Evidence of hidden Antarctic Mountains washes up on SA Beaches

Evidence of hidden Antarctic Mountains washes up on SA Beaches

Imagine a beach with streaks of vibrant pink sand – not a sign of pollution, but a scientific revelation. Geologists in Australia recently discovered the source of this unusual phenomenon, leading them to a hidden mountain range buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

The story began at Petrel Cove, a remote South Australian beach. When scientists analysed the pink sand, they found it was made of garnet, a mineral typically formed under high temperatures associated with mountain building. But the real surprise came with its age – a staggering 590 million years old.

This presented a puzzle. Existing mountain ranges in South Australia weren't formed at that time. The answer, researchers believe, lies hidden thousands of kilometres away, under the Antarctic ice sheet.

Here's where things get interesting. Garnet is quite susceptible to erosion from waves and currents. So, the pink sand on the Australian beach couldn't have travelled vast distances over millions of years. Instead, the scientists theorize it originated from a mountain range in East Antarctica, part of the Transantarctic Mountains, which are also estimated to be 590 million years old.


Map showing position of Australia and Antarctica when they were joined in the supercontinent Gondwana.


During the Palaeozoic Era, when Australia and Antarctica were part of the supercontinent Gondwana, a massive ice sheet covered the area. This ice sheet likely scoured the ancient Antarctic mountains, grinding down rocks containing garnet and transporting them north-westward. Eventually, these garnet-rich sediments were deposited along the southern Australian margin.

Millions of years later, erosion liberated these garnet-rich deposits once again. Wind, waves, and tides concentrated the garnet on the beaches, creating the mesmerizing pink streaks we see today.

This discovery highlights the incredible detective work geologists do. By piecing together clues from tiny mineral grains, they can paint a picture of Earth's history, revealing hidden landscapes and the vast journeys rocks undertake over time. The pink sands of Petrel Cove serve as a beautiful reminder of the dynamic forces that have shaped our planet.


You’ve come this far…
Why not venture a little further into A.S.S. - our exclusive Australian Space Society. 

And keep thrusting Australia into the deep unknown…


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Supporter Merchandise

1 of 4