Luyendyk et al Colbeck Ross Sea
Structural and tectonic evolution of the Ross Sea rift in the Cape Colbeck region, eastern Ross Sea, Antarctica

Bruce P. Luyendyk, Christopher C. Sorlien, Douglas S. Wilson, Louis R. Bartek and Christine S. Siddoway

Tectonics v. 20 p. xxx-xxx

Abstract The far eastern continental shelf of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, has been relatively unexplored up to now. This region and western Marie Byrd Land are at the eastern limit of the Ross Sea rift, part of the West Antarctic rift system, one of the larger regions of extended crust in the world. The Ross Sea continental shelf west of Cape Colbeck and the Edward VII Peninsula in western Marie Byrd Land was investigated using marine geophysics during cruise 9601 of the research vessel ice breaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. The purpose was to determine the structural framework and tectonic history of the eastern border of the Ross Sea rift and to integrate this with what is known about western Marie Byrd Land. The region mapped is characterized by a passive margin with a flat overdeepened shelf cut by the north trending Colbeck Trough, an erosional feature formed in Miocene and later time by glacial downcutting that followed the locations of existing basement structures. Seismic sequences and unconformities identified in the Ross Sea were correlated into the Colbeck shelf area. The section comprises mostly undeformed glacial marine sequences of late Oligocene and younger age that are unconformably overlying late Early to Late Cretaceous and minor early Tertiary (?) faulted sequences. This unconformity is identified as RSU6, mapped elsewhere in the eastern Ross Sea. Two units are found below RSU6, each separated by an unconformity that is here named RSU7. These sequences fill north trending half grabens in the faulted basement and are interpreted as syn rift units. Unconformity RSU7 is correlated to the West Antarctic Erosion Surface mapped onshore in western Marie Byrd Land. The lack of thick early Tertiary sediments on the shelf suggests significant vertical tectonics. This onshore and offshore region was widely faulted in late Early and Late Cretaceous time, was high above sea level and was beveled by prolonged erosion, while subsiding steadily in Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic time. Subsidence was largely due to lithosphere cooling amplified later by glacial and sediment loading in Cenozoic time. Mylonites that have late Early Cretaceous cooling ages were dredged from the southeast wall of the Colbeck Trough. This finding and normal faults that we mapped in the eastern Ross Sea we attribute to detachment-style extension in late Early Cretaceous time. This extension was directed subparallel to the trend of the present margin edge and occurred prior to the rifting of Campbell Plateau from Marie Byrd Land at ~79 Ma. Cooling events onshore western Marie Byrd Land suggest the main extension began at ~105 Ma. This is also the time of transition from subduction to extension elsewhere along the ancient Gondwana margin. Minor west tilting of the shelf during the late Cenozoic was the result of continued subsidence of the continental shelf along with possible uplift of western Marie Byrd Land associated with the Marie Byrd Land dome to the east. Early Tertiary extension in the western Ross Sea rift is not strongly reflected in the east side of the rift. A more robust correlation of the events here with the better known tectonic history on the west side of the Ross Sea rift awaits sampling and dating of the units we mapped on the Colbeck shelf.