Cape Purvis is a conspicuous promontory on southern Dundee Island. It forms a prominent mesa that contrasts with the smooth, shield-like (snow-covered) topography of the remainder of the island. The promontory is composed of fresh alkaline basaltic (hawaiite) volcanic rocks compositionally similar to younger lavas on Paulet Island 5 km to the east. The outcrop is one of the youngest and northernmost satellite centres of the James Ross Island Volcanic Group. 40Ar/39Ar isotopic dating indicates that the Cape Purvis volcano is 132 ± 19 ka in age. The examined sequence probably formed as a lava-fed delta during a subglacial eruption late in the glacial period corresponding to Isotope Stage 6, when the ice sheet surface elevation was 300–400 m higher than at present. A remarkable unidirectional age progression is now evident, from volcanic centres in Prince Gustav Channel (c. 2.0–1.6 Ma), through Tabarin Peninsula (1.69–c. 1 Ma) to Cape Purvis and Paulet islands (132–few ka). The age variations are tentatively ascribed to construction of progressively younger volcanic centres at the leading edge of an easterly-opening deep fault system, although the origins of the postulated fault system are unclear.
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