Skip to main content Accessibility help

Geodynamic implications of the Cenozoic stress field on Seymour Island, West Antarctica

  • A. Maestro (a1) (a2), J. López-Martínez (a2), F. Bohoyo (a1), M. Montes (a1), F. Nozal (a1), S. Santillana (a3) and S. Marenssi (a3)...


Palaeostress inferred from brittle mesostructures in Seymour (Marambio) Island indicates a Cenozoic to Recent origin for an extensional stress field, with only local compressional stress states. Minimum horizontal stress (σ3) orientations are scattered about two main NE–SW and NW–SE modes suggesting that two stress sources have been responsible for the dominant minimum horizontal stress directions in the north-western Weddell Sea. Extensional structures within a broad-scale compressional stress field can be linked to both the decrease in relative stress magnitudes from active margins to intraplate regions and the rifting processes that occurred in the northern Weddell Sea. Stress states with NW–SE trending σ3 are compatible with back-arc extension along the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. We interpret this as due to the opening of the Larsen Basin during upper Cretaceous to Eocene and to the spreading, from Pliocene to present, of the Bransfield Basin (western Antarctic Peninsula), both due to former Phoenix Plate subduction under the Antarctic Plate. NE–SW σ3 orientations could be expressions of continental fragmentation of the northern Antarctic Peninsula controlling eastwards drifting of the South Orkney microcontinent and other submerged continental blocks of the southern Scotia Sea.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Acosta, J. & Uchupi, E. 1996. Transtensional tectonics along the South Scotia Ridge, Antarctica. Tectonophysics, 267, 3156.
Ashcroft, W.A. 1972. Crustal structure of the South Shetland Islands and Bransfield Strait. British Antarctic Survey Scientific Report, No. 66, 43 pp.
Barber, P.L., Barker, P.F. & Pankhurst, R.J. 1991. Dredged rocks from Powell basin and the South Orkney microcontinent. In Thomson, M.R.A., Crame, J.A. & Thomson, J.W., eds. Geological evolution of the Antarctica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 361367.
Barker, D.H.N. & Austin, J.A. 1994. Crustal diapirism in Bransfield Strait, West Antarctica: evidence for distributed extension in marginal-basin formation. Geology, 22, 657660.
Barker, P.F. 1982. The Cenozoic subduction history of the Pacific margin of the Antartic Peninsula: ridge crest-trench interactions. Journal of the Geological Society of London, 139, 787801.
Barker, P.F. & Lawver, L.A. 1988. South American–Antarctic plate motion over the past 50 Myr, and the evolution of the South American–Antarctic ridge. Geophysical Journal, 94, 377386.
Barker, P.F., Dalziel, I.W.D. & Storey, B.C. 1991. Tectonic development of the Scotia Arc Region. In Tingey, R.J., ed. Antarctic geology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 215248.
Barker, P.F., Kennett, J.P. & Shipboard Scientific Party. 1988. Weddell Sea palaeoceanography: preliminary results of ODP leg 113. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 67, 75102.
Bohoyo, F. 2004. Fragmentación continental y desarrollo de cuencas oceánicas en el sector medridional del Arco de Scotia, Antártida. PhD thesis, University of Granada, Spain, 236 pp. [Unpublished.]
Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Maldonado, A., Schreider, A.A. & Suriñach, E. 2002. Basin development subsequent to ridge-trench collision: the Jane Basin, Antarctica. Marine Geophysical Researches, 23, 413421.
Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Jabaloy, A., Maldonado, A., Rodríguez-Fernández, J., Schreider, A.A. & Suriñach, E. 2007. Extensional deformation and development of deep basins associated with the sinistral transcurrent fault zone of the Scotia–Antarctic plate boundary. In Cunningham, D. & Mann, P., eds. Tectonics of strike-slip restraining and releasing bends. Geological Society of London Special Publication, 290.
Bott, M.H.P. 1959. The mechanics of oblique slip faulting. Geological Magazine, 96, 109117.
Coren, F., Ceccone, G., Lodolo, E., Zanolla, C., Zitellini, N., Bonazzi, C. & Centonze, J. 1997. Morphology, seismic structure and tectonic development of the Powell Basin, Antarctica. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 154, 849862.
DelValle, R.A., Elliot, D.H. & Macdonald, D.I.M. 1992. Sedimentary basins of the east flank of the Antarctic Peninsula: proposed nomenclature. Antarctic Science, 4, 477478.
