Modelling-, rock cooling-, sedimentation- and exposure-based interpretations of the mechanisms by which topography evolves at extended continental margins vary widely. Observations from the margin of Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, have until now not strongly contributed to these interpretations. Here, we present new airborne gravity and radar data describing the eastern part of this margin. Inland of a tall (2.5 km) great escarpment, a plateau topped by a branching network of valleys suggests preservation of a fluvial landscape with SW-directed drainage beneath a cold-based ice sheet. The valley floor slopes show that this landscape was modified during a period of alpine-style glaciation prior to the onset of the current cold-based phase around 34 Ma. The volume of sediments in basins offshore in the Riiser-Larsen Sea balances with the volume of rock estimated to have been eroded and transported by north-directed drainage from between the escarpment and the continental shelf break. The stratigraphy of these basins shows that most of the erosion occurred during the ~40 Myr following late Jurassic continental breakup. This erosion is unlikely to have been dominated by backwearing because the required rate of escarpment retreat to its present location is faster than numerical models of landscape evolution suggest to be possible. We suggest an additional component of erosion by downwearing seawards of a pre-existing inland drainage divide. The eastern termination of the great escarpment and inland plateau is at the West Ragnhild trough, a 300 km long, 15–20 km wide and up to 1.6 km deep subglacial valley hosting the West Ragnhild glacier. Numerous overdeepened (by >300 m) segments of the valley floor testify to its experience of significant glacial erosion. Thick late Jurassic and early Cretaceous sediments fanning out from the trough's mouth into the eastern Riiser-Larsen Sea betray an earlier history as a river valley. The lack of late Jurassic relief-forming processes in this river's catchment in the interior of East Antarctica suggests this erosion was related to regional climatic change.
- Programområde 5: Natur og klima