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Channel to the Strait : the geological history of the Tamar Valley–Launceston area

Corbett, KD 2021 , 'Channel to the Strait : the geological history of the Tamar Valley–Launceston area' , Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, vol. 155, no. 1 , pp. 51-62 , doi:

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The Tamar Valley occupies the Tamar Graben, a geological structure defined by a series of parallel NW-trending faults which have lowered the dolerite basement to below sea level. The resulting narrow trough, some 50 km long and 5 km wide, has been partially infilled with soft sands, clays and gravels, with intercalated basalt flows in places, of mainly Paleogene (lower Tertiary) age. Low hills of hard Jurassic dolerite define the structure on either side. The graben was formed during the break-up of Gondwana, the separation of Australia from Antarctica, and the making of Tasmania, in the Cretaceous-early Cenozoic period, some 70–140 million years ago (Ma). A spreading ridge had propagated eastwards through the Great Australian Bight but was unable to break through the Bass Strait area, and instead a large wedge of crust containing the future Tasmania was pulled away from the corner of Antarctica on a series of transcurrent faults. The associated crustal stretching in the Bass Strait area resulted in the formation of the deep ‘hole’ of Bass Basin, which had offshoots onto what became Tasmania, including the Tamar Graben. For much of its life, the Tamar River was a major feeder stream into the Bass Basin, carrying large volumes of sediment eroded from the Tasmanian highlands. The course of its major tributary, the South Esk River, within the southern part of the graben was completely blocked by basalt flows near the present Evandale about 35 Ma, forcing it into a new course to the west through the dolerite, to form the Cataract Gorge.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Corbett, KD
Keywords: Tasmanian geology, Tamar Valley, Tamar Graben, Launceston geology, Bass Basin, Gondwana
Journal or Publication Title: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
ISSN: 0080-4703
DOI / ID Number:
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Collections: Royal Society Collection > Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
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