Please select your home edition
Edition
Auckland On Water Boat Show

East Antarctic rifting triggers uplift of the Gamburtsev Mountains

by British Antarctic Survey on 26 Nov 2011
Schematic showing the proposed rifting processes within the East Antartic Rift System provided the techtonic trigger for uplift of the Gamburtsev Mountains British Antarctic Survey © http://www.antarctica.ac.uk
Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Province (AGAP) project was funded by grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation and was launched in conjunction with the International Polar Year.

The birth of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains buried beneath the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet — a puzzle mystifying scientists since their first discovery in 1958 — is finally solved. The remarkably long geological history explains the formation of the mountain range in the least explored frontier on Earth and where the Antarctic Ice Sheet first formed. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature.

A seven-nation team of scientists explored the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains — buried beneath up to 3km of ice — during the International Polar Year (2007–09) by using two twin-engine aircraft equipped with ice penetrating radars, gravity meters and magnetometers.

By analyzing the new data, the researchers describe the extraordinary processes — which took place over the last billion years — that created and preserved a root beneath the mountains and the East Antarctic rift system — a 3,000km long fracture in the earth’s surface that extends from East Antarctica across the ocean to India.

One billion years ago, before animals and plants evolved on Earth, several continents (or micro-continents) collided, crushing the oldest rocks of the mountain range together. This event formed a thick crustal root extending deep beneath the mountain range. Over time these ancient mountains were eroded but the cold dense root was left behind.

Around 250–100 million years ago — when dinosaurs walked the Earth — rifting paved the way for the supercontinent Gondwana to break apart, which included Antarctica, causing the old crustal root to warm. This rejuvenated crustal root, together with the East Antarctic Rift forced the land upwards again reforming the mountains. Rivers and glaciers carved deep valleys and this helped uplift the peaks to create the spectacular landscape of the Gamburtsevs, which resemble the European Alps. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which formed 34 million years ago and covers 10 million km2 of our planet (an area the size of Canada), protected the mountains from erosion.

Lead author, Dr Fausto Ferraccioli from British Antarctic Survey says, 'Understanding the origin of the Gamburtsevs was a primary goal of our International Polar Year expedition. It was fascinating to find that the East Antarctic rift system resembles one of the geological wonders of the world — the East African rift system — and that it provides the missing piece of the puzzle that helps explain the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains. The rift system was also found to contain the largest subglacial lakes in Antarctica.'

Co-author, Dr Carol Finn from US Geological Survey says, 'Resolving the contradiction of the Gamburtsev high elevation and youthful Alpine topography but location on the East Antarctic craton by piecing together the billion year history of the region was exciting and challenging. We are accustomed to thinking that mountain building relates to a single tectonic event, rather than sequences of events. The lesson we learned about multiple events forming the Gamburtsevs may inform studies of the history of other mountain belts.'

Co-author, Dr Robin Bell of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory says, 'The next steps will be to assemble a team to drill through the ice into the mountains to obtain the first rock samples from the Gamburtsevs. Amazingly, we have samples of the moon but none of the Gamburtsevs. With these rock samples we will be able to constrain when this ancient piece of crust was rejuvenated and grew to a magnificent mountain range.'

'It is very fitting that the initial results of Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Province (AGAP) project are coming out 100 years after the great explorers raced to the South Pole,' said Alexandra Isern, Programme Director at the National Science Foundation. 'The scientific explorers of the AGAP project worked in harsh conditions to collect the data and detailed images of this major mountain range under the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The results of their work will guide research in this region for many years to come.'

These discoveries in central East Antarctica have significant implications for understanding mountain building and ice sheet evolution within continental British Antarctic Survey website
Zhik Yachting 660x82Wildwind 2016 660x82T Clewring J-class

Related Articles

Terry Kohler, driving force of North Technology dies at 82
Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82 Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails from Lowell North over 30 years ago and was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82. With the combined company of North sails and Southern Spars, Kohler created the 'Engine above the Deck' concept which married the technology used to build the sails and spars to be designed and work as an integral unit.
Posted on 21 Sep
'Grate Art' in Hong Kong
Hong Kong charity pioneers environmental awareness through innovative storm grate installations In an effort to help Hong Kongers play their part in protecting the world’s ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance is raising awareness through a unique public art installation called ‘Grate Art’. Hong Kong’s drainage system is one of the main sources for debris outflow into the ocean, and Ocean Recovery Alliance is tackling this problem upstream through an initiative that uses “art for awareness”.
Posted on 14 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Rio official murdered ten months before the Olympics
Rio de Janeiro is a troubled city and a reeling Olympic host, but it will always have beautiful Guanabara Bay. Does an unsolved murder of an official in Rio in charge of cleaning up Guanabara Bay say a lot about the state of platy in the magical city? Priscilla Pereira was murdered 10 months ago and the thinking is that she was murdered in relation to her work
Posted on 31 Jul
WHO statement on Zika virus
The third meeting of the EC convened by the Director-General under IHR 2005 regarding microcephaly and Zika virus The third meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding microcephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus was held by teleconference on 14 June 2016, from 13:00 to 17:15 Central European Time.
Posted on 16 Jun
Atlantic Cup 2016 - a race with an environmental commitment
The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean The Atlantic Cup continues to further its mission for the 2016 race by examining the global economic impact of the ocean and how an unhealthy ocean can affect the economy.
Posted on 7 Apr
Zika virus situation report
From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. From 1 January 2007 to 16 March 2016, Zika virus transmission was documented in a total of 59 countries and territories. Cuba and Dominica are the latest to report autochthonous (local) transmission of Zika virus on 14 and 15 March, respectively. Five of these countries and territories reported a Zika virus outbreak that is now over.
Posted on 2 Apr
Have Norway scientists solved the Bermuda Triangle mystery?
The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years The Bermuda Triangle has been said to have claimed numerous ships and aircraft over the years, and everything from aliens to remnants from the lost island of Atlantis have been fingered as the culprits.
Posted on 15 Mar
Cyclone Winston Relief Fund – Help the people of Fiji
Sea Mercy is sending volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food and medical supplies to Fiji. Sea Mercy is once again sending our volunteer fleet of small and large vessels, loaded with shelter, food, water and medical supplies and teams to Fiji.
Posted on 27 Feb
Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Champs - Hanson Medals awarded for rescues
US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts The US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee awarded the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medals to eight boats for their heroic efforts when a microburst storm hit the 2015 Flying Scot Atlantic Coast Championship, hosted by the Blackbeard Sailing Club, in New Bern, NC on September 12.
Posted on 2 Feb