The Falkland Islands presently lie at the western end of the Falkland Plateau, a displaced terrane (or group of terranes) that may have lain adjacent to the eastern coast of southern Africa and Mozambique before the start of breakup of Gondwana in the Jurassic and the opening of the South Atlantic in the Early Cretaceous (Martin et al. 1982; Norton 1982; Martin 1986; Lawver & Scotese 1987; McKerrow et al. 1992).

Mitchell et al. (1986), Taylor & Shaw (1989) and Marshall (1994) suggested that the Falkland Islands micro-plate probably rotated clockwise through up to 180° during the formation of the present continental configuration; 120° of which occurred during the early stages of the rifting of Gondwana, and the remaining 60° occurred simultaneously with South Atlantic opening.

Although the hypothesis of micro-plate rotation as a controlling factor in the development of the area is now generally accepted, offshore mapping by the British Geological Survey has cast doubt on the validity of the hypothesis. These workers (see Richards 1995, for a somewhat dated review of the various arguments) instead preferred to image the Falklands Plateau as a fixed, rigid plate, that translated to its present position without micro-plate rotation. They envisaged that the Islands started somewhere further southeast off the coast of South Africa than do workers who prefer the rotational model.

Regional Geology

Plate Tectonic Images

Fig.1: Gondowanaland reconstructionFig.1: Gondowanaland reconstruction

Fig.2: Falklands location in relation to South Africa (from Adie)Fig.2: Falklands location in relation to South Africa (from Adie)

Fig.3: Rotation of Falklands MicroplateFig.3: Rotation of Falklands Microplate

Fig.4: Fixed plate reconstructionFig.4: Fixed plate reconstruction