Extremely low long-term erosion rates around the Gamburtsev Mountains in interior East Antarctica

S. E. Cox, S. N. Thomson, P. W. Reiners, S. R. Hemming, T. Van De Flierdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The high elevation and rugged relief (>3 km) of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains (GSM) have long been considered enigmatic. Orogenesis normally occurs near plate boundaries, not cratonic interiors, and large-scale tectonic activity last occurred in East Antarctica during the Pan-African (480-600 Ma). We sampled detrital apatite from Eocene sands in Prydz Bay at the terminus of the Lambert Graben, which drained a large pre-glacial basin including the northern Gamburtsev Mountains. Apatite fission-track and (U-Th)/He cooling ages constrain bedrock erosion rates throughout the catchment. We double-dated apatites to resolve individual cooling histories. Erosion was very slow, averaging 0.01-0.02 km/Myr for >250 Myr, supporting the preservation of high elevation in interior East Antarctica since at least the cessation of Permian rifting. Long-term topographic preservation lends credence to postulated high-elevation mountain ice caps in East Antarctica since at least the Cretaceous and to the idea that cold-based glaciation can preserve tectonically inactive topography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL22307
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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