Continental shelves/Antarctic continental shelves

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Physiography shows the Antarctic continental shelf. Credit: D. Amblas and J. A. Dowdeswell.{{fairuse}}

The continental margin around Antarctica contains large ice shelves, coastal polynyas and the Antarctic continental shelves.[1]

Kerguelen Plateaus[edit]

Bathymetry shows the Kerguelen Plateau. Credit: Redgeographics.

The Kerguelen Plateau is an oceanic plateau and a large igneous province (LIP) located on the Antarctic Plate, in the southern Indian Ocean,[2] a microcontinent and submerged continent, about 3,000 km (1,900 mi) to the southwest of Australia nearly three times the size of Japan, that extends for more than 2,200 km (1,400 mi) in a northwest–southeast direction and lies in deep water.

One of the largest igneous provinces (LIPs) in the world, the Kerguelen Plateau covers an area of 1,250,000 km2 (480,000 sq mi) and rises 2,000 m (6,600 ft) above the surrounding oceanic basins.[3]

Located on the Antarctic Plate, the Kerguelen Plateau is separated from Australia by the Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR) and from Africa by the Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR), where these two ridges meet at the Rodrigues Triple Point or Rodriguez Triple Junction, from Antarctica by Princess Elizabeth Trough and the Cooperation Sea, the eastern margin north of the William Ridge is steep and formed during the breakup between the Kerguelen Plateau and the Broken Ridge, the southern part of the margin is separated from the Australian–Antarctic Basin by the deep Labuan Basin.[4]

From the initial opening of the Indian Ocean until present, the Kerguelen hotspot has produced several now widely dispersed large-scale structures. The Southern Kerguelen Plateau (SKP) formed 119–110 Ma; the Elan Bank 108–107 Ma, named by Dennis E. Hayes of Lamont Doherty Easth Observatory}; the Central Kerguelen Plateau (CKP) 101–100 Ma; the Broken Ridge (connected to CKP before the Eocene breakup) formed 95–94 Ma; the Skiff Bank (east of Kerguelen archipelago) 69–68 Ma; Northern Kerguelen Plateau (NKP) 35–34 Ma; Ninety East Ridge formed 82–38 Ma north to south; the Bunbury Basalt (western Australia) formed at 137-130.5 Ma [5]; the Naturaliste Plateau (offshore western Australia) formed 132-128 Ma [6]; the Rajmahal Traps in northeast India 118–117 Ma; and finally lamprophyres in India and Antarctica 115–114 Ma.[7]

The presence of soil layers in the basalt which included charcoal and conglomerate fragments of gneiss indicate that much of the plateau was above sea level as what is termed a microcontinent for three periods between 100 million years ago and 20 million years ago.[8] (The charcoal was made by wildfires started by lightning or lava flows.) Large parts of the now submarine Southern (SKP) and Central Kerguelen Plateaus (CKP) were subaerial during the formation of the LIP. The SKP probably formed an island of 500,000 km2 (190,000 sq mi) with major peaks reaching 1,000–2,000 m (3,300–6,600 ft) above sea level.[7]

The Kerguelen microcontinent may have been covered by dense conifer forest in the mid-Cretaceous.[9]

It finally sank 20 million years ago and is now 1,000–2,000 m (3,300–6,600 ft) below sea level.[10]

Ross Sea[edit]

Bathymetric map shows the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Credit: Fred Davey.{{free media}}

The Ross Sea, a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land and within the Ross Embayment, the southernmost sea on Earth, derives its name from the British explorer James Clark Ross who visited in 1841, has to the west Ross Island and Victoria Land, to the east Roosevelt Island and King Edward VII Land, or Edward VII Peninsula, in Marie Byrd Land], while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf, about 200 miles (320 km) from the South Pole with boundaries and area defined by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research as having an area of 637,000 square kilometres (246,000 sq mi).[11]

The circumpolar deep water current is a relatively warm, salty and nutrient-rich water mass that flows onto the continental shelf at certain locations.[12][13]

The Ross Sea (and Ross Ice Shelf) overlies a deep continental shelf, although the average depth of the world's continental shelves (at the shelf break joining the continental slope) is about 130 meters,[14][15] the Ross shelf average depth is about 500 meters.[16] It is shallower in the western Ross Sea (east longitudes) than the east (west longitudes).[16] This over-deepened condition is due to cycles of erosion and deposition of sediments from expanding and contracting ice sheets overriding the shelf during Oligocene and later time,[17] and is also found on other locations around Antarctica.[18] Erosion was more focused on the inner parts of the shelf while deposition of sediment dominated the outer shelf, making the inner shelf deeper than the outer.[17][19]

Ross Sea Antarctica sea floor geology shows major basins and drill sites. Credit: BrucePL.{{free media}}

