Bedrock Geology of Antarctica: A Summary of Exploration, 1831–1962

  1. Jarvis B. Hadley
  1. John J. anderson

Published Online: 3 APR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR006p0001

Geology and Paleontology of the Antarctic

Geology and Paleontology of the Antarctic

How to Cite

anderson, J. J. (1965) Bedrock Geology of Antarctica: A Summary of Exploration, 1831–1962, in Geology and Paleontology of the Antarctic (ed J. B. Hadley), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR006p0001

Author Information

  1. Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 3 APR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1965

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118655733

Online ISBN: 9781118668528



  • Antarctic Peninsula;
  • Areal geology;
  • Bedrock geology of Antarctica;
  • Coastal regions;
  • Scotia ridge and Victoria land;
  • Transantarctic mountain ranges


Data on the bedrock geology of Antarctica have been accumulated since the earliest voyages of exploration to this continent in the 1820's. During the 19th century such data were of a scattered and imprecise nature. It was not until early in this century that the geologic investigations began that led to proof of the continental character of Antarctica, an understanding of its gross geology, and detailed knowledge of certain areas. These investigations continued sporadically until 1957, the beginning of the International Geophysical Year. Since the IGY the efforts of geologists from many nations have led to great advances in our knowledge of Antarctic geology.

The results of these investigations constitute a sizeable literature on the bedrock geology of Antarctica, and it is now possible to formulate a meaningful synthesis. Such syntheses have been presented before, but they have all been quite brief. This paper attempts to provide as complete a synthesis as currently possible by reviewing the scattered literature and adding the preliminary results of geologic investigations carried on in Antarctica by personnel from the University of Minnesota.

Antarctica may be divided geographically and geologically into two distinct regions. East Antarctica lying south of Africa and Australia forms a continental shield. It consists of an elevated basement complex of schists, gneisses, and other metamorphic rocks with numerous intrusions of granitoids, overlain by a thick, mainly undeformed series of elastic sedimentary rocks of Paleozoic and Mesozoic age and included basic sills and dikes. West Antarctica, the region lying south of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean, is an area in which deformed Paleozoic(?), Mesozoic, and Cenozoic stratified rocks, chiefly elastic and volcanic, overlie a basement of intrusive and metamorphic rocks similar to those of the andes. West Antarctica is considered to include the Scotia Ridge, the Antarctic Peninsula, the Ross Ice Shelf, the Filchner Ice Shelf, and the area between the last two features. The demarcation line between East and West Antarctica is the Transantarctic Mountains that extend across the continent from Cape Adare to Coats Land; the mountains themselves lie in East Antarctica.

The preliminary results of geologic investigations in the Ellsworth Mountains in West Antarctica are presented. These mountains are made up of a great thickness, estimated at about 40,000 feet, of mainly unfossiliferous quartzites, slates, and volcanic arenires intensively folded about axes trending north-northwest.