It is fascinating to me how much we are still learning about our own planet. It seems that despite the fact that we are sending space probes and rovers to other Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, comets, and other celestial bodies, we continue to discover new things right here at home. Case in point. Last week it was revealed that a team of researchers have discovered a massive canyon under the ice in Antarctica. It’s so big in fact that it could dwarf even the Grand Canyon itself.
The canyon was discovered using satellite imagery and ground penetrating radar that was pulled along behind snowmobiles and small aircraft. This giant gorge is located in the western region of the Antarctic near the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands. It is said to be buried under several miles of ice, but its dimensions are staggering to say the least.
According to preliminary estimates, the canyon is believed to be 3 km (1.9 miles) deep, and more than 25 km (15.5 miles) across. It is also believed to run more than 1000 km (621 miles) in length, and even more amazingly it reaches 2000 meters (6500 feet) below sea level at certain points. In comparison, the Grand Canyon 1.8 km (1.13 miles) deep and stretches for 433 km (277 miles) in length.
The scientists studying the Ellsworth region aren’t sure how old the canyon is exactly, although they do know that Antarctica has been covered in ice for at least 34 million years. Over that time, the glaciers that cover the area have shifted dramatically, ranging in thickness while shaping the surface found underneath them. Because of its immense size, it is believed that it was ice – not an ancient river – that carved this massive gorge.
Unlike the Grand Canyon, it is unlikely that humans will ever see this natural monument. Because it is covered in snow and ice, it would take millions of more years – not to mention dramatic shifts in climate – for it to ever reveal itself. Still, it is fascinating to know that this place exists, and it makes you wonder what else is still out there, hidden under the ice.
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