Abstract

Multichannel seismic data collected off Wilkes Land (East Antarctica) reveal four main units that represent distinct phases in the evolution of the Cenozoic depositional environment. A Cretaceous synrift succession is overlain by hemipelagic and distal terrigenous sequences deposited during Phase 1. Sediment ridges and debris-flow deposits mark the transition to Phase 2. Unit 3 records the maximum sediment input from the continent and is characterized by the predominance of turbidite deposits. During Phase 4 the sediment supply from the continental margin was reduced, and draping and filling were the dominant processes on the continental rise. Unit 4 also contains the deposits of sediment wave fields and asymmetric channel-levee systems. These four units are a response to the Cenozoic evolution of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. During Phase 1, small ice caps were formed in the innermost continental areas. The ice volume increased under temperate glacial regimes during Phases 2 and 3, when large volumes of melt-water production led to high sediment discharge to the continental rise. Change to a polar regime occurred through Phase 4, when a thick prograding wedge developed on the continental shelf and slope and the sediment transport to the rise diminished, producing general starvation conditions.

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