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Geology on the edge of the Australian Antarctic Territory: a history of frontier science in Enderby Land

Geology on the edge of the Australian Antarctic Territory: a history of frontier science in Enderby Land
Daniel J. Dunkley


Daniel J. Dunkley
Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845


Enderby Land lies near the western margin of the AAT, between 45°E and 56°E. Despite limited accessibility, it has been an exceptional source of geological discoveries of profound influence on our understanding of Earth evolution. Following the establishment of research stations by Australia (Mawson at 63°E), the USSR (Molodezhnaya at 46°E), and Japan (Syowa at 40°E), geological fieldwork in Enderby Land was conducted in waves by teams from Australia (1960-5; 1974-1980), the USSR (1962-1974), and Japan (1990-2001; 2005). Field investigations since 1980 have been limited to coastal localities. Samples collected during earlier deep-field expeditions yielded, and are still yielding, important discoveries, including:

  • 1980: rare minerals proving the presence of ultra-high temperature metamorphism (>950°C) in the Earth’s crust, subsequently identified in other localities worldwide;
  • 1986: a 3.9 billion year old rock in the Tula Range, at the time of its discovery the oldest rock yet found on Earth;
  • 1999: Khmaralite, a new beryllium mineral;
  • 2011: a 4.0 billion year old mineral found on the eastern margin of Enderby Land, opening up the possibility of discovering one of the oldest parts of the Earth’s crust still in existence;
  • 2013: lead mobility in the mineral zircon, with implications for age determinations in metamorphic rocks.

These results demonstrate the long-lived value of deep-field geological exploration. Scientific publications on Enderby Land and their influence on the geosciences are increasing with each decade; the area has never been as relevant as it is today. Further exploration would undoubtedly yield new discoveries.

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Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

More key dates…

This page was last modified on 23 September 2013.