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World's Largest Canyon Could Be Under Antarctic Ice

The previously unknown canyon is buried under a layer of ice that's more than a mile deep.

And you thought that gazing over the edge of the Grand Canyon was spectacular. An analysis of satellite data has revealed what scientists believe may be an even bigger chasm–the world's largest canyon, in fact–hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

The startling finding is revealed in an article being published this month in the journal Geology, by a team that includes researchers from the UK's Dunham and Newcastle universities and Imperial College London.

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The previously unknown canyon winds through Princess Elizabeth Land in east Antarctica, a largely unexplored area, and is buried under a layer of ice that's more than a mile deep. The canyon is believed to be more than 621 miles long and in places as much as 3,280 feet deep. That would make it more than twice as long as the Grand Canyon, which stretches for 277 miles. The American landmark's average depth of one mile still is more than the Antarctic canyon.

In a press release, Martin Siegert, a professor at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London,called the discovery "tantalizing," but cautioned that further research will be needed to validate the discovery.

"Geoscientists in Antarctica are carrying out experiments to confirm what we think we are seeing from the initial data, and we hope to announce our findings at a meeting of the ICECAP2 collaboration, at Imperial, later in 2016," he said.

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The researchers believe that the landscape beneath the ice sheet has probably been carved out by water. They say it is either so ancient that it existed before the Antarctic ice sheet covered the area, or it was created by water flowing and eroding the rocks beneath the ice.

The findings suggest that the canyon may be connected to a previously undiscovered sub-glacial lake, which could be nearly 780 square miles in area.

Scientists have discovered what may be the world’s biggest canyon under the Antarctic ice.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research has just published what it calls the most thorough audit of marine life in the Antarctic Ocean. The new Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean records more than 9,000 species and was created with the expertise of 147 leading marine biologists and oceanographers from 22 countries. It's the first such undertaking in the region since 1969, when the American Society of Geography published its Antarctic Map Folio series. Following are samples of photographs from the publication. Shown here, the Antarctic sea anemone,

Hormathia lacunifera

, photographed from the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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The Antarctic sea spider,


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The Antarctic octopus,


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An Antarctic jellyfish floats by.

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A group of cushion stars (

Odontaster validus

) feed on seal feces in the shallows of Antarctica.

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A hooded shrimp,

Leucon Crymoleucon) intermedius

Antarctic ascidian (sea squirt) from the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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A juvenile squid from the seas around South Georgia.

An Antarctic starfish,

Freyella fragilissima

Starfish See With Eyes on Their Arms

A giant isopod crustacean,

Glyptonotus "antarcticus"

Amphipod crustacean,

Cyllopus lucasii

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An Antarctic hydrothermal vent community from the East Scotia Ridge, found at 2,397-meter depth, shows aggregations of the yeti crab and stalked barnacles.