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Antarctic Palaeoenvironments and Earth-Surface Processes

HambreyThis Geological Society Special Publication was published in honour of Peter Frank Barker and contains 26 papers from the 11th International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences.  The papers are presented in three major themes: Palaeozoic & Mesozoic evolution of the Antarctic continent, Cenozoic glaciations & impacts and Glacial and Periglacial processes. 

While this is an adequate description of the books contents it does not do justice to the depth and breadth of topics covered in this volume.  The book opens with a thorough review of the Transantarctic Mountains and the tectonics theme continues with a novel technique for measuring offset on an inferred fault beneath the Byrd Glacier and the characterisation of stress fields within the South Orkney Microcontinent. 

The book then shifts to a “soft geology” focus with an impressive overview of the Devonian Taylor Group sediments, a review of dinosaurs from the James Ross Basin and a biogeographical study of Austral echinoid faunas.  If one paper on bipedal theropods wasn’t enough, the Cenozoic section opens with a taxonomic revision of Eocene penguins!  

This section continues with a smorgasbord of papers covering everything from seismic stratigraphy to novel methods for reconstructing bioproductivity.  The final theme provides a series of papers on the processes that are operating on Antarctica today or in the more recent geological past.  This section continues the diversity of topics with papers on geomorphology, Antarctic soils, palaeoshoreline studies, seismic studies of drift deposits and EnviroSat based snow mapping. 

Of particular note in this section is the review of present and potential future periglacial processes and landform studies.  This paper provides the wonderful combination of known and unknown, which is suitable material for future research.  Combined with extensive photos of features, some with question-marked processes, this makes for a compelling read, even for a palynologist!

Overall, this volume of the Geological Society’s Special Publications is an excellent addition to any desk, bookshelf or library.  It covers a wonderful breadth of topics without any lack of depth.  As entertaining and interesting as it is useful, I would recommend it to anybody with research interests on the Earth’s coldest continent.

Reviewed by Matthew Pound

ANTARCTIC PALAEOENVIRONMENTS AND EARTH-SURFACE PROCESSES edited by M J Hambrey, P F Barrett, V  Bowman, B Davies, J L Smellie and M Tranter, 2013.  Geological Society of London Special Publication 381; 506pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781862393639 List Price: £125.