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Presently available age controls suggest that the Canada basin formed during the Cretaceous Period between about 131 and 79 Ma. The opening process began with continental breakup that may have involved all parts of the North American polar margin at about the same time. The opening was completed by the formation of oceanic crust during the extended Cretaceous interval of normal geomagnetic polarity. Features characteristics of continental breakup, insofar as they are known, show systematic regional differences. From Brock to Axel Heiberg Island, continental breakup was associated with an extended (100+ Ma) stratigraphic hiatus and, northeastward from Ellef Ringnes Island, with extensive tholeiitic igneous activity. From Banks Island to northeastern Alaska, the breakup int rval was abbreviated (20-30 Ma), and sparse igneous activity occurred. These differences can be produced by changes in the rate and/or amount of crustal stretching during margin formation and would imply relatively faster or more stretching northeast of Brock Island. A continental margin of fixed age, exhibiting the indicated pattern of crustal stretching, could be produced along the trailing edge of a rotating block (Arctic Alaska terrane, AA) with its pivot near the Mackenzie delta. When the rotation is restored, however, geological discrepancies are evident between Devonian and older rocks across the conjugate margins, suggesting an earlier history of drifting for the AA. Early Paleozoic correlations appear improved if the AA is placed, polar margin to polar margin, against northern E lesmere Island and Greenland, where in the middle Paleozoic, it was sheared sinistrally along the Canadian margin to its pre-rotated position opposite Banks Island.
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