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Abstract

The transition from a glaciofluvial to a glacial sedimentary environment contains critical information for evaluating the onset of glaciation and early glacial dynamics in Antarctica. This study presents investigations of a sediment core from Ocean Drilling Program Leg 188, Site 1166, on the continental shelf in Prydz Bay, in order to provide evidence for the first occurrence of late Eocene glaciers in the Lambert Graben, East Antarctica. The Lambert Graben is a large fault-bounded structure, at least 700 km long and 100 km wide, and presently hosts the Lambert Glacier–Amery Ice Shelf system. The core consists of middle Eocene glacially influenced alluvial plain sediments, c. 110 m in total thickness that are overlain by a c. 20 m-thick early Oligocene glaciomarine succession. The upper contact is a major unconformity. Grain-surface microtextures, such as fractured plates and a relatively high content of ilmenite in alluvial outwash-plain sediments, indicate mixed northern and southern Prince Charles Mountains provenance and initiation of glaciers as early as middle Eocene time. Distribution of the major heavy minerals indicates a change to garnet-rich granulite terrain in sediment-supply during later ice-sheet evolution, when a lack of detritus from the southern Prince Charles Mountains becomes apparent. Glacier advance was no longer restricted to the Lambert Graben and the drainage area became wider. Good preservation of these low-stand glaciofluvial outwash-plain deposits was related to regional subsidence that progressed to a marine transgression and glaciomarine deposition when ice was able to advance to the continental shelf edge.

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