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Late Miocene volcanic sequences in northern Victoria Land, Antarctica: products of glaciovolcanic eruptions under different thermal regimes


Late Miocene (c. 13–5 Ma) volcanic sequences of the Hallett Volcanic Province (HVP) crop out along >250 km of western Ross Sea coast in northern Victoria Land. Eight primary volcanic and six sedimentary lithofacies have been identified, and they are organised into at least five different sequence architectures as a consequence of different combinations of eruptive and/or depositional conditions. The volcanoes were erupted in association with a Miocene glacial cover and the sequences are overwhelmingly glaciovolcanic. The commonest and most representative are products of mafic aa lava-fed deltas, a type of glaciovolcanic sequence that has not been described before. It is distinguished by (1) a subaerially emplaced relatively thin caprock of aa lavas lying on and passing down-dip into (2) a thicker association of chaotic to crudely bedded hyaloclastite breccias, water-chilled lava sheets and irregular lava masses, collectively called lobe-hyaloclastite. A second distinctive sequence type present is characterised by water-cooled lavas and associated sedimentary lithofacies (diamictite (probably glacigenic) and fluvial sands and gravels) similar to some mafic glaciovolcanic sheet-like sequences (see Smellie, Earth-Science Reviews, 74, 241–268, 2008), but including (for the first time) examples of likely sheet-like sequences with felsic compositions. Other sequence types in the HVP are minor and include tuff cones, cinder cones and a single ice-marginal lacustrine sequence. The glacial thermal regime varied from polar, characterised by sequences lacking glacial erosion, glacigenic sediments or evidence for free water, to temperate or sub-polar for sequences in which all of these features are conspicuously developed.

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This paper is based on studies that were part of the British Antarctic Survey’s GEACEP programme (ISODYN Project), which investigated climate change over geological time scales and of the Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide (PNRA) of Italy. It also contributes to the SCAR ACE programme (Antarctic Climate Evolution). We gratefully thank Mark Read, the pilot (Helicopters New Zealand) during this phase of the fieldwork; all the personnel at the Italian Mario Zucchelli Station, particularly the Base Commander Alberto Della Rovere, for making us so welcome and unstintingly helping us in every way possible to ensure the success of our work; Mike Tabecki for his patience and skills making large numbers of thin sections from persistently difficult materials; Warren Hamilton, for invaluable information on local conditions and providing geological photographs dating from his seminal pioneering study in northern Victoria Land during 1964; and Peter Fretwell (BAS) for drawing up the topographical base map used in Fig. 1. We are also grateful for reviews by Kazuhiko Kano, Wesley LeMasurier and James White that helped to clarify and improve aspects of this paper.

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Smellie, J.L., Rocchi, S. & Armienti, P. Late Miocene volcanic sequences in northern Victoria Land, Antarctica: products of glaciovolcanic eruptions under different thermal regimes. Bull Volcanol 73, 1–25 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-010-0399-y

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  • Glaciovolcanism
  • Lithofacies
  • Sequence architecture
  • Miocene
  • aa lava-fed deltas
  • Felsic sheet-like sequences
  • Glacial thermal regime