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Tectonics

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    The final lithospheric breakup of the Australian-Antarctic rift system remains controversial due to sparse geological constraints on the nature of the basement along the ocean-continent transition zones. We present new interpretations of multichannel seismic reflection transects, as well as new petrological data of dredged mantle rocks along the East Antarctic margin (Seamount B, offshore Terre Adélie). By combining both datasets, we show that a 50–100 km wide domain of cold (900°C), fertile subcontinental mantle was exhumed along the non-volcanic Antarctic margin. The dredged peridotites preserve characteristics similar to mantle xenoliths found in syn- to post-rift volcanism at the eastern end of the Australian margin (Victoria and Tasmania), indicating the sampling of a common fertile subcontinental mantle during rifting between Australia and Antarctica. Seamount B represents the initial stages of exhumation of cold subcontinental lithosphere along an ocean-continent transition during rifting. This thick mantle domain was likely affected by syn-rift melt impregnation at high-pressure (8 kbar), leading to the formation of plagioclase-pyroxenites. Overall, the combination of continental rifted blocks, a 50-100 km wide domain of volcanic-poor subcontinental mantle and (ultra)-slow spreading implies that ocean-continent transition zones along the Australian-Antarctic margins represent a recent analogue to ocean continent transition zones from the Jurassic Western Tethys. Additionally, evidence of syn-rift melt stagnation at high pressure suggests that magmatism along the Australian-Antarctic rifted margins was sufficient to form magnetic anomalies that can be used as isochrons despite their formation in lithosphere other than mature, steady-state ocean crust.

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    Ocean currents are strongly controlled by seafloor topography. Recent studies have shown that small-scale features with slopes steeper than 0.05° significantly affect subsurface eddy velocities and the vertical structure of ocean circulation patterns. Such slope gradients represent the majority of the present-day oceanic basins. Modeling past oceanographic conditions for key climate stages requires similarly detailed paleo seafloor topography grids, in order to capture ocean currents accurately, especially for ocean models with sufficient resolution (<0.1°) to resolve eddies. However, existing paleobathymetry reconstructions use either a forward modeling approach, resulting in global grids lacking detailed seafloor roughness, or a backward modeling technique based on sediment backstripping, capturing realistic slope gradients, but for a spatially restricted area. Both approaches produce insufficient boundary conditions for high-resolution global paleo models. Here, we compute high-resolution global paleobathymetry grids, with detailed focus on the Southern Ocean, for key Cretaceous and early Cenozoic climate stages. We backstrip sediments from the modern global bathymetry, allowing the preservation of present-day seafloor slope gradients. Sediment isopach data are compiled from existing seismo-stratigraphic interpretations along the Southern Ocean margins, and expanded globally using total sediment thickness information and constant sedimentation rates. We also consider the effect of mantle flow on long-wavelength topography. The resulting grids contain realistic seafloor slope gradients and continental slopes across the continent-ocean transition zones that are similar to present-day observations. Using these detailed paleobathymetry grids for high-resolution global paleo models will help to accurately reconstruct oceanographic conditions of key climate stages and their interaction with the evolving seafloor.

  • Six dredges were undertaken from the RV Investigator during voyage IN2016_E01 to obtain rock and sediment samples to constrain the crustal nature, age of formation and paleo-environment through time of the Cascade Seamount, located offshore Eastern Tasmania, Australia. This record lists the sample number, weights and rock types recovered. In total we collected 713 kg of rock samples, including basalts, conglomerates, sandstones, limestones and tuffs.

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    Understanding the patterns and characteristics of sedimentary deposits on the conjugate Australian-Antarctic margins is critical to reveal the Cretaceous-Cenozoic tectonic, oceanographic and climatic conditions in the basin. However, unravelling its evolution has remained difficult due to the different seismic stratigraphic interpretations on each margin and sparse drill sites. Here, for the first time, we collate all available seismic reflection profiles on both margins and use newly available offshore drilling data, to develop a consistent seismic stratigraphic framework across the Australian-Antarctic basins. We find sedimentation patterns similar in structure and thickness, prior to the onset of Antarctic glaciation, enabling the basin-wide correlation of four major sedimentary units and their depositional history. We interpret that during the warm and humid Late Cretaceous (~83-65 Ma), large onshore river systems on both Australia and Antarctica resulted in deltaic sediment deposition offshore. We interpret that the onset of clockwise bottom currents during the Early Paleogene (~58-48 Ma) formed prominent sediment drift deposits along both continental rises. We suggest that these currents strengthened and progressed farther east through the Eocene. Coevally, global cooling (<48 Ma) and progressive aridification led to a large-scale decrease in sediment input from both continents. Two major Eocene hiatuses recovered by the IODP site U1356A at the Antarctic continental slope likely formed during this pre-glacial phase of low sedimentation and strong bottom currents. Our results can be used to constrain future paleo-oceanographic modelling of this region and aid understanding of the oceanographic changes accompanying the transition from a greenhouse to icehouse world.