Abstract

Cornwallis Fold Belt is a north-trending anticlinorium more than 650 km (400 mi) long, that extends from the Precambrian Shield to the Sverdrup Basin. It is the folded and faulted sedimentary suprastructure that overlies Precambrian crystalline basement rocks of the Boothia Horst. The horst and fold belt represent lower and intermediate levels of the Boothia Uplift. Evolution of the Cornwallis Fold Belt includes two phases, formation and modification.Formation. The basic structure of the Cornwallis Belt, a relatively simple, steep-sided, north-plunging anticlinorium, was formed in the interval from Proterozoic to Late Devonian time during several discrete phases of deformation that involved a similar stress pattern. These phases can be attributed to pulses of differential vertical uplift of the underlying Boothia Horst. The earliest phases involved periods of gentle arching of the crystalline basement and sedimentary cover in late Proterozoic and early Paleozoic times. The fold belt was formed mainly by the Cornwallis Disturbance (new name) which involved further differential vertical uplift, and comprised several pulses: (1) Early Silurian, mild, affecting only part of the belt; (2) Early Devonian, very strong, affecting the entire belt; (3) late Early Devonian, moderately strong, affecting the entire belt; (4) Late Devonian, moderately strong, affecting the entire belt. Each pulse was a cycle that began with uplift and erosion of the fold belt and shedding of detritus into the adjacent basins, and was followed by broader regional subsidence and the resumption of deposition on the belt. Between pulses of uplift there was regional subsidence, during which the fold belt subsided less than the flanking basins and received less sediments.Differential vertical displacement originated in the crystalline basement, occurring along fault zones that define the Boothia Horst, and are parallel to and controlled by a steep to vertical north-trending foliation. Faults extend into the sedimentary suprastructure comprising the overlying Cornwallis Fold Belt, and change gradually upward from vertical faults to high-angle reverse faults, overturned anticlines, and finally to asymmetric anticlines. Because the fold belt plunges north, this gradational sequence occurs from south to north in the exposed part of the fold belt. Structures formed by early pulses were rejuvenated by later pulses with the same sense of movement.Modification. The basic structure of the Cornwallis Fold Belt was modified by other types of deformation during the interval from Late Devonian to the present. Many of the preexisting faults were reactivated, but with a different sense of movement. During the Late Devonian to Middle Pennsylvanian Ellesmerian Orogeny, southward overriding of upper levels of the sedimentary succession produced folds in the rocks east and west of the Cornwallis Fold Belt which had not been previously deformed and could easily be displaced southward on an underlying décollement surface. The north-trending Cornwallis Fold Belt, however, was an obstacle to southward overriding in which the effects of overriding were reduced. Zones of interference structures developed near the margins, guided by older basement-controlled structures. Left-lateral faults were developed on the western margin and right-lateral movement is probable on the eastern margin.The Cornwallis Fold Belt extends an unknown distance northward beneath the younger rocks of the Sverdrup Basin. These younger rocks were deposited during a long period of northward downwarping that began in mid-Mississippian time. This same downwarping caused an abrupt increase in the northward plunge of the fold belt.During the Cretaceous–Tertiary Eurekan Rifting Episode the Cornwallis Fold Belt was fragmented by block faulting. The horsts form islands, and the grabens form submarine channels, some of which contain thick sections of semiconsolidated Cretaceous–Tertiary sediments. Numerous other normal faults that occur within the fold belt probably formed at this time. Cretaceous–Tertiary faults within the Cornwallis Fold Belt have a rectilinear pattern that was inherited from preexisting structures.

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