Glacial erratics collected on Melville Island, western Canadian Arctic Archipelago, were analyzed to determine their mainland provenance, thereby constraining their long-distance transport by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. These erratics can be broadly subdivided into three main lithologies: granite (n = 15), quartzite (n = 7), and diabase–diorite (n = 3). The granite erratics are most distinctive from a provenance perspective and can be further subdivided into three geochemical groups based on their potassium content: (1) a high-K2O group (K2O > 4.0 wt.%), (2) an intermediate-K2O group (K2O between 2.0 and 4.0 wt.%), and (3) a low-K2O group (K2O < 2.0 wt.%). In situ thin section laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer U–Pb zircon ages obtained for eight granite erratics yielded both Archean (2575 Ma) and a range of Paleoproterozoic (2472–1778 Ma) crystallization ages. In addition, three overprint ages were identified at 1.90, 1.84, and ∼1.0 Ga. The most compelling constraint for a northward regional ice flow originating on the mainland are two high-precision conventional U–Pb zircon ages of 1969.5 ± 1.0 and 2472.3 ± 0.5 Ma, indicating that these granite erratics must have been derived from the 2.0–1.9 Ga Taltson–Thelon Orogen and the nearby 2.5–2.4 Ga Queen Maud Block, respectively. These granite-dominated terranes are located 600 km due south and southeast of the collection area on Melville Island. Although it is unknown whether the final deposition of these erratics on Melville Island involved transport by one or more glaciations, it is apparent that this ice flow cannot be accommodated by the proposed north–south axis of the M’Clintock Ice Divide, the primary topographic feature of the northwestern Laurentide Ice Sheet during the last glacial maximum. The transport of erratics reported here would have required a former ice divide oriented east–west over the mainland, close to that proposed for the Ancestral Keewatin Divide. An east–west ice divide in this region is consistent with previously reported ice-flow indicators that document northward flow from the mainland and recent thermomechanically coupled ice-sheet numerical modeling that indicates former maximum ice thickness on the mainland immediately south of Melville Island.
- Received May 14, 2008.
- Accepted January 8, 2009.
- Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at http://cjes.nrc.ca on March 27, 2009.