. Weakly stratified diamictite is interpreted as having formed close to or under the floating ice margin and influenced by the input of marine diatomaceous sediment (proximal glaciomarine setting).Well-stratified diamictite has a stronger marine input, being more diatom-rich, and probably represents a proximal-distal glaciomarine sediment with the glaciogenic component being supplied by icebergs. Other facies include a variety of mudstones and diatom-rich sediments of marine origin, in which an ice-rafted component is still significant. None of the recovered sediments are devoid of a glacial influence.The overall depositional setting of the prograding sequence is one in which the grounded ice margin is situated close to the shelf edge. Progradation was achieved primarily by deposition of waterlain till. The flat-lying sequence illustrates a complex sequence of advances and retreats across the outer part of the shelf, with intermittent phases of ice loading and erosion.The glacial chronology is based largely on diatom stratigraphy, which has limited resolution. It appears that ice reached the paleoshelf break by earliest Oligocene, suggesting full-scale development of the East Antarctic ice sheet by that time. The ice sheet probably dominated the continental margin for much of Oligocene to middle Miocene time. Retreat, but not total withdrawal of the ice sheet, took place in late Miocene to mid-Pliocene time. The late Pliocene to Pleistocene was characterized by further advances across, and progradation of, the continental shelf. Holocene time has been characterized by reduced glacial conditions and a limited influence of glacial processes on sedimentation.

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DOI 10.2973/odp.proc.sr.119.200.1991

Cite as
Hambrey, M. J. , Ehrmann, W. and Larsen, B. (1991): Cenozoic glacial record of the Prydz Bay continental shelf, East Antarctica , In: Barron, J; Larsen, B, et al. (eds.), Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, College Station, TX. (Ocean Drilling Program), 119, 77-132, 119 , pp. 77-132 . doi: 10.2973/odp.proc.sr.119.200.1991

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