Chapter 27 The Use of Heavy Minerals in the Reconstruction of Ice-Sheet Drainage Patterns: An Example from the Edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet

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Heavy-mineral analysis is proven as a powerful tool in reconstructing ice-sheet drainage patterns and has been used in the past in both drift exploration and studies of ice-sheet dynamics. Although ice flow patterns can be extracted from morphological indicators such as striated and grooved bedrock surfaces, clast orientation in tills, or glacial landforms, these properties are not suitable to analyse the sequence of multiple ice-sheet events. Antarctica has been glaciated for the past 34 Myr and has experienced several glacial advances and retreats. Here a case study is presented in which heavy minerals were used to reconstruct East Antarctic glacial events in the Transantarctic Mountains that form an active rift margin. Heavy-mineral analyses demonstrate that the tills in these mountains should be subdivided into at least two end-member petrofacies. The first petrofacies is characterised by tills derived from the highest stratigraphic succession of the Transantarctic Mountains, which were deposited when ice was overriding the mountains. Tills of the second petrofacies originate from erosion and deposition within the glacial troughs that traverse the Transantarctic Mountains, and now form the drainage pathway for the outlet glaciers of the East Antarctic ice sheet. The two petrofacies represent different ice-sheet drainage patterns and the tills were deposited during consecutive stages of denudation of the rift margin.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeavy Minerals in Use
EditorsMaria Mange, David Wright
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Sedimentology
ISSN (Print)0070-4571



  • Transantarctic Mountains
  • glacial events
  • heavy minerals
  • ice-sheet drainage
  • till

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