Ted Irving and the Precambrian continental drift of (within?) the Canadian Shield
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Ted Irving was no stranger to the Precambrian when he began paleomagnetic studies in the Canadian Shield (CS) that would dominate his research in the early and mid-1970’s. Twenty years before, his graduate work on billion-year-old strata in Scotland established paleomagnetic methodologies applicable to sedimentary rocks generally. In 1958, he and Ronald Green presented an ‘Upper Proterozoic’ APW path from Australia as evidence for pre-Carboniferous drift relative to Europe and North America (the poles actually range in age from 1.2 to 2.7 Ga). His first published CS poles were obtained from the Franklin LIP of the Arctic platform and demonstrate igneous emplacement across the paleoequator. Characteristically, his 1971 poles are statistically indistinguishable from the most recent grand mean paleopole of 2009. His main focus, however, was on the question of Precambrian continental drift. He compared APW paths with respect to Laurentia with those obtained from other Precambrian shields, and he compared APW paths from different tectonic provinces within the CS. He was consistently antagonistic to the concept of a single long-lived Proterozoic supercontinent, but he was on less certain ground regarding motions within the CS due to inadequate geochronology. With Ron Emslie, he boldly proposed rapid convergence between parts of the Grenville Province and Interior Laurentia (IL) ~1.0 Ga. This was controversial given the uncertain ages of multiple magnetic components in high-grade metamorphic rocks. With John McGlynn and John Park, he developed a Paleoproterozoic APW path for the Slave Province from mafic dikes and red clastics, encompassing the time of consolidation of IL during 2.0-1.8 Ga orogenesis. Before 1980, he constructed Paleoproterozoic APW paths for IL as a whole, finding little evidence for significant internal displacement. He recognized that the Laurentian APW path describes a series of straight tracks linked by hairpins, the latter corresponding in age to major orogenic events. He did not ascribe any hairpin to collisional orogenesis within IL, outward facing margins excluded, nor any track to true polar wander. After 1980, however, he argued that existing poles were too poorly dated to rule out interior plate motions. Irving was a strict empiricist who fearlessly went where his data led him, and no farther.