Dietrich, R., Dach, R., Engelhardt, G., Heck, B., Kutterer, H., Lindner, K., Mayer, M., Menge, F., Mikolaiski, H.W., Niemeier, W., Pohl, M., Salbach, H., Schenke, H.W., Schöne, T., Seeber, G. & Soltau, G. 1996. The SCAR 95 GPS campaign: objectives, data analysis and final solution. In Dietrich, R., ed. The Geodetic Antarctic Project GAP95 German Contributions to the SCAR 95 Epoch Campaign. Deutsche Geodätische Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Reihe B, Heft Nr 304, S914.
Dietrich, R., Rülke, A., Ihde, J., Lindner, K., Miller, H., Niemeier, W., Schenke, H.-W. & Seeber, G. 2004. Plate kinematics and deformation status of the Antarctic Peninsula based on GPS. Global and Planetary Change, 42, 313321.
Doglioni, C. 1995. Geological remarks on the relationships between extension and convergent geodynamics settings. Tectonophysics, 252, 253267.
Dziewonski, A.M., Chou, T.A. & Woodhouse, J.H. 1981. Determination of earthquake source parameters from waveform data for studies of global and regional seismicity. Journal of Geophysical Research, 86, 28252852.
Eagles, G. & Livermore, R.A. 2002. Opening history of Powell Basin, Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Geology, 185, 195202.
Eagles, G., Livermore, R. & Morris, P. 2006. Small basins in the Scotia Sea: the Eocene Drake Passage gateway. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 242, 343353.
Elliot, D.H. & Trautman, T.A. 1982. Lower Tertiary strata on Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. In Craddock, C., ed. Antarctic geoscience. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 287297.
Elliot, D.H., Askin, R.A., Kyte, F.T. & Zinsmeister, W.J. 1994. Iridium and dinocysts at the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary on Seymour Island, Antarctica: implications for the K–T event. Geology, 22, 675678.
Feldmann, R.M. & Woodburne, M.O.eds. 1988. Geology and Paleontology of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Geological Society of America Memoir, No. 169, 566 pp.
Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Bohoyo, F., Maldonado, A., Schreider, A., Suriñach, E. & Vázquez, J.T. 2006b. Propagating rift during the opening of a small oceanic basin: the Protector Basin (Scotia Arc, Antarctica). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 241, 398412.
Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Gamboa, L., Maldonado, A., Nakao, S. & Bochu, Y. 2006a. Tectonic development of the Bransfield Basin and its prolongation to the South Scotia Ridge, northern Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Geology, 206, 267282.
Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Jabaloy, A., Maldonado, A. & Sanz de Galdeano, C. 1996. Continental fragmentation along the South Scotia Ridge transcurrent plate boundary (Antarctic Peninsula). Tectonophysics, 259, 275301.
Gambôa, L.A.P. & Maldonado, P.R. 1990. Geophysical investigations in the Bransfield Strait and in the Bellingshausen Sea, Antarctica. In John, B.S., ed. Antarctica as an exploration frontier - hydrocarbon potential, geology and hazards. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Studies in Geology, No. 31, 127142.
Garrett, S.W. & Storey, B.C. 1987. Lithospheric extension on the Antarctic Peninsula during Cenozoic subduction. In Coward, M.P., Dewey, J.F. & Hancock, P.L., eds. Continental extension tectonics. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 28, 419431.
Gazdzicki, A. & Webb, P.N. 1996. Foraminifera from the Pecten Conglomerate (Pliocene) of Cockburn Island. Antarctic Peninsula. Paleontologia Polonica, 55, 147174.
Ghidella, M.E., Yáñez, G. & LaBrecque, J.L. 2002. Revised tectonic implications for the magnetic anomalies of the western Weddell Sea. Tectonophysics, 347, 6586.
Giner-Robles, J.L., Gonzalez-Casado, J.M., Gumiel, P., Martin-Velazquez, S. & Garcia-Cuevas, C. 2003. A kinematic model of the Scotia plate (SW Atlantic Ocean). Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 16, 179191.
Gónzalez-Casado, J.M., Giner, J.L. & López-Martínez, J. 2000. Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula: not a normal backarc basin. Geology, 28, 10431046.
González-Casado, J.M., López-Martínez, J. & Durán, J.J. 1999. Active tectonics and morphostructure at the nothern margin of the Central Bransfield Basin, Hurd Peninsula, Livingston Island (South Shetland Islands). Antarctic Science, 11, 323331.
González-Ferrán, O. 1983. The Larsen Rift: An active extension fracture in West Antarctica. In Oliver, R.L., James, P.R. & Jago, J.B., eds. Antarctic earth science. Camberra: Australian Academy of Science, 344346.
