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Cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al measurements from bedrock exposures in East Antarctica provide indications of how long the rock surface has been free from glacial cover. Samples from the crests of Zakharoff Ridge and Mount Harding, two typical nunataks in the Grove Mountains, show minimum 10Be ages of 2.00 ± 0.22 and 2.30 ± 0.26 Ma, respectively. These ages suggest that the crests were above the ice sheet at least since the Plio–Pleistocene boundary. Adopting a ‘reasonable’ erosion rate of 5–10 cm Ma-1 increases the exposure ages of these two samples to extend into the mid-Pliocene. The bedrock exposure ages steadily decrease with decreasing elevation on the two nunataks, which indicates ~200 m decrease of the ice sheet in the Grove Mountains since mid-Pliocene time. Seven higher elevation samples exhibit a simple exposure history, which indicates that the ice sheet in the Grove Mountains decreased only ~100 m over a period as long as 1–2 Ma. This suggests that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) was relatively stable during the Pliocene warm interval. Five lower elevation samples suggest a complex exposure history, and indicate that the maximum subsequent increase of the EAIS was only 100 m higher than the present ice surface. Considering the uncertainties, their total initial exposure and subsequent burial time could be later than mid-Pliocene, which may not conflict with the stable mid-Pliocene scenario.
During fieldwork of the 1998–99 and 1999–2000 Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition (CHINARE), three different kinds of Cenozoic sedimentary record were found in the Grove Mountains, which are in East Antarctica about 450km inland of Prydz Bay. These consist of (1) glaciogenic sedimentary erratics found in the moraine banks in the central area of Grove Mountains, which can be subdivided into four types according to different degrees of lithification as well as differences in inner structure and include in-situ diamicts; (2) palaeosols found in several small depressions in the southern slope of the Mount Harding; and (3) different kinds of glacial moraine floating on the surface of blue ice or around the foot of some nunataks. Preliminary results suggest that the in situ glaciogenic sediments were formed in the ice-sheet frontal area by the interaction of glacial movement and ice sheet melt water under climatic conditions warmer than today.
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