Moving mountains

At 3,500 kilometres, the Transantarctic Mountain range in Antarctica is the third longest on Earth.

Transantarctic Mountains
View of the Transantarctic Mountains. Credit: NASA, Michael Studinger

Yet, unlike the Andes and the Himalayas, it formed not by colliding tectonic plates, but by growing adjacent to a rift within a tectonic plate.

Professor Tim Stern, from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, has been awarded Marsden funding of $790,000 in collaboration with United States researchers to investigate the range’s unique mechanisms, which have been a source of debate since the scientists of Scott’s expeditions first wrote about them in the 1900s.

“Firstly, we’ll lay out seismographs to analyse how earthquakes are affected by the mountains’ structure,” says Tim.

“We’ll also use explosions to create sound waves that will provide an image of the structure 50 kilometres below the Earth’s surface. This will give an idea of how these mountains uplifted and what has sustained them for the past 50 million years.”