During the Noachian Period, the south polar region of Mars underwent intense cratering, construction of three groups of volcanoes, widespread contractional deformation, resurfacing of low areas, and local dissection of valley networks; no evidence for polar deposits, ice sheets, or glaciation is recognized. South polar Hesperian geology is broadly characterized by waning impacts, volcanism, and tectonism. Emplacement of the polar Dorsa Argentea Formation (DAF) occurred during the Hesperian Period. Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter topographic data and Mars Orbiter Camera images elucidate stratigraphic, morphologic, and topographic relations, permitting the dividing of the DAF into eight members, which surround and underlie about half of the Amazonian south polar layered deposits. The lobate fronts and lack of typical volcanic-flow morphology of the six plains units indicate that they may be made up of debris flows. We think that these flows, tens of meters to 200 m thick, may have originated by the discharge of huge volumes of slurry fluidized by ground water or liquid CO2, perhaps triggered by local impacts, igneous activity, or basal melting beneath polar deposits. The cavi and rugged members include irregular depressions that penetrate the subsurface; some of the pits have raised rims. The depressions may have formed by collapse due to expulsion of subsurface material in which local explosive activity built up the raised rims. Further, smaller eruptions of volatile-rich material may have resulted in narrow, sinuous channel deposits within aggrading fine-grained unconsolidated material perhaps produced by gaseous discharge of subsurface volatiles; preferential erosion of the latter material could have produced the Dorsa Argentea-type ginuous ridges associated mainly with the DAF. Alternatively, the ridges may be eskers, but the lack of associated glacial and fluvial morphologies casts doubt on this interpretation. The knobby, degraded materials forming Scandia Colles may represent the only Noachian geologic record exposed in the north polar region. Most of the north polar region was buried by water- or debris-ocean sediments during the Hesperian Period, originating from uplands areas and perhaps knobby terrains in the northern plains. The sediments either mantle or were deformed by wrinkle ridges radial and concentric to Utopia basin and concentric to northern Tharsis. Sources of stress probably included sediment loading in the northern plains and regional magmatic and loading activity at Tharsis. Polar layered deposits began piling up during the Early Amazonian or later. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science.