Antarctic Trench Found, Underneath Antarcticas ancient, frozen landscape lies a hidden subglacial valley larger than the Grand Canyon. The recently discovered Antarctic trench, sculpted millions of years ago, is nearly two miles deep and plunges to more than 6,500 feet below sea level. Researchers say the ancient trough could provide invaluable clues about what the West Antarctic ice sheet could look like in a warmer global climate.
British scientists mapped the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands — an ancient mountain range buried under Antarctic ice — using ice-penetrating radar and satellite data. They traversed the Antarctic landscape in snowmobiles and a small aircraft, plotting the buried subglacial terrain piece by piece. Their analysis turned up a valley 1.8 miles deep, 186 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.
To me, this just goes to demonstrate how little we still know about the surface of our own planet, lead study author Neil Ross, from Newcastle University, said in a statement. The discovery and exploration of hidden, previously unknown landscapes is still possible and incredibly exciting, even now.
How did the mega-canyon form? According to the study, published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, the canyon was carved when Antarctica broke away from the rest of Earths landmass 80 million years ago, creating rifts and chasms. When the detached land reached the South Pole, and temperatures plummeted, glaciers appeared, further scarring Antarcticas terrain with deep trenches and fissures.
This is the first time scientists have taken a close look at the region under Antarcticas vast ice sheet. The study offers a new look at the extent and behavior of Antarcticas ancient ice field.