Geological Magazine

Original Article

Epeirogenic transgression near a triple junction: the oldest (latest early–middle Cambrian) marine onlap of cratonic New York and Quebec


a1 New York State Museum, Madison Avenue, Albany, New York 12230, USA

a2 Geology Department, State University of New York at Potsdam, Potsdam, New York 13676, USA

a3 Center for Earth and Environmental Sciences, State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh, New York 12901, USA


The discovery of a fossiliferous interval (Altona Formation, new unit) under the Potsdam Formation requires a new geological synthesis of a large part of the northeast Laurentian craton. Potsdam sandstones can no longer be regarded as the oldest sedimentary unit on the middle Proterozoic Grenville orogen in northern New York and adjacent Quebec and Ontario. The thickest Potsdam sections (to 750 m) in the east Ottawa–Bonnechere aulocogen have been explained by deposition with normal faulting possibly associated with Ediacaran rifting (c. 570 Ma) that led to formation of the Iapetus Ocean. However, sparse trilobite faunas show a terminal early Cambrian–middle middle Cambrian age of the Altona, and indicate much later marine transgression (c. 510 Ma) of the northeast Laurentian craton. Altona deposition was followed by rapid accumulation of lower Potsdam (Ausable Member) sandstone in the middle–late middle Cambrian. The Altona–Ausable succession is probably conformable. The Altona is a lower transgressive systems tract unit deposited on the inner shelf (sandstone, reddish mudstone, and carbonates) followed by aggradation and the deposition of highstand systems tract, current cross-bedded, in part terrestrial(?), feldspathic Ausable sandstone. Unexpectedly late Altona transgression and rapid Ausable deposition may reflect renewed subsidence in the Ottawa–Bonnechere aulocogen with coeval (terminal early Cambrian) faulting that formed the anoxic Franklin Basin on the Vermont platform. Thus, the oldest cover units on the northeast New York–Quebec craton record late stages in a cooling history near an Ediacaran triple junction defined by the Quebec Reentrant and New York Promontory and the Ottawa–Bonnechere aulocogen.

(Received July 02 2008)

(Accepted October 21 2008)

(Online publication March 02 2009)


  • Cambrian;
  • Laurentia;
  • trilobites;
  • sequence stratigraphy;
  • epeirogeny;
  • Potsdam Formation;
  • Altona Formation


c1 Author for correspondence: