Ancient Antarctic Mountains Unearthed By Pink Sands In Australia

The discovery of pink sand on the shores of Petrel Cove, Australia, has led scientists to uncover an ancient Antarctic mountain range.

Ancient Antarctic Mountains Unearthed By Pink Sands In Australia

The pink hue is due to garnet, a mineral found to be 590 million years old.

What began as an unusual pink hue on the shores of Petrel Cove has led to a surprising discovery.

The culprit behind the colourful sand? Garnet, a mineral remnant of an ancient Antarctic mountain range, was previously hidden beneath miles of ice.

Scientists were initially perplexed by the pink sand but quickly identified it as garnet. However, the mineral's age and origin were a mystery. Further investigation revealed the garnet to be an astonishing 590 million years old, far older than surrounding geological formations.

"The garnet is too young to have come from the Gawler Craton and too old to have come from the eroding Adelaide Fold Belt," says Sharmaine Verhaert, PhD candidate and lead of the University of Adelaide research team.

"Garnet requires high temperatures to form and is usually associated with the formation of large mountain belts, and this was a time when the South Australian crust was comparatively cool and non-mountainous."

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, established that garnet does not originate from local source rocks, but they knew it had travelled from nearby, as garnet is typically destroyed through prolonged exposure to the marine environment.

They discovered that the glacial sedimentary deposits of the Cape Jervis Formation, cropping out along the South Australian shorelines, contain layers of sand with garnet that are also around 590 million years old.

This discovery suggests the existence of an ancient mountain range in Antarctica, currently buried under the continent's vast ice sheet. The garnet travelled a long journey, likely deposited by glaciers millions of years ago before being reworked by modern waves and tides onto the beaches of South Australia.

This pink sand is not just a pretty sight; it's a window into our planet's deep history and the hidden secrets buried beneath the ice.