Abstract

The Ferrar Dolerite constitutes the hypabyssal phase of the tholeiitic Ferrar Group of Antarctica. Sills with compositions representing most of the range of geochemical variation of the Ferrar Dolerite, and separated by distances of as much as 1400 km, have been analyzed by the 40Ar/39Ar method on feldspar and biotite separates. The 40Ar/39Ar ages for five individual sills range from 176.2 to 177.2 Ma and show no significant difference. These ages reflect crystallization at 176.7 ± 1.8 Ma (where the uncertainty includes provision for systematic uncertainty in the age of the neutron-fluence monitor calibrated relative to MMhb-1 at 513.5 Ma). Combining data from these sills with previous determinations on coeval lavas and underlying pyroclastic units indicates an age of 176.6 ± 1.8 Ma for the Ferrar tholeiitic rocks as a whole. The duration of magmatic activity was less than approximately 1 m.y. By extension, other rocks in the Ferrar magmatic province, which occur from southeastern Australia, along the Transantarctic Mountains to the Theron Mountains, are inferred to have this age. The short duration of magmatic activity as well as the consistent pattern of geochemical variation and distinctiveness of the Ferrar rocks suggest that magmas were transported laterally by an extensive dike swarm which is inferred to have originated in the Weddell Sea sector of the province.

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