Abstract

There are two extreme views of the evolution of the Pliocene Antarctic Ice Sheet. Dynamicists argue for ice-sheet reduction and reexpansion on the basis of Pliocene marine diatoms in a glacial deposit, the Sirius Group, that is widespread in the Transantarctic Mountains. Stabilists argue from other evidence that the Antarctic cryosphere remained essentially constant in area and volume; they propose marine diatom transport by eolian processes and emplacement into terrestrial glacial strata. Hence, the inferred source area and transport mechanism of marine diatoms are of critical importance. We tested the reduction hypothesis on an important outcrop of the Sirius Group at Mount Fleming, South Victoria Land. We observed very few, unidentifiable, marine diatom fragments in Sirius Group strata. In contrast, marine diatoms enclosed in a surface diamicton covering the Sirius Group were more abundant and identifiable. Our study further indicates that the Sirius Group at Mount Fleming was not deposited by the East Antarctic Ice Sheet but rather by alpine ice originating on the Transantarctic Mountains. On the basis of both data sets, we infer that marine diatoms postdate Sirius Group deposition at Mount Fleming and that transport was by wind, and we advance alternative scenarios for their source and transport pathways.

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