Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 260:1–2 (April 7, 2008), pp. 8–29; doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2007.08.016 Copyright © 2008 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Integration of data from fully cored stratigraphic holes with an extensive grid of seismic reflection lines in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, has allowed the formulation of a new model for the evolution of the Cenozoic Victoria Land Basin of the West Antarctic Rift. The Early Rift phase (Eocene to Early Oligocene) is recorded by wedges of strata confined by early extensional faults, and which contain seismic facies consistent with drainage via coarse-grained fans and deltas into discrete, actively subsiding grabens and half-grabens. The Main Rift phase (Early Oligocene to Early Miocene) is represented by a lens of strata that thickens symmetrically from the basin margins into a central depocenter, and in which stratal events pass continuously over the top of the Early Rift extensional topography. Internal seismic facies and lithofacies indicate a more organized, cyclical shallow marine succession, influenced increasingly upward by cycles of glacial advance and retreat into the basin. The Passive Thermal Subsidence phase (Early Middle Miocene) is recorded by an evenly distributed sheet of strata that thickens somewhat into the depocenter but is continuous across and over the earlier rift strata to the margins of the basin. Internally, it contains similar facies to the underlying Main Rift, but preserves more evidence for clinoform sets and large channels, and in core comprises many short, condensed and strongly top-truncated stratal cycles with continued, periodic glacial influence. These patterns are interpreted to record accumulation under similar environmental conditions but in a regime of slower subsidence. The Renewed Rifting phase (Middle Miocene to Recent, largely unsampled by coring thus far) is represented by intervals that thicken significantly into the basin depocenter and that are complicated by evidence of magmatic activity (Mc- Murdo Volcanic Group). This succession is further divided into lower and upper intervals, separated by a major unconformity that displays increasing angular discordance towards the western basin margin and Transantarctic Mountain Front. The youngest part of the stratigraphy was accumulated under the influence of flexural loading imposed by the construction of large volcanic edifices, and was formed in an environment in which little sediment was supplied from the western basin margin, suggesting a change in environmental (glacial) conditions at possibly c. 2 Ma. The Cenozoic stratigraphy of the southern Victoria Land Basin preserves archives of both climate change and the complex rift history of the basin, and coincidences between key stratal surfaces in seismic data and evidence for environmental change in drillcores suggest that tectonic and climatic drivers may be causally linked.