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Antarctic Ice's Secrets:
Gigantic Trench Beneath Antarctica Is Deeper Than The Grand Canyon

14 January, 2014

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Follow us: - A gigantic ancient trench - deeper than the Grand Canyon - has been discovered by a team of British researchers.

The researchers from Newcastle University, the University of Bristol's Glaciology Centre, the British Antarctic Survey and the universities of Edinburgh, Exeter, and York, spent three seasons investigating and mapping the region in West Antarctica.

They investigated and mapped the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands -- an ancient mountain range buried beneath several kilometers of Antarctic ice, using data from satellites and ice-penetrating radars towed behind snowmobiles and on-board small aircraft.

Trench lies beneath Antarctic ice. Courtesy of Newcastle University

The giant trench is up to 3 kilometers deep, more than 300 kilometers long and up to 25 kilometers across. In places, the floor of this valley is more than 2000 meters below sea level.

As previously reported in our article "Hidden Rift Valley As Big As Grand Canyon Discovered Beneath West Antarctica" scientists have known about this structure for some years now.

This is in other words not a new discovery. However, scientists collected more data that contribute to better understanding of complex Antarctica's subglacial structures.

The mountain range and deep valley were carved millions of years ago by a small icefield similar to those of the present-day Antarctic Peninsula, or those of Arctic Canada and Alaska.

"The discovery of this huge trough, and the characterisation of the surrounding mountainous landscape, was incredibly serendipitous," Dr Neil Ross from Newcastle University and the paper's lead author said.

“While the idea of West Antarctic Ice Sheet growth and decay over the past few million years has been discussed for decades, the precise location where the ice sheet may originate from in growth phases, and decay back to in periods of decay, has not been known," Professor Martin Siegert, Professor of Geosciences at the University of Bristol, said.

“By looking at the topography beneath the ice sheet using a combination of ice-penetrating radio-echo sounding and satellite imagery, we have revealed a region which possesses classic glacial geomorphic landforms, such as u-shaped valleys and cirques, that could only have been formed by a small ice cap, similar to those seen at present in the Canadian and Russian High Arctic. The region uncovered is, therefore, the site of ice sheet genesis in West Antarctica.”


See also:
Largest-Ever Flood Mapped Beneath Antarctica

Diamonds In Antarctica - Kimberlite Deposits Found In Antarctica's Mountains

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