Abstract

A network of sinuous valleys with typical dendritic pattern characterizes northern Victoria Land (NVL) in Antarctica. Subparallel to parallel and angular to rectangular patterns are also present. Quantitative geomorphic analysis of the valley network has been carried out utilizing GIS spatial analysis. While drainage densities and drainage frequencies show low values, segments of the NVL valley network are substantially well organized, as indicated by bifurcation ratio (Rb) and direct bifurcation ratio (Rbd) parameters. All basins faithfully adhere to Horton's laws of drainage network composition. Quantitative geomorphic analysis suggests that the valley system can be ascribed to fluvial origin and that consequently, a morphoclimatic system completely different from that of present day must have driven its carving.

The resulting data provide indications about the origin of the valley network and this invaluable information can be used for the reconstruction of earlier phases of glacial history and climatic and tectonic evolution of this significant Antarctic region. Fluvial erosion enhanced the denudation of the Transantarctic Mountains from at least 55 Ma to at least the Eocene-Oligocene boundary (ca 34 Ma). Fluvial basins adapted to the tectonic structure, following the main regional fault systems. A well-developed alpine topography postdates the fluvial morphology. Temperate glaciers were responsible for denudation until the Late Miocene. Parasitic glaciers presently mantle the previously sculpted topography. Present-day glacial erosion is negligible and denudation has been exceedingly slow since 7.5 Ma.

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