New data to shed light on 'ghost mountains' of Antarctica

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London, December 19 (ANI): An international team of scientists has announced the first set of data about the most enigmatic mountain ranges on Earth, which are popularly dubbed as the 'ghost mountains'.

According to a report in BBC News, the team spent two months in 2008/9 surveying the Gamburtsevs in Antarctica - a series of peaks totally buried under the ice cap.

The group has told a major conference in the US that the hidden mountains are more jagged than previously thought.

They are also more linear in shape than the sparse data collected in the past had suggested.

This latter finding hints at a possible origin for the mountains whose existence has perplexed scientists for 50 years.

"If you have a linear structure it makes them more like the Alps or the Appalachians," explained Dr Michael Studinger from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) of Columbia University, New York.

"These are mountain ranges that formed by the collision of tectonic plates," he added.

He stressed that the analysis of the survey data was in its infancy and the team would publish their final assessments in forthcoming papers in the formal scientific literature.

The mountains were discovered by a Soviet team during the International Geophysical Year in 1957-8.

Studying them has been immensely difficult, however.

It was only with the concerted effort organised around International Polar Year in 2007-8 that a full-scale aerogeophysical survey became possible.

Two instrumented Twin-Otter aircraft were flown out of remote field camps and collected a range of data.

Aircraft flew over the surface, taking images of the ice and rock underneath.

The shallowest ice covering the mountains is hundreds of metres thick. The deepest ice detected is about 4,800m thick. The mountains themselves are standing about 2,500m above sea level.

It is now clear the range has a defined linear trend, in contrast to the previously mapped circular feature, and that this trend strikes predominantly to the north-east.

The data also reveals a very rugged landscape with high peaks and deeply incised valleys which have been worked in the past by both river and ice processes.

"Before we had this data we couldn't see the valleys and therefore we had no way of being able to quantify the role of glacial and fluvial processes which is key to understanding cryosphere and climate evolution," said Dr Fausto Ferraccioli from the British Antarctic Survey.

Studying what happened in these valleys could give clues as to how fast the Gamburtsevs became encased in ice. (ANI)

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