Thiel Mountains

Pallasite, PMG (main-group)
standby for theil mountains photo
Found December 7, 1961
85° 23.9′ S., 86° 35.4′ W. Geologists from the US Geological Survey found two fragments lying about 200 m apart on the ice at the NE base of Mt. Wrather, in the Thiel Mountains of Antarctica (now a dense collection area abbreviated TIL). This was only the third meteorite ever found in Antarctica. The larger fragment had a weight of 18 kg and the smaller one 10.6 kg. The fusion crust had been completely stripped and the surface smoothed and polished due to sandblasting by windblown rock and ice particles. Two smaller pallasites, TIL 07016 (3,490 g) and TIL 08004 (5,008 g), which were found in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are likely paired to the original pallasite.


Thiel Mountains is a typical member of the main-group pallasites. Trace element and O-isotopic studies suggest that pallasite metal crystallized from IIIAB liquids during fractional crystallization of the core and mantle; however, some recent studies rule out this scenario (Yang and Goldstein, 2006). Metallographic cooling rates of pallasites are not what would be expected given an origin at the core–mantle boundary. Instead, based on the size of the island phase in the cloudy zone of the pallasites, the cooling rates are 20× lower than those of IIIAB irons, implying that the irons were actually closer to the surface of the parent body than pallasites. In addition, the Re–Os chronometer suggests that pallasites formed 60 m.y. later than IIIAB irons, raising further doubt about a IIIAB core–mantle origin for main-group pallasites (E. Scott, 2007). Moreover, pallasites have a much younger range of CRE ages than the IIIAB irons (Huber et al., 2011).


The olivine grains in Thiel Mountains exhibit significant rounding, once considered to be due to thermodynamic processes that minimize the capillary forces along the olivine–metal interface over timescales on the order of 10 to 100 m.y. (Saiki et al., 2003). However, this rounding is now thought to occur primarily from resorption at high temperatures (above ~1250°C) in the presence of silicate melt (Boesenberg et al., 2012). The specimen of Thiel Mountains shown above is a 16.1 g partial slice.

Note that the name “Thiel Mountains” is sometimes misspelled as “Theil Mountains”.

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