Guterch, A., Grad, M., Janik, T. & Perchuc, E. 1991. Tectonophysical models of the crust between the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland trench. In Thomson, M.R.A., Crame, J.A. & Thomson, J.W., eds. Geological evolution of Antarctica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 409504.
Hathway, B. 2000. Continental rift to back-arc basin: Jurassic–Cretaceous stratigraphical and structural evolution of the Larsen Basins, Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 157, 417432.
Hampel, A. & Hetzel, R. 2006. Response of normal faults to glacial-interglacial fluctuations of ice and water masses on Earth's surface. Journal of Geophysical Research, 11, doi: 10.1029/2005JB004124.
Hancock, P.L. & Engelder, T. 1989. Neotectonic joints. Bulletin Geological Society of America, 101, 11971208.
Hobbs, G.J. 1968. The geology of South Shetland Islands. IV. The geology of Livingstone Island. British Antarctic Survey Scientific Report, No. 47, 34 pp.
Hyden, G. & Tanner, W.G. 1981. Late Paleozoic–Early Mesozoic fore-arc basin sedimentary rocks at the Pacific Margin in western Antarctica. Geologische Rundschau, 70, 529541.
Ineson, J.R. 1989. Coarse-grained submarine fan and slope apron deposits in a Cretaceous back-arc basin. Sedimentology, 36, 793819.
Ivany, L.C., VanSimaey, S., Domack, E.W. & Samson, S.D. 2006. Evidence for an earliest Oligocene ice-sheet on the Antarctic Peninsula. Geology, 34, 377380.
Jeffers, J.D., Anderson, J.B. & Lawver, L.A. 1991. Evolution of the Brandsfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula. In Thomson, M.R.A., Crame, J.A. & Thomson, J.W., eds. Geological evolution of Antarctica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 481485.
Johnston, A.C. 1987. Suppresion of earthquakes by large continental ice sheets. Nature, 330, 467469.
King, E., Leitchenkov, G., Galindo-Zaldívar, J. & Maldonado, A. 1994. Basement distribution in Powell Basin: understanding the tectonic controls on sedimentation. Terra Antartica, 1, 307308.
King, E.C. & Barker, P.F. 1988. The margins of the South Orkney microcontinent. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 145, 317331.
Kovacs, L.C., Morris, P., Brozena, J. & Tikku, A. 2002. Seafloor spreading in the Weddell Sea from magnetic and gravity data. Tectonophysics, 347, 4364.
Larter, R.D. & Barker, P.F. 1991. Effects of ridge crest-trench interaction on Antarctic–Phoenix spreading: forces on a young subducting plate. Journal of Geophysical Research, 96, 1958319607.
Lawver, L.A., Williams, T. & Sloan, B. 1994. Seismic stratigraphy and heat flow of Powell Basin. Terra Antarctica, 1, 309310.
Lawver, L.A., Sloan, B.J., Barker, D.H.N., Ghidella, M.E., VonHerzen, R.F., Keller, R.A., Klinkhamer, G.P. & Chin, C.S. 1996. Distributed active extension in Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula: evidence from multibeam bathymetry. GSA Today, 6(11), 16.
Lee, J.C. & Angelier, J. 1994. Paleostress trajectory maps based on the results of local determinations: the “lissage” program. Computers & Geosciences, 20, 161191.
Lee, D.K., Jin, Y.K., Kim, Y. & Nam, S.H. 2000. Seismicity and tectonics around the northern Antarctic Peninsula from King Sejong station data. Antarctic Science, 12, 196204.
Lisle, R.J., Orife, T. & Arlegui, L. 2001. A stress inversion method requiring only faults slip sense. Journal of Geophysical Research, 106, 22812289.
Livermore, R.A. & Woollett, R.W. 1993. Seafloor spreading in the Weddell Sea and southwest Atlantic since the Late Cretaceous. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 117, 475495.
Livermore, R.A., Nankivell, A., Eagles, G. & Morris, P. 2005. Paleogene opening of Drake Passage. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 236, 459470.
Macdonald, D.I.M., Barker, P.F., Garrett, S.W., Ineson, J.R., Pirrie, D., Storey, B.C., Whitham, A.C., Kinghorn, R.R.F. & Marshall, J.E.A. 1988. A preliminary assessment of the hydrocarbon potential of the Larsen Basin, Antarctica. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 5, 3453.
Maestro, A., Somoza, L., Rey, J., Martínez-Frías, J. & López-Martínez, J. 2007. Active tectonics, fault patterns, and stress field of Deception Island: a response to oblique convergence between the Pacific and Antarctic plates. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 23, 256268.