Seismic studies in the latter half of the twentieth century defined the major features of the geology of the Ross Sea.[20] The deepest or basement rocks, are faulted into four major north trending graben systems, which are basins for sedimentary fill. These basins include the Northern and Victoria Land Basin in the west, the Central Trough, and the Eastern Basin, which has approximately the same width as the other three. The Coulman High separates the Victoria Land Basin and Central Trough and the Central High separates the Central Trough and Eastern Basin. The majority of the faulting and accompanying graben formation along with crustal extension occurred during the rifting away of the Zealandia microcontinent from Antarctica in Gondwana during Cretaceous time.[21] Paleogene and Neogene -age and faulting and extension is restricted to the Victoria Land Basin and Northern Basin.[22][23]

Basement grabens are filled with rift sediments of uncertain character and age.[20] A widespread unconformity has cut into the basement and sedimentary fill of the large basins.[20][24] Above this major unconformity (named RSU-6[25]) are a series of glacial marine sedimentary units deposited during multiple advances and retreats of the Antarctic Ice Sheet across the sea floor of the Ross Sea during the Oligocene and later.[17]

Drill holes have recovered cores of rock from the western edges of the sea. The most ambitious recent efforts are the Cape Roberts Project (CRP) and the ANDRILL project.[26][27][28] Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Leg 28 completed several holes (270-273) farther from land in the central and western portions of the sea.[29] These resulted in defining a stratigraphy for most of the older glacial sequences, which comprise Oligocene and younger sediments. The Ross Sea-wide major unconformity RSU-6 has been proposed to mark a global climate event and the first appearance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in the Oligocene.[30][31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. D. Amblas and J. A. Dowdeswell (October 2018). "Physiographic influences on dense shelf-water cascading down the Antarctic continental slope". Earth-Science Reviews. 185: 887–900. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2018.07.014. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  2. UT Austin 1999
  3. Bénard et al. 2010, Introduction, pp. 1–2
  4. Bénard, F.; Callot, J. P.; Vially, R.; Schmitz, J.; Roest, W.; Patriat, M.; Loubrieu, B.; The ExtraPlac Team (2010). "The Kerguelen plateau: Records from a long-living/composite microcontinent". Marine and Petroleum Geology. 27 (3): 633–649. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2009.08.011. Retrieved September 6, 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. Olierook, Hugo K.H.; Jourdan, Fred; Merle, Renaud E.; Timms, Nicholas E.; Kusznir, Nick; Muhling, Janet R. (2016-04-15). "Bunbury Basalt: Gondwana breakup products or earliest vestiges of the Kerguelen mantle plume?". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 440: 20–32. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2016.02.008. ISSN 0012-821X.
  6. Direen, N. (2017). "Naturaliste Plateau: constraints on the timing and evolution of the Kerguelen Large Igneous Province and its role in Gondwana breakup". Australian Journal of Earth Sciences. 64 (7): 851–869. doi:10.1080/08120099.2017.1367326. hdl:1912/9459.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Frey, F. A.; Coffin, M. F.; Wallace, P. J; Weis, D. (2003). Frey, F. A.; Coffin, M. F.; Wallace, P. J.; et al. (eds.). "Leg 183 Summary: Kerguelen Plateau-Broken Ridge—A Large Igneous Province" (PDF). Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program. 183: 1–48. Retrieved August 30, 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  8. "Leg 183 Summary: Kerguelen Plateau-Broken Ridge—A Large Igneous Province". Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program. 183.
  9. * Mohr, B. A. R.; Wähnert, V.; Lazarus, D. (2002). Frey, F. A.; Coffin, M. F.; Wallace, P. J.; et al. (eds.). "Mid-Cretaceous paleobotany and palynology of the central Kerguelen Plateau, southern Indian Ocean (ODP Leg 183, Site 1138)". Proc. ODP, Sci. Results. Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program. 183. doi:10.2973/ Retrieved September 5, 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  11. "About the Ross Sea". NIWA. 27 July 2012. Archived from the original on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  12. Jacobs, Stanley S.; Amos, Anthony F.; Bruchhausen, Peter M. (1970-12-01). "Ross sea oceanography and antarctic bottom water formation". Deep Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts. 17 (6): 935–962. doi:10.1016/0011-7471(70)90046-X. ISSN 0011-7471.
  13. Dinniman, Michael S.; Klinck, John M.; Smith, Walker O. (2003-11-01). "Cross-shelf exchange in a model of the Ross Sea circulation and biogeochemistry". Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. The US JGOFS Synthesis and Modeling Project: Phase II. 50 (22): 3103–3120. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2003.07.011. ISSN 0967-0645.
  14. Gross, M. Grant (1977). Oceanography: A view of the Earth (6 ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 28.
