Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains enigma unraveled in East Antarctica

The birth of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains buried beneath the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet – a puzzle mystifying scientists since their first discovery in 1958 – is finally solved. The remarkably long geological history explains the formation of the mountain range in the least explored frontier on Earth and where the Antarctic Ice Sheet first formed. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature.

A seven-nation team of scientists explored the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains – buried beneath up to 3 km of ice – during the International Polar Year (2007- 09) by using two twin-engine aircraft equipped with ice penetrating radars, gravity meters and magnetometers. By analyzing the new data, the researchers describe the extraordinary processes – which took place over the last billion years – that created and preserved a root beneath the mountains and the East Antarctic rift system – a 3,000 km long fracture in the earth’s surface that extends from East Antarctica across the ocean to India.

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