Maldonado, A., Larter, R.D. & Aldaya, F. 1994. Forearc tectonic evolution of the South Shetland Margin, Antarctic Peninsula. Tectonics, 13, 13451370.
Maldonado, A., Balanyá, J.C., Barnolas, A., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Hernández, J., Jabaloy, A., Livermore, R.A., Martínez, J.M., Rodríguez-Fernández, J., Sanz deGaldeano, C., Somoza, L., Suriñach, E. & Viseras, C. 2000. Tectonics of an extinct ridge-transform intersection, Drake Passage (Antarctica). Marine Geophysical Researches, 21, 4368.
Marenssi, S.A., Santillana, S.N. & Rinaldi, C.A. 1998. Stratigraphy of La Meseta Formation (Eocene), Marambio Island, Antarctica. In Casadío, S., ed. Paleógeno de America del Sur y de la Península Antártica. Revista de la Asociación Paleontológica Argentina, Publicación Especial, 5, 137146.
Orife, T., Arlegui, L. & Lisle, R.J. 2002. DIPSLIP: a QuickBasic stress inversion program for analysisng sets of faults without slip lineations. Computers & Geosciences, 28, 775781.
Parra, J.C., GonzálezFerrán, O. & Bannister, J. 1984. Aeromagnetic survey over the South Shetland Islands, Bransfield Strait and part of the Antarctic Peninsula. Revista Geológica de Chile, 23, 320.
Pelayo, A. & Wiens, D. 1989. Seismotectonics and relative plate motions in the Scotia Sea region. Journal of Geophysical Research, 96, 72937320.
Pirrie, D. 1994. Petrology and provenance of the Marambio Group, Vega Island, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 6, 517527.
Pirrie, D., Crame, J.A., Lomas, S.A. & Riding, J.B. 1997. Late Cretaceous stratigraphy of the Admiralty Sound region, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Cretaceous Research, 18, 109137.
Porebski, S.J. 2000. Shelf-valley compound fill produced by fault subsidence and eustatic sea level changes, Eocene La Meseta Formation, Seymour Island, Antarctica. Geology, 28, 147150.
Rinaldi, C.A., Massabie, A., Morelli, J., Rosenmann, L.H. & Del Valle, R.A. 1978. Geología de la isla Vicecomodoro Marambio, Antártida. Instituto Antártico Argentino, Contribución, 217, 137.
Roach, P.J. 1978. The nature of back-arc extension in Brandsfield Strait. Royal Astronomical Society Geophysical Journal, 53, 165.
Robertson, S.D., Wiens, D.A., Shore, P.J., Vera, E. & Dorman, L.M. 2003. Seismicity and tectonics of the South Shetland Islands and Bransfield Strait from a regional broadband seismograph deployment. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108, doi: 10.1029/2003JB002416.
Rodríguez-Fernández, J., Balanya, J.C., Galindo-Zaldívar, J. & Maldonado, A. 1997. Tectonic evolution and growth patterns of a restricted ocean basin: the Powell Basin (northeastern Antarctic Peninsula). Geodinamica Acta, 10, 159174.
Sadler, P.M. 1988. Geometry and stratification of uppermost Cretaceous and Paleogene units of Seymour Island, northern Antarctic Peninsula. In Feldman, R.M. & Woodburne, M.O., eds. Geology and paleontology of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Geological Society of America, No. 169, 303320.
Simón, J.L. 1986. Análisis of gradual change in stress regime (example from the eastern Iberian Chain, Spain). Tectonophysics, 124, 3753.
Smith, W.H.F. & Sandwell, D.Y. 1997. Global seafloor topography from satellite altimetry and ship depth sounding. Science, 277, 19571962.
Thomas, C., Livermore, R. & Pollitz, F. 2003. Motion of the Scotia Sea plates. Geophysical Journal International, 155, 789804.
Wallace, R.E. 1951. Geometry of shearing stress and relation to faulting. Journal of Geology, 59, 118130.
Willan, R.C.R. & Kelley, S.P. 1999. Mafic dike swarms in the South Shetland Islands volcanic arc: unravelling multiepisodic magmatism related to subduction and continental rifting. Journal of Geophysical Research, 104, 2305123068.
Willan, R.C.R., Pankhurst, R.J. & Hervé, F. 1994. A probable Early Triassic age for the Miers Bluff Formation, Livingston Island, South Shetlands Islands. Antarctic Science, 6, 401408.
Zinsmeister, W.J. & De Vries, T. 1983. Quaternary glacial marine deposits on Seymour Island. Antarctic Journal of the United States, 18(5), 6465.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed