, Volume 25, Issue 3-4, pp 283-304
Date: 24 Sep 2005

Deep Crustal Structure of the Continental Margin off the Explora Escarpment and in the Lazarev Sea, East Antarctica

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Abstract

This study presents the results of a seismic refraction experiment that was carried out off Dronning Maud Land (East Antarctica) along the Explora Escarpment (14° W–12° W) and close to Astrid Ridge (6°E). Oceanic crust of about 10 km thickness is observed northwest of the Explora Escarpment. Stretched continental crust, observed southeast of the escarpment, is most likely intruded by volcanic material at all crustal levels. Seismic velocities of 7.0–7.4 km/s are modelled for the lower crust. The northern boundary of this high velocity body coincides approximately with the Explora Escarpment. The upper crystalline crust is overlain by a 4-km thick and 70-km wide wedge of volcanic material: the Explora Wedge. Seismic velocities for the oceanic crust north of the Explora Escarpment are in good agreement with global studies. The oceanic crust in the region of the Lazarev Sea is also up to 10-km thick. The lower crystalline crust shows seismic velocities of up to 7.4 km/s. This, together with the larger crustal thickness might point to higher mantle temperatures during the formation of the oceanic crust. The more southerly rifted continental crust is up to 25-km thick, and also has seismic velocities of 7.4 km/s in the lower crystalline crust. This section is interpreted to consist of stretched continental crust, which is heavily intruded by volcanic material up to approximately 8-km depth. Multichannel seismic data indicate that, in this region, two volcanic wedges are present. The wedges are interpreted to have evolved during different time/rift periods. The wedges have a total width of at least 180 km in the Lazarev Sea. Our results support previous findings that the continental margin off Dronning Maud Land between ≈2°E and ≈13°E had a complex and long-lived rift history. Both continental margins can be classified as rifted volcanic continental margins that were formed during break-up of Gondwana.