NASA

Trench Deeper Than Grand Canyon Found Under Antarctic Ice

British Scientists recently discovered the Ellsworth Trough, a two-mile deep trench, using radar equipment and NASA satellite imagery.

By Christian Bryant | January 14, 2014

Less than six months after British scientists found a trench longer than the Grand Canyon under Greenland's ice sheet, another group of British scientists discovered another huge trench deeper than the Grand Canyon hidden away in Antarctica.

Scientists from Newcastle University and Bristol University traveled across Antarctica, plotting buried sub-glacial terrain using ice-penetrating radar and some of NASA's satellite data. What they found was a trench nearly two miles deep, 186 miles long and 15 miles wide. (Via International Business Times)

For comparison, the National Park Service lists the Grand Canyon's size at one mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. (Via National Park Service)

One of the researchers said it was "stupendous" they even discovered the hidden valley, dubbed the Ellsworth Trough. The team had radar data from both ends of the valley but no idea what lay in between. (Via Gizmodo)

The scientists told reporters the story of the Ellsworth Trough probably goes back about 80 million years, when what we now know as Antarctica broke apart from a single, giant continent. As the land mass moved toward the South Pole, the rifts and chasms froze over.

While the researchers say the discovery gives insight into what the West Antarctic ice sheet could look like in a warmer global climate, the study's lead author, Dr. Neil Ross, added a personal reflection, saying: "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." (Via NASANewcastle University)

The paper is in the January issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

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