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The deepest hole in Antarctica

Glaciers are one of nature’s most powerful agents of erosion, and no better place is this evident than beneath the outlet glaciers of our current ice sheets. During a short project at the University of Sheffield examining glacial overdeepenings (essentially very deep holes in the ground), I was able to create automated scripts that could map these erosional landforms. The biggest surprise from the results came from the Transantarctic Mountains that divide West and East Antarctica.

Over the last ~30 million years that Antarctica has been glaciated, ice has been exploiting a large fault that runs through this mountain range, enabling significant depths to be excavated. According to the automated mapping, the Byrd overdeepening stands at a depth of 2086 m, with its minimum point remarkably 2636 m below sea level. To put this into some context, that’s a hole big enough to bury Scafell Pike twice over…with room to spare!

The video below highlights the dominance of this overdeepening within the Antarctic landscape.