Jun 21, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

World's Largest Canyon May Be Hidden Beneath Antarctica's Ice Sheets

Jan 16, 2016 10:30 AM EST


There might be a possibility that a mysterious landscape of layered bands of rocks are hidden beneath the ice sheets of the Antarctic. This could reportedly be the world's largest, extending up to over a thousand kilometre long and 1 km deep.

Through utilizing satellite data, researchers have uncovered some evidences of a chain of winding and linear features existing under the largely unexplored area known as Princess Elizabeth Land, East Antarctica. "We have traced these faint lineations from the centre of Princess Elizabeth Land all the way to the coast, off to the north. It's a pretty substantial system," Durham University's Dr. Stewart Jamieson said.

Some suggested that this could be connected with a previously unveiled subglacial lake. If this is proven true, the lake would cover about 1250 square km that is 80 times as big as England's biggest lake, Windermere.

The preliminary interpretation of the data gathered by the team in several reference points was from the radar, which can see past through the ice sheets to the rockbed beneath. Satellite imagery detected faint hints, while small sections were found by radio-echo sounding data.

Although most areas of Antarctica have been under complete geophysical surveys, there are still two "Poles of Ignorance" in East Antarctica, namely, Princess Elizabeth Land and Recovery Basin, that needs exploration but are now under intense investigation instead.

The international team composed of scientists from US, UK, Australia, China and India is studying the possible landscape to help scientists understand how ice sheets are responding with climate change. Furthermore, they are trying to determine whether the newly discovered feature is something ancient, if it existed even before the ice sheets began growing or it was a result of the water flowing and eroding under the ice.

Team member Prof. Martin Siegert from Imperial College London claims that the finding is consistent. Currently, geoscientists from Antarctica are performing studies to validate the initial data claimed.

The team of international researchers is hoping that the results will be announced during the ICECAP2 collaboration meeting at the Imperial this year.

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