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Subglacial trench deeper than the Grand Canyon discovered in Antarctica

By Philaso G. Kaping | Last Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 00:37

Zee Media Bureau\Philaso G Kaping

New Delhi: A trench deeper than the Grand Canyon has been discovered beneath several kilometres of Antarctic ice by a group of scientists from the United Kingdom.

By combining data from satellites and ice-penetrating radars, the massive subglacial valley was detected by researchers investigating and mapping the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands region in West Antarctica.
The researchers were from various universities across the UK including Newcastle University, the University of Bristol`s Glaciology Centre, the British Antarctic Survey and the universities of Edinburgh, Exeter, and York.

The trench measures 3 kilometres deep, more than 300 kilometres long and up to 25 kilometres across. In places, the floor of this valley is more than 2000 metres below sea level, according to a Bristol University press statement.

The landscape was 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.
"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”, said Professor Martin Siegert, Professor of Geosciences at the University of Bristol. “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."

"To me, this just goes to demonstrate how little we still know about the surface of our own planet. The discovery and exploration of hidden, previously unknown landscapes is still possible and incredibly exciting, even now," lead study author Neil Ross, from Newcastle University, said.

The findings are published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

First Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 00:30

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