  15. Shepard, F.P. (1963). Submarine Geology (2 ed.). New York: Harper & Row. p. 264.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Hayes, D.E.; Davey, F.J. (1975). "A Geophysical Study of the Ross Sea, Antarctica" (PDF). Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, 28. Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project. 28. doi:10.2973/dsdp.proc.28.134.1975. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2017. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Bartek, L. R.; Vail, P. R.; Anderson, J. B.; Emmet, P. A.; Wu, S. (1991-04-10). "Effect of Cenozoic ice sheet fluctuations in Antarctica on the stratigraphic signature of the Neogene". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 96 (B4): 6753–6778. doi:10.1029/90jb02528. ISSN 2156-2202.
  18. Barker, P.F., Barrett, P.J., Camerlenghi, A., Cooper, A.K., Davey, F.J., Domack, E.W., Escutia, C., Kristoffersen, Y. and O'Brien, P.E. (1998). "Ice sheet history from Antarctic continental margin sediments: the ANTOSTRAT approach". Terra Antarctica. 5 (4): 737–760.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. Ten Brink, Uri S.; Schneider, Christopher; Johnson, Aaron H. (1995). "Morphology and stratal geometry of the Antarctic continental shelf: insights from models". In Cooper, Alan K.; Barker, Peter F.; Brancolini, Giuliano (eds.). Geology and Seismic Stratigraphy of the Antarctic Margin. American Geophysical Union. pp. 1–24. doi:10.1029/ar068p0001. hdl:1912/1602. ISBN 9781118669013.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 The Antarctic continental margin : geology and geophysics of the western Ross Sea. Cooper, Alan K., Davey, Frederick J., Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources. Houston, Tex., U.S.A.: Circum-Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources. 1987. ISBN 978-0933687059. OCLC 15366732.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. Lawver, L. A., and L. M. Gahagan. 1994. "Constraints on timing of extension in the Ross Sea region." Terra Antartica1:545-552.
  22. Davey, F. J.; Cande, S. C.; Stock, J. M. (2006-10-27). "Extension in the western Ross Sea region-links between Adare Basin and Victoria Land Basin". Geophysical Research Letters. 33 (20). doi:10.1029/2006gl027383. ISSN 0094-8276.
  23. Granot, Roi; Dyment, Jérôme (2018-08-09). "Late Cenozoic unification of East and West Antarctica". Nature Communications. 9 (1): 3189. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-05270-w. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 6085322. PMID 30093679.
  24. Geology and seismic stratigraphy of the Antarctic margin, 2. Barker, Peter F., Cooper, Alan K. Washington, D.C.: American Geophysical Union. 1997. ISBN 9781118668139. OCLC 772504633.CS1 maint: others (link)
  25. Hinz, K., and M. Block. 1984. "Results of geophysical investigations in the Weddell Sea and in the Ross Sea, Antarctica." In Proceedings of the Eleventh World Petroleum Congress (London 1983), edited by World_Petroleum_Council, 279–291. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
  26. Barrett, P. J.; Treves, S. B. (1981), "Sedimentology and petrology of core from DVDP 15, western McMurdo Sound", Dry Valley Drilling Project, American Geophysical Union, pp. 281–314, doi:10.1029/ar033p0281, ISBN 978-0875901770
  27. Davey, F. J.; Barrett, P. J.; Cita, M. B.; van der Meer, J. J. M.; Tessensohn, F.; Thomson, M. R. A.; Webb, P.-N.; Woolfe, K. J. (2001). "Drilling for Antarctic Cenozoic climate and tectonic history at Cape Roberts, Southwestern Ross Sea". Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union. 82 (48): 585. doi:10.1029/01eo00339. ISSN 0096-3941.
  28. Paulsen, Timothy S.; Pompilio, Massimo; Niessen, Frank; Panter, Kurt; Jarrard, Richard D. (2012). "Introduction: The ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) and Southern McMurdo Sound (SMS) Drilling Projects". Geosphere. 8 (3): 546–547. doi:10.1130/ges00813.1. ISSN 1553-040X.
  29. Hayes, D.E.; Frakes, L.A. (1975), "General Synthesis, Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 28" (PDF), Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, 28, Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, 28, U.S. Government Printing Office, doi:10.2973/dsdp.proc.28.136.1975, retrieved 2018-08-28
  30. Anderson, John B.; Bartek, Louis R. (1992), "Cenozoic glacial history of the Ross Sea revealed by intermediate resolution seismic reflection data combined with drill site information", The Antarctic Paleoenvironment: A Perspective on Global Change: Part One, American Geophysical Union, pp. 231–263, doi:10.1029/ar056p0231, ISBN 978-0875908236
  31. Brancolini, Giuliano; Cooper, Alan K.; Coren, Franco (2013-03-16), "Seismic Facies and Glacial History in the Western Ross Sea (Antarctica)", Geology and Seismic Stratigraphy of the Antarctic Margin, American Geophysical Union, pp. 209–233, doi:10.1029/ar068p0209, ISBN 9781118669013
  32. Decesari, Robert C., Christopher C. Sorlien, Bruce P. Luyendyk, Douglas S. Wilson, Louis Bartek, John Diebold, and Sarah E. Hopkins (2007-07-24). "USGS Open-File Report 2007-1047, Short Research Paper 052". Regional Seismic Stratigraphic Correlations of the Ross Sea: Implications for the Tectonic History of the West Antarctic Rift System. 2007 (1047sir052). doi:10.3133/of2007-1047.srp052. ISSN 0196-1497.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]