Abstract

Field observations and structural data from intrusive complexes at Allan Hills and Terra Cotta Mountain, South Victoria Land, Antarctica, demonstrate that interconnected sills and inclined sheets transported magma through the shallow subsurface. These sills and sheets represent the upper-crustal (top 4 km) plumbing system of the 183 Ma Ferrar large igneous province. The sheets are short in length (<1500 m), are moderately inclined (47° and 51° means), and show meter-scale variations in attitude; in places, they intruded bedding planes, resulting in stepped sheet-sill geometries. Sheet geometries and their relationship to the surrounding country rock are consistent with peripheral sheet intrusion under local magmatic stresses arising from roof-lift during sill injection. The sheet intrusions thus reflect the intrusive process itself rather than a far-field tectonic stress regime. The sills and sheets, together with local dolerite masses, formed the intrusive network that supplied magma to the Mawson Formation pyroclastic rocks in various parts of South Victoria Land and, by inference, the Kirkpatrick flood basalt lavas. The predominance of inclined sheets rather than steeply dipping dikes indicates a magmatic environment that is unlike the Jurassic rift arm inferred by previous authors. This could be explained using any of the following three scenarios. (1) The axis of the rift, and hence any rift-hosted dikes, lies beyond the current exposure area. (2) The regionally extensive Ferrar sills may have provided rheologically weak horizons that limited mechanical coupling of the basement rocks and overlying Beacon Supergroup, locally detaching the upper 4 km of the crust from possible synmagmatic basement extension below. (3) The Ferrar large igneous province was emplaced in a neutral tectonic setting. In this scenario, broad-scale distribution of magma through the province was controlled by preexisting structure in the basement, and local intrusion geometries reflect the physical interaction of intruding magma with bedding anisotropy of the Beacon Supergroup.

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