Unveiling subglacial geology and crustal architecture in the Recovery frontier of East Antarctica with recent aeromagnetic and airborne gravity imaging
Abstract:East Antarctica is the least known continent, despite being a keystone in the Gondwana, Rodinia and Columbia supercontinents. Significant progress has been made in recent years in exploring East Antarctica using aeromagnetic and airborne gravity together with radar. Major aerogeophysical campaigns over the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (Ferraccioli et al., 2009 Tectonophysics), the Aurora Subglacial Basin (Aitken et al., 2014 GRL) and the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains (Ferraccioli et al., 2011, Nature) provide new glimpses into the crustal architecture of East Antarctica.
However, a major sector of the continent that includes key piercing points for reconstructing linkages between East Antarctica and Laurentia within Rodinia, and also the inferred remnants of a major suture zone active during Gondwana amalgamation in Pan-African times (ca 500 Ma), has remained largely terra incognita. Here we present the results of a major aerogeophysical survey flown over this sector of East Antarctica, named the Recovery Frontier, from the major ice stream flowing in the region. The survey was flown during the IceGRAV 2012-13 field season, as part of a Danish-Norwegian-UK and Argentine collaboration and led to the collection of 29,000 line km of radar, laser altimetry, gravity and magnetic data.
We present the new aeromagnetic anomaly, Bouguer and residual and enhanced anomaly maps for the region. Using these images we trace the extent of major subglacial faults and interpret these to delineate the tectonic boundaries separating the Coast block, the Shackleton Range and the Dronning Maud Land crustal provinces. Forward magnetic and gravity modelling enables us to examine the inferred Pan-African age suture zone in the Shackleton Range and address its tectonic relationships with older terranes of the Mawson Craton and Grenvillian-age terranes of Dronning Maud Land and interior East Antarctica. Finally, we present new models to test our hypothesis that Paleozoic to Mesozoic rift basins underlie the giant Recovery subglacial lakes and compare these with the rift basins of the East Antarctic Rift System, which have been proposed to host other major subglacial lakes, such as Lake Vostok, Lake 90E and Lake Sovetskaya.