TECH

Antarctic Ice Could Be Hiding 'World's Largest Canyon'

14/01/2016 14:08 GMT | Updated 14/01/2016 14:59 GMT

Hiding underneath the Antarctic ice could be the "world's largest canyon" scientists have said.

According to new satellite data, the giant rift could be over 1,000 kilometres long and at least a kilometre deep in certain places.

Geoscientists will need to confirm this incredible finding by taking "direct measurements of the canyon through the icy surface of Antarctica," a statement from Imperial College, part of the research team, detailed.

antarctic ice

So far, we know very little about this part of the planet, which is why scientist have dubbed it "one of Antarctica’s two Poles of Ignorance."

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The first pieces of evidence flowing in from this region however, has surprised scientists.

"Our analysis provides the first evidence that a huge canyon and a possible lake are present beneath the ice in Princess Elizabeth Land," said lead researcher, Dr Stewart Jamieson, from Durham University.

"It’s astonishing to think that such large features could have avoided detection for so long."

In trying to convey the the enormity of this discovery, scientists have compared the valley to the Grand Canyon in the U.S. but said the icy rift could be several times longer.

The chasm could also be connected to a subglacial lake - 80 times bigger than the Windermere in the Lake District.

Explaining the significance of why we need to know what lies beneath, Jamieson said:

“This is a region of the Earth that is bigger than the UK and yet we still know little about what lies beneath the ice."

He added: "If we can gain better knowledge of the buried landscape we will be better equipped to understand how the ice sheet responds to changes in climate.”

The initial findings have been published in the journal Geology with further analysis to be revealed later this year.