History of the Ordovician continental platform shelf margin of Australia

B. D. Webby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Much of South Australia, western New South Wales, and Tasmania was affected by the Late Cambrian-Early Ordovician Delamerian Orogeny. Areas of the former shelf margin exhibit molasse-type conglomerates overlying a major late Middle to Late Cambrian unconformity (Jukesian Movement in Tasmania or Mootwingee Movement in western N.S.W.). In continental platform areas to the north the effects of the orogeny were less intense with, in the Georgina Basin for instance, only disconformable relationships, and the overlying deposits consisting of fine elastics and carbonates. Regression accompanied this first phase of tectonic upheaval and was followed by a period of ‘late Tremadoc’ transgression of the sea into several embayment areas of the continental platform. This short-lived transgression was succeeded by ‘early Arenig’ regression which appears to be related to a second, less intense Delamerian orogenic phase. Expression of this phase ranges from unconformity in west Tasmania (Haulage and Lynchford Movements) to disconformity in the Georgina Basin (Kelly Creek Movement). A second, more extensive and long-lived transgression of the sea from the ‘middle Arenig’ to about the end of the ‘Llanvirn’ resulted in the development of the epicontinental Larapintine Sea, permitting interchange of warmer and cooler waters from either ends of the seaway. Combined fossil, lithological and palaeomagnetic evidence suggests that, of the fragments of Gondwanaland, Australia alone straddled the Ordovician equator, with its present west coast approximately along the line of Lat. 30°S. Influxes of sand from the areas of mild-high relief to the south appear to have been deflected in an anticlockwise direction along the open, ocean-facing Gnalta Shelf of western N.S.W. towards the eastern end of the Larapintine Sea perhaps as a result of a major westward-flowing equatorial current. The influxes progressively constricted and finally blocked off the eastern end of the seaway by the end of ‘Llanvirn’ time. The closure, and final regression of the sea from all continental platform areas, seems to have been accompanied by a phase of local uplift and erosion (Dullingari Movement of northeastern South Australia). In cratonic areas of central and northern Australia a period of Late Ordovician or Early Silurian uplift and erosion (Rodingan Movement) followed. Dullingari and Rodingan Movements may be correlated with phases of the Benambran Orogeny of the Tasman Geosyncline. Late Ordovician cratonic sedimentation was restricted to the shelf margin. On the Tasmanian Shelf carbonates accumulated during a long period of relative tectonic quiescence and gentle subsidence. First signs of onset of the Benambrian Orogeny are shown by the appearance of clastics in the topmost beds of the Tasmanian Ordovician sequence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-63
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Geological Society of Australia
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1978
Externally publishedYes


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