Petrography of Lower Cretaceous sandstones on Spitsbergen

Harmon D. Maher, Troy Hays, Robert Shuster, Jeremy Mutrux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The sandstone petrography of sample suites from four sites spanning the Rurikfjellet (Hauterivian) to Carolinefjellet (Aptian-Albian) formations in central Spitsbergen was investigated. The sandstones show a distinct stepwise shift in composition from quartz arenites to sublitharenites and lithic arenites, typically within the upper part of the Helvetiafjellet Formation. This shift is related to the introduction of 10-25% (grain%) plagioclase grains and volcanic lithics, and a notable increase in basement and sedimentary lithics. Quartz grain character also changes, and grain shapes become more varied. The shift is also associated with the transgressive arrival of marine sediments in the area, and the introduction of sands from the east-northeast by shore-parallel transport. Regional regression and subsequent transgression, and the change in sandstone composition is attributed to the development of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province in the region. The relative constancy of sand composition and volume of volcanic detritus within the Carolinefjellet Formation suggests long term (≈ 20 M) stability of the sediment system and a large volcanic source area, consistent with LIP (Large Igneous Province) derivation, along with significant exposure of basement rocks. Sample spacing and sediment recycling and mixing do not allow detection of events that would have changed sandstone composition that were less than ≈ 1 M duration. Preservation of significant amounts of plagioclase in a sediment-starved shelf can be explained by relatively cold climatic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-165
Number of pages19
JournalPolar Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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