An artist's rendering of the Antarctica Gamburstev Province (AGAP) project.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of Zina Deretsky/NSF
Research Team Confirms Alps-like Mountain Range Exists under East Antarctic Ice Sheet
News story originally written on February 24, 2009
A team of international scientists has completed an survey of part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The survey was done by the Antarctica Gamburstev Province (AGAP) project, and their goal was to learn more about the ice sheet and mountains underneath it.
The researchers think this mountain range, which is buried more than four kilometers (2.5 miles) under the ice, caused the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to form. This massive ice sheet is more than 10 million square kilometers large and sits on top of the land of Antarctica.
Fausto Ferraccioli, one of the scientists from the project, explains, "We now know that not only are the mountains the size of the European Alps but they also have similar peaks and valleys. But this adds even more mystery about how the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet formed. If the ice sheet grew slowly then we would expect to see the mountains eroded into a plateau shape. But the presence of peaks and valleys could suggest that the ice sheet formed quickly--we just don't know."
This project included scientists, engineers, pilots and support staff from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. They used two airplanes that contained many instruments, including radar that can penetrate through the ice.
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