During the Polish Antarctic Geodynamic Expeditions, 1979-91, a wide geophysical and geological programme was performed in the transition zone between the Drake and South Shetland microplates and the Antarctic Plate, in West Antarctica. In the Bransfield Strait area, and along passive continental margin of the Antarctic Peninsula, 20 deep seismic sounding profiles were made. The interpretation yielded two - dimensional models of the crust and lithosphere down to 80 km depth. In the coastal area between the Palmer Archipelago and the Adelaide Island, the Earth's crust has a typical continental structure. Its thickness varies from 36 to 42 km in the coastal area, decreasing to about 25-28 km toward Pacific Ocean. In the surrounding of Bransfield Strait, the Moho boundary depth ranges from 10 km beneath the South Shetland Trench to 40 km beneath Antarctic Peninsula. The crustal structure beneath the Bransfield Strait trough is highly anomalous. Presence of a high-velocity body, with longitudinal seismic wave velocities Vp > 7,0 km/s, was detected there in the 6-32 km depth range. This inhomogeneity was interpreted as an intrusion, coinciding with the Deception-Bridgeman volcanic line. In the transition zone from the Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands, a seismic boundary in the lower lithosphere occurs at a depth ranging from 35 to 80 km. The dip of both the Moho and this boundary is approximately 25° towards the southeast, indicating the direction of subduction of the Drake Plate lithosphere under the Antarctic Plate. Basing on the results of four Polish Geodynamic Expeditions, the map of crustal thickness in West Antarctica is presented.
The lithospheric transect South Shetland Islands (SSI) — Antarctic Peninsula (AP) includes: the Shetland Trench (subductional) and the adjacent portion of the SE Pacific oceanic crust; the South Shetland Microplate (younger magmatic arc superimposed on continental crust); the Bransfield Rift and Platform (younger back-arc basin); the Trinity Horst (older magmatic arc superimposed on continental crust); the Gustav Rift (Late Cenozoic) and James Ross Platform (older back-arc basin). Deep seismic sounding allowed to trace the Moho discontinuity at about 30 km under South Shetlands and at 38—42 km in the northern part of Antarctic Peninsula (Trinity Horst), under typical continental crust. Modified crust was recognized under Bransfield Strait. Geological interpretation based on deep seismic refraction and multichannel reflection soundings, and surface geological data, is presented.
During the Polish Antarctic Geodynamical Expeditions in 1979-91, deep seismic sounding measurements were performed in the transition zone between the Drake and South Shetland Microplates and the Antarctic Plate in West Antarctica. For the Bransfield Strait area, the seismic records of five land stations in South Shetland Islands and two stations at the Antarctic Peninsula were used. The interpretation yielded two—dimensional models of the crust and lithosphere down to 80 km depth. In the uppermost crust, the unconsolidated and poorly consolidated young sediments with velocities of 1.9 — 2.9 km/s cover the layers 4.0—4.2 and 5.6—5.9 km/s. The crustal structure beneath the trough of Bransfield Strait is highly anomalous. The presence of a high velocity body, with longitudinal seismic wave velocities vp > 7.0 km/s, was detected in the 6 — 30 km depth range. This inhomogeneity was interpreted as an intrusion, coinciding with the Deception—Bridgeman volcanic line. For the uppermost crust, a qualitative comparison was made between the results from the reflection profiles (GUN) and deep seismic sounding profiles (DSS). In the study area, the Moho boundary depth ranges from 10 km beneath the South Shetland Trench to 40 km under the Antarctic Peninsula. In the transition zone from the Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands, a seismic boundary in the lower lithosphere occurs at a depth ranging from 35 to 80 km. The dip of both the Moho and this boundary is approximately 25°, and indicates the direction of subduction of the Drake Plate lithosphere under the Antarctic Plate. The results obtained were compared with earlier results of seismic, gravity and magnetic surveys in West Antarctica. A scheme of geotectonic division and a geodynamical model of the zone of subduction of the Drake Plate under the Antarctic Plate is compared with subduction zones in other areas of the circum-Pacific belt.