Marine volcaniclastics of the Hidden Lake Formation (Coniacian) of James Ross Island, Antarctica: an enigmatic element in the history of a back-arc basin
Andrew G. Whitham, Jon R. Ineson, Duncan Pirrie, 2006. "Marine volcaniclastics of the Hidden Lake Formation (Coniacian) of James Ross Island, Antarctica: an enigmatic element in the history of a back-arc basin", Cretaceous–Tertiary High-Latitude Palaeoenvironments: James Ross Basin, Antarctica, J. E. Francis, D. Pirrie, J. A. Crame
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The Coniacian Hidden Lake Formation of James Ross Island, Antarctica is a 300–400 m-thick succession of marine volcaniclastic conglomerates, sandstones and mudstones. It occurs at a point of transition in the evolution of the James Ross Basin, as it is underlain by deep-marine strata and overlain by shallow-marine strata. The succession reflects the two main factors controlling the deposition of the formation: (1) the influx of large quantities of volcaniclastic sediment; and (2) a pronounced inversion event in the early Coniacian heralding the cessation of transpressive tectonic activity in the James Ross Basin. The succession is dominated by a range of sediment density-flow deposits, which, combined with the limited faunas and the lack of wave-induced structures, suggest deposition in a relatively deep-marine environment below storm-wave base. Three main facies associations are recorded representing base-of-slope, fan-delta and basin-floor depositional environments. The volcaniclastic fan-delta association is dominated by fresh pyroclastic detritus and was deposited in response to volcanic eruptions on the adjacent arc. Thick beds of parallel-stratified sandstone record deposition from sustained, concentrated sediment density flows. The conditions immediately following pyroclastic eruptions lend themselves to the deposition of such deposits, as vegetation cover is destroyed and large amounts of poorly consolidated sediment are available for reworking. An enigmatic feature of the succession is the presence of units of cross-bedded sandstones thought to be of tidal origin that are locally abundant and are intimately interbedded with sediment density-flow deposits. The occurrence of tidal sediments in a substorm-wave base setting is explained by appealing to partial basin inversion during the final phases of strike-slip tectonic activity in the basin creating an irregular basin floor that focused and amplified tidal currents. The infilling of this basin topography by sediment and waning intrabasinal tectonism during the Coniacian resulted in the progressive elimination of this basin-floor topography and the onset of shallow-marine shelf sedimentation.
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High-latitude settings are sensitive to climatically driven palaeoenvironmental change and the resultant biotic response. Climate change through the peak interval of Cretaceous warmth, Late Cretaceous cooling, onset and expansion of the Antarctic ice sheet, and subsequently the variability of Neogene glaciation, are all recorded within the sedimentary and volcanic successions exposed within the James Ross Basin, Antarctica. This site provides the longest onshore record of Cretaceous–Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic rocks in Antarctica and is a key reference section for Cretaceous–Tertiary global change. The sedimentary succession is richly fossiliferous, yielding diverse invertebrate, vertebrate and plant fossil assemblages, allowing the reconstruction of both terrestrial and marine systems. The papers within this volume provide an overview of recent advances in the understanding of palaeoenvironmental change spanning the mid-Cretaceous to the Neogene of the James Ross Basin and related biotic change, and will be of interest to many working on Cretaceous and Tertiary palaeoenvironmental change.