Some scientists believe that we know more about the surface of the planet Mars in comparison to what we know about what’s hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Due to this, it’s not entirely surprising that a team of Chinese researchers has claimed that the world’s largest canyon may be under the Antarctic ice.
The team which discovered the gigantic canyon was making its 32nd expedition into the Antarctic. The canyon itself is near the Princess Elizabeth Land and has the length of 620 miles and depth of 930 miles. The largest width is near the peak of the canyon, measuring 16 miles. It’s much larger than the US Grand Canyon, making it the largest to be discovered on the surface of our planet.
But this was not the only major discovery made by the Chinese research expedition. A plethora of underground lakes and rivers was also found underneath the Princess Elizabeth Land ice, hidden by an ice sheet that is 2.4 miles thick. By conducting extensive analysis on said rivers, the team also found that the average temperatures in the regions beneath the sheet are higher than the ones present above.
This is why rivers and lakes have an increased chance of forming beneath the ice, without us even knowing about them. Due to the ice’s thickness, satellites cannot conclusively analyze the structure of said lakes and geographical formations. In addition, the massive size of the Antarctic poses further hindrances towards extensive analysis from space, because scientists do not know the exact location at which to point their various satellite imaging devices.
Besides the increased temperatures, another theory that points out how and why exactly these geographical formations formed in the first place states that these were present before the ice sheet originally formed. The process through which the team managed to make a topographical map of the underground region was based on the use radio-echo sounding devices that work similarly to a sonar.
The added overall analysis of the ice sheet’s shape also pointed out the structures hidden beneath it. These discoveries somewhat baffled certain scientific parties because the massive canyon, as well as the plethora of interconnected rivers and lakes, eluded their geographical surveys for so long.
Taking into account that the world’s largest canyon may be under the Antarctic ice, researchers from all around the world are starting once again to create theories regarding what else remains hidden beneath the massive sheet of ice. One of the reasons why this is deemed of high importance is based on the idea that by studying these structures, researchers will be able to discern how the ice sheet and the landscape get altered when subjected to climate change.