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We would like to
thank our sponsors:

British Petroleum


BHP Billiton


ION GX Technology
ION GX Technology



Tectonic Development of the Amerasia Basin

Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada
4–9 October 2009


Lawrence Lawver
University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Geophysics, 10100 Burnet Road, R2200, Austin, TX 78758-4445,
Victoria Pease
PetroTectonics Centre, Dept. of Geology & Geochemistry, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden,


Ruth Jackson
Natural Resources Canada, 1 Challenger Drive, Room H-507 Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada,
Sergey Drachev
ExxonMobil Russia, Inc., 31 Novinsky Boulevard, 5th floor, 123242 Moscow, Russia,

This Penrose Conference on the tectonic development of the Amerasia Basin will be held at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, from 4–9 October 2009. The Conference will be limited to about 60 participants, and all participants must apply by 1 May 2009 to attend.

The tectonic development of the Amerasia Basin is as debated today as it was in 1995 when the first Penrose Conference on the subject was held. The age and spreading history of the ocean floor is still relatively inaccessible to direct sampling because of persistent ice cover and therefore is known mostly from “remote” geophysical methods. The identification of spreading centers, magnetic anomalies, and fracture patterns associated with the Amerasian Basin seafloor is obscured in places by younger magmatism and overprinted by both compressional and extensional tectonics. Furthermore, much of the onshore geology has only been mapped at a reconnaissance scale; the lack of age control on units, structural fabrics, timing of fold and thrust belts, etc., makes it difficult to constrain the opening of the Basin on the basis of circum-Arctic geology.

Since the 1995 meeting, there have been various marine, aerogeophysical, and geological studies around the Arctic, with major projects in Russian territory, two seasons of aerogeophysical work by the Naval Research Lab in the Canada Basin, and a number of shipboard cruises aboard USCGC Healy and various Canadian ships. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) drilling of Lomonosov Ridge in 2004 produced a number of important, high-impact papers concerning the Cenozoic history of the Arctic Ocean and its conversion from possibly nearly fresh water in the early Cenozoic to truly saline now. Unfortunately, even with the new data, we still have no definitive answers as to how and when the Amerasian Basin developed.

Furthermore, global climate change and Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 76) make understanding the tectonic development of the Arctic region even more important. Global warming and the resulting diminution of Arctic sea and land ice, in combination with the potential expansion of sovereign economic zones in the Arctic, have dramatic consequences for (1) environmental changes already affecting marine and land biota, including humans; and (2) exploration for oil, gas, and mineral rights in the circum-Arctic region. Thus, the tectonic development of the Arctic region is of great relevance not only to our understanding of global tectonics, but also to understanding the framework of the known and estimated oil and mineral resources of the Arctic, our understanding of Earth’s climate system, the distribution of flora and fauna, and ultimately the historic distribution of humans on Earth. This, combined with the enthusiasm of invited speakers (100% positive response!), indicates to us that the time is right for a repeat of the 1995 conference. We expect an excellent mix of well-informed scientists, graduate students, and industry representatives, with much to discuss.

This Penrose Conference will (1) summarize the current state of knowledge, and (2) identify both regions and techniques with the potential to answer specific questions (such as whether or not the Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge is volcanic or extended shelf/crust) in order to make the advances necessary for understanding this critical region of the Arctic. We hope this Penrose Conference will spur new field mapping and sampling programs, new geophysical data acquisition campaigns, and, with today’s technology, even inspire the direct sampling of the Amerasian Basin via ocean drilling projects.

As a complement to the presentations, the Conference will include a one-day excursion to the foreland fold and thrust belt of the Canadian Rockies. Deformation in the Rockies indicates that folding and subsidence were driven by far-field collision of terranes impacting the western margin of North America. This deformation is similar to that predicted along the Brooks Range of Alaska and parts of far eastern Siberia, both as subduction related deformation and as a result of the opening of the Amerasian Basin via the “rotational” hypothesis — thus allowing useful comparisons to Arctic deformation.

Tentative Schedule
Sunday, 4 Oct. Arrive in Banff
Monday, 5 Oct. Geophysical perspectives I (ridges & highs)
Tuesday, 6 Oct. Continental margin perspective
Wednesday, 7 Oct. Excursion through the Front Range of the Rockies
Thursday, 8 Oct. Geophysical perspectives II (shelves & basins)
Friday, 9 Oct. Resource perspectives (morning only) and lunch
Friday, 9 Oct. Afternoon/evening departures


Application Deadline: 1 May 2009

Please contact Victoria Pease or Lawrence Lawver with a letter of intent that includes a brief statement of interest, the relevance of your recent work to the Conference themes, the subject and mode (oral or poster) of your proposed presentation, as well as contact information. We strongly encourage graduate students to apply; partial NSF support may be available for students. Once you have been selected to participate, we will forward your contact information to GSA, and they will send you detailed registration information.

Travel and Costs

We will stay at the Banff Conference Centre, where all meals are included. The cost will be US$350 per person from Calgary International Airport (round trip), based on double occupancy. Those requesting a single room (limited availability) will pay an additional US$320 for the week.

We are in the process of applying for sponsorship to help defray costs. We hope to be able to secure funds such that students can attend without cost and that academic participants can attend for only the cost of plane fare to Calgary, the nearest major airport.

Field Trip

There will be an all day, mid-week field trip to look at the Foreland fold and thrust belt of the Canadian Rockies. The trip will be by bus and involve little hiking. Robust footwear is not needed, but be prepared for wet weather. Lunch and beverage will be provided.