Glacial advance and retreat sequences in a Permo‐Carboniferous section, central Transantarctic Mountains


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Episodes of glacial advance and retreat can be recognized through analysis of vertical facies sequences in the Permo‐Carboniferous Pagoda Formation of the Beardmore Glacier area, Antarctica. The formation includes a remarkably complete record of continental sedimentation near the terminus of a temperate glacier. Facies sequence is pre‐eminent for inferring glacial advance and retreat. Other important criteria are abundance and geometry of sandstone interbedded with diamictite, diamictite character and nature of bed contacts. Using these characteristics advance and retreat sequences 5–60 m thick are recognized. A sharp contact, with a striated surface and erosional relief, overlain by structureless diamictite (lodgement till) is typical of grounded ice advance. Grounded ice retreat is characterized by structureless diamictite (lodgement till), overlain by crudely stratified diamictite (melt‐out till) and then by diamictite interbedded with sandstone and conglomerate (flow till and glacio‐fluvial or glacio‐lacustrine deposits). Gradational contacts between shale overlain by diamictite and diamictite overlain by shale characterize advance and retreat, respectively, in subaqueous settings. Pauses in sediment accumulation, minor(?) fluctuations of the ice margin, and/or changes in subglacial dynamics are indicated by specific features within diamictite units such as probable frost‐wedge casts, single layer boulder beds, sharp sedimentary contacts and changes in diamictite character. These minor(?) events are superimposed upon the main advance‐retreat cycles. Study of both the overall facies sequence and of individual diagnostic structures, albeit in an incomplete stratigraphic record, permits a distinction between major and minor advance‐retreat events. As many as six major advance‐retreat cycles exist in some Pagoda sections, but the number of cycles present varies in different sections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-430
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1989


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