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Neogene fjordal sedimentation on the western margin of the Lambert Graben, East Antarctica



The Lambert Graben is occupied by the world’s largest fjord system, through which flows the Lambert Glacier, the Amery Ice Shelf and their tributaries. Along the western margin of the graben, in the northern Prince Charles Mountains, remnants of uplifted Miocene and Pliocene strata of the glacigenic fjordal Pagodroma Group total more than 800 m in thickness. These sediments provide evidence for a dynamic East Antarctic ice sheet during the Neogene Period. Each of the four Pagodroma Group formations defined from this region rests unconformably on either Proterozoic or Permo-Triassic rocks. The unconformity surfaces represent parts of the walls and floors of Neogene fjords. For these surfaces to have been eroded, the ice must have been grounded out as far as the continental shelf in Prydz Bay. The Pagodroma Group was deposited by wet-based glaciers discharging into a fjordal setting and includes lithofacies that are quite different from those produced by modern Antarctic ice masses. The principal lithofacies are massive diamicts and soulder gravels, deposited both close to a calving, grounded glacier terminus and from icebergs. The few stratified diamicts are the product of more distal iceberg sedimentation. An ice-transported gravel lithofacies includes rockfall debris derived from palaeofjord walls and mixed with subglacially derived diamicts. Some lithofacies contain evidence of subaquatic slumping and gravity flowage. Volumetrically minor lithofacies include laminites, with some exposures exhibiting large ice-rafted clasts. The laminites represent less proximal, mainly ice-free fjordal sediments, resulting either from tidal-current sorting of suspended sediment originating from subaquatic glaciofluvial discharge, or from turbidity currents derived from unstable subaquatically deposited glacigenic sediment. The Pagodroma Group provides a record of multiple glaciation by dynamic, sliding glaciers carrying large amounts of both basal and supraglacial debris. The closest modern analogues, in terms of the thermal and dynamic characteristics of the Neogene Lambert Glacier, appear to be the fast-flowing tidewater glaciers of East Greenland. These glaciers originate from the interior ice sheet and discharge large volumes of icebergs; the resulting lithofacies are predominantly diamicts.

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