British scientists have discovered an enormous subglacial pit beneath the ice in Antarctica deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Researchers were charting the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands, an ancient mountain range beneath several miles of ice using satellite data and ice penetrating radar towed on the back of snowmobiles and small aircraft.
They uncovered a huge subglacial trench that is up to an incredible 1.9 miles deep and more than 15.5 miles across – deeper than the Grand Canyon which is 1.13 miles deep at its deepest point.
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to reveal another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is the surface of our Earth,” said study team member Neil Ross, a geophysicist at Newcastle University in the U.K.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure when the valley was originally created, but estimate it was tens of millions of years ago.
“What we do know is that Antarctica has been glaciated for at least 34 million years, and during this time the ice in West Antarctica would have oscillated in size from the small ice-field conditions … to the large ice sheet that we see today,” Ross said
The research team speculates that the huge valley was initially formed with a river exploiting a geological weakness, such as a geological fault. It was the glaciers however, that did the hard work of deepening the valley.
Read the entire article here at National Geographic.