The structure of the earth’s crust and the subglacial relief of Antarctica

The structure of the earth’s crust. In the middle of XX century. among scientists there were discussions about what is hidden under the glacial armor of Antarctica: the ocean, the archipelago or the continuous continent. The final answer was given by studies of the earth’s crust. So it was established that the Earth’s crust of Antarctica has a continental character. The continent is based on the ancient Antarctic platform, the crystalline foundation of which was formed in the distant geological past: the Archaean and Proterozoic eras. This confirms the idea that Antarctica is part of the ancient Gondwana. Separating from the ancient continent as a result of the split, it gradually drifted to the south. Antarctica occupied its present position about 65 million years ago. Probably, it was at this time in the western part of the continent that a young folding belt formed in which the active Erebus volcano is located.

Ice-covered relief. Thanks to the glacial “cap”

Antarctica is much higher than other continents. Its average height is 2040 m. However, if you mentally remove the ice cover, Antarctica will become the penultimate one – only 410 m. The ice ridge of Antarctica is related to the structure of the earth’s crust. It is very complex: mountain ranges alternate with vast plains. Under the mass of ice cover for millions of years the plains have bent. Currently, about one-third of the continent is below the water level of the World Ocean.

According to the nature of the relief, Antarctica is divided into Eastern and Western. East Antarctica, located within the ancient platform, is an elevated glacial plateau. Its border is the Transantarctic Mountains, the tops of which sometimes rise even above the surface of the ice sheet. West Antarctica is a lowland. Some of its sections lie below the sea level at 1000-2500 m. The young mountain range on the Antarctic Peninsula is similar in age and structure to the South American mountains and may be their continuation. Therefore, scientists call it the Antarctic Andes.

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The structure of the earth’s crust and the subglacial relief of Antarctica