The largest canyon in the world has been found lurking under Antarctica, according to a mind-blowing study featured in the journal Geology.
An international team of experts from the United States, China, Australia, India and the United Kingdom was the one who made this dazzling discovery.
While it may appear startling and incongruous that it took so long to identify such an enormous landform, it is worth noting that Antarctica is a notoriously unexplored area.
As explained by study lead author Dr. Stewart Jamieson, at Durham University, the southernmost continent occupies a larger surface than the United Kingdom, but it remains shrouded in mystery, probably because of its remoteness and because of its inhospitable conditions.
Strikingly, Antarctica’s geomorphological features have benefited from less attention than the Red Planet’s surface, and little is known regarding what lies beneath the region’s massive chunks of ice.
In fact, researchers have identified two distinct “poles of ignorance” located in Antarctica: Recover Basin and Princess Elizabeth Land. If a casual observer were to stand in one of these spots, he would be more than 120 miles away from a surface that has been documented beforehand.
Now, however, the enigma surrounding one of those poles may have finally been unravelled. Thanks to unprecedented photographs taken by satellite over the Princess Elizabeth Land, located in East Antarctica, scientists have discovered evidence suggesting that an incredibly-sized canyon may be hidden underneath.
Several miles under the heavy icebed, study authors believe there may be a deep ravine capable of dethroning Greenland’s 460-mile-long Grand Canyon in terms of size and spectacularness.
The enormous gorge is also twice as large as the Colarodo River’s iconic valley, but half as unfathomable as its counterpart.
It is believed to measure over 621 miles in length, to have a depth of up to 3,280 feet, and to consist of an intricate pattern of straight and meandering ridges and trenches.
In addition, researchers claim there may also be a gargantuan lake in that same previously uncharted territory. The sub-glacial body of water, allegedly stretching across 777 square miles, would dwarf Antarctica’s largest known lake of this kind, called Vostok and measuring around 160 miles in length.
In fact, the mass of fresh water lying beneath Princess Elizabeth Land is believed to be over 80 times larger than Lake Windermere, from the English Lake District.
It may be that the sub-glacial lake formed millions of years before the ice sheet appeared, or an alternate theory is that the water formation developed as water seeped through the frozen mass, eroding it.
Following their grown-breaking findings, collaborators are now conducting a radioglaciology analysis above this mystifying region of Antarctica, in order to investigate its concealed topography.
The measurements taken via aerial ice-penetrating radar will provide exact data regarding the thickness of the ice sheet, and the landforms that stretch underneath this tremendous glacier mass.
This way, scientists are hoping that by the end of the year, when the ICECAP 2 conference is scheduled to take place, they will be able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Princess Elizabeth Land does indeed lie above the largest, yet most elusive canyon of the world.
As explained by Martin Siegert, professor at UK’s Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the prevailing aim of this research is to gain further insight into the mechanisms related to ice sheet evolution, in order to determine how global warming might impact it, and what consequences such interactions would ultimately have.
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