What lies beneath the Antarctic ice

When I think of the Antarctic at all, I just think of it as this huge inert unpopulated continent that is permanently covered with ice. What I had not realized is that in places the ice covering is as much as two miles thick and that the continent contains about 50% of the world’s supply of fresh water. The ice sheet is also not static but dynamic, with complex flow patterns.

This video shows how they have used remote sensing to figure out what lies beneath the ice, which will be important in understanding how the planet reacts to climate change since the melting of the polar ice caps is going to be a major source of the rise in ocean levels. But understanding the Antarctic is fascinating for its own sake.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Pfft. Everyone knows Atlantis is in the Pegasus galaxy. There is a stargate under the ice, though.

  2. Stacy says

    And I always thought it was John Carpenter’s Thing.

    More ice!

    There is a stargate under the ice, though.

    And don’t forget the Predator hunting lodge

    Hmmph. You’re all WRONG. It’s a lost civilization built by the Elder Things with the help of shoggoths.


    (Or possibly all these. It’s a big continent.)

  3. Mano Singham says

    There are clearly a lot of allusions to Antarctica that I am missing.

    John Carpenter? Stargates? Predator? Elder? Shoggoths?

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    John Carpenter made the remake of the 50s classic The Thing From Another World (set in the Arctic, and the better film IMO), and set it in Antarctica.

    Stargates belong to the sc-fi TV shows Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.

    Predator refers to the sci-fi film Aliens vs Predators (?), set in an alien pyramid beneath the Antarctic ice.

    Shoggoths are Lovecraftian nonsense.

  5. Drew says

    There is also a theory amongst those often called “pseudoarcheologists” (names that fall into this category include Graham Hancock and Erik von Daniken though I can’t recall if this idea belongs to either of them or someone else) that the concept of Atlantis, popularized by Plato, was based on a verbal history detailing an advanced ancient civilization that predates ancient Egypt, and that a possible location for this civilization was on the antarctic land mass prior to it being covered in ice.

    In this case advanced means capable of extended naval travel, building monumental architecture and relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.

    Of course this was also predicated on the notion that a significant portion of the land mass was not covered with ice at some point within the last 15,000-30,000 years. And though it’s been quite some time since I was into that sort of thing, if I recall correctly, there was a notion of a periodic tectonic shift which results in basically the entirety of the Earth’s crust massively shifting all at once and the continents being moved to another location relative to the axis of rotation but still being in mostly the same positions relative to each other (like a shell floating over the molten core).

    Ahh misspent adolescence.

  6. lanir says

    If you’re curious about the air and the surrounding ocean near Antarctica there’s a PBS NOVA program called Earth From Space that has more information on it. I think it’s all interesting but the Antarctica stuff starts about 27 minutes in. And a little more than 37 minutes in they start to talk about one of the things that really surprised me: what happens to all that salt as the ocean freezes and thaws.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Image 2 there from that link, sorry. Thought it was going to the right photo but wasn’t.

  8. says

    Shoggoths, particularly, are from At the Mountains of Madness, one of my personal favourite stories of Lovecraft’s. I will warn that his stories are not infrequently reflective of his above-the-norm-even-for-then racism and xenophobia.

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