An international team of experts have mapped a huge, incredibly old location, mentioned in the notes of a Russian explorer from half a century ago, buried under hundreds of meters of ice. In an amazing break with tradition this process did not result in the unleashing of ancient horrors, a self-destruct sequence, alien invasion or anyone shooting at Indiana Jones. They've examined the entire Gamburtsev mountain range, 700 meters tall and buried under a kilometer of Antarctica.
The team used an array of tools including seismic wave reflection, radar, and precise gravitational measurements to map the frozen features - there are a lot more differences between ice and rock than "one works in drinks", and they used them all. If "Sub-Antarctic Mountain Range" isn't good enough for you, the valleys between the peaks come complete with rivers and lakes - yes, lakes. Under the ice. At the South Pole.
The mountains are a massive mystery - they seem to be half a billion years old, but on a tectonic scale you can't just say "that's a long time ago so who cares." There are no other indications of such titanic tectonics in the area at the time, and the range has none of the signs of volcanic formation. Which is a pity, as volcanoes erupting into thousands of tons of solid ice is probably the only way this incredible landscape could sound any more awesome.
The researchers predicted a flat plateau, but instead found a range similar in height and shape to the Alps - with massive peaks as high as Mount Blanc and deep valleys.
Water, turned to liquid due to the pressure of East Antarctic Ice Sheet above, could be seen in rivers and lakes nestled in valleys. One lake, Vostok, a possible living biological lab of ancient lifeforms, was an incredible 300 kilometers.
Scientists hope the findings will aid predictions about the effects of climate change on ice sheets and challenge long-held views that the ice sheet formed over millions of years.The new research suggests they formed in a fraction of the time and the area could have been ice free at some points in history.
This means any rapid fluctuation in global temperature could have a much faster effect on the formation of ice sheets than previously thought
Posted by Luke McKinney
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