It has been suggested that the grounding line of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ice sheet in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, receded in an approximately north-to-south pattern during the Holocene. An implication of this hypothesis is that geological evidence from the southwestern Ross Sea has been used widely to interpret retreat histories of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) across the wider Ross Sea embayment. Accurately constraining the timing and pattern of marine-based ice sheet retreat in this embayment is critical to understanding the drivers that may have triggered this event, and its contribution to rapid sea-level rise events. Here, we present new multibeam swath bathymetry data that identifies well-preserved glacial features indicating that thick (>700 m) marine-based ice derived from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet coastal outlet glaciers dominated the ice sheet input into the southwestern Ross Sea during the last phases of glaciation. Subglacial geomorphic features indicate that ice derived from present outlet glacier valleys in South Victoria Land flowed southeastward. This is more consistent with flowlines from model-based interpretations of an earlier retreat of the WAIS in the central Ross Sea than with previous land-based geological reconstructions. This implies that coastal records of deglaciation along the Transantarctic Mountains front record only the final phases of glacial retreat in the Ross Sea. Therefore, chronological data from the central embayment are required to accurately constrain the timing of large-scale glacial retreat in the Ross Sea and to identify the mechanisms that drove it.
- Received 19 October 2016.
- Revision received 31 December 2016.
- Accepted 8 January 2017.
- © Geological Society of America