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Natural Wonders of the Polar Regions
Arctic
Antarctic
The Polar Plateau
Mount Erebus
Antarctic Sea Ice
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Transantarctic Mountains
Antarctica
Earth's Natural Wonders in the Polar Regions
Area of Transantarctic Mountains: 225,461 square miles
Highest peak: (Mt. Markham): 14,275 feet
 
 
 
 
The Transantarctic Mountains in northern Victoria Land near Cape Roberts [1]

 

The three largest mountain ranges on the Antarctic continent are the Transantarctic Mountains (abbreviated TAM), the West Antarctica Ranges, and the East Antarctica Ranges. The Transantarctic Mountains compose a mountain range in Antarctica which extend, with some interruptions, across the continent from Cape Adare in northern Victoria Land to Coats Land. These mountains serve as the division between East Antarctica and West Antarctica. They include a number of separately named mountain groups, which are often again subdivided into smaller ranges.

 

Biology

Penguins, seals, and sea birds live along the Ross Sea coastline in Victoria Land, while life in the interior of the Transantarctics is limited to lichens, algae, and fungi.


History
The Transantarctic Mountains were first seen by Captain James Ross in 1841 from the Ross Sea. The range is a natural barrier that must be crossed to reach the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf. In 1908, while not making the pole, Ernest Shackleton's party was the first to cross the mountains, using the Beardmore Glacier. Robert Scott returned to the Beardmore in 1911, while Roald Amundsen crossed the range via the Axel Heiberg Glacier.

Much of the range remained unexplored until the late 1940s and 1950s, when missions such as Operation Highjump and the International Geophysical Year made extensive use of aerial photography and concentrated on a thorough investigation of the entire continent. The name "Transantarctic Mountains" were recommended in 1962 by the US-ACAN committee, a US authority for geographic names. This purely descriptive label (in contrast to many other geographic names of the seventh continent) is internationally accepted at present.

The Leverett Glacier in the Queen Maud Mountains is the planned route through the TAM for the overland supply road between McMurdo Station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.


Geology
The Transantarctic Mountains are considerably older than other mountain ranges of the continent that are mainly volcanic in origin. The range was uplifted during the opening of the West Antarctic Rift to the east, beginning about 65 million years ago in the early Cenozoic.

The mountains consist of sedimentary layers lying upon a basement of granites and gneisses. The sedimentary layers include the Beacon Supergroup sandstones, siltstones, and coal deposited beginning in the Silurian period and continuing into the Jurassic. In many places the Beacon has been intruded by dikes and sills of Jurassic-age Ferrar Dolerite. Many of the fossils found in Antarctica are from locations within these sedimentary formations.

Ice from the East Antarctic ice sheet flows through the Transantarctic Mountains via a series of outlet glaciers into the Ross Sea, Ross Ice Shelf, and West Antarctic Ice Sheet. These glaciers generally flow perpendicular to the orientation of the range and define subranges and peak groups. It is thought that many of these outlet glaciers follow the traces of large-scale geologic faults.[2]

McMurdo to South Pole. 2002

 

ericmuhs
March 25, 2008

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References
 
1. Wikimedia Commons-Transantarctic Mountains-  Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 7/25/2009
2. Wikipedia-Transantarctic Mountains-retrieved 7/25/2009
 
 
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