The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is ancient, hiding a whole landscape of mountains and valleys that once teemed with life. Using radar and satellite footage, scientists are studying this hidden world—and they just found a two-mile-deep canyon down there.
A new paper in the January issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin describes how scientists from Newcastle University and Bristol University's Bristol Glaciology Centre measured the chasm. Because the ice sheet is so huge, it was "incredibly serendipitous" that they even found it at all, says lead author Neil Ross. Using radar, the research team penetrated the deep ice to discover a hidden valley known as the Ellsworth Trough, near Ellsworth Lake, where a British team recently drilled down to look for evidence of life.