Antarctica, an unexplored place … and cradle of strange mysteries

The Antarctic continent, which remains unknown to many, does not stop surprising with new discoveries and unresolved mysteries. Antarctica is an unexplored and mysterious place , hence the results of each investigation or discovery generate a great impact.

The origin of the continent is the main mystery. It is estimated that Antarctica (whose name means opposite to the Arctic ) was frozen at least 23 million years ago, many millions before the appearance of the first homo sapiens , which would refute the possibility that human beings would settle it before its current state of freezing. But until now that is not known for sure.

Last Wednesday, NASA published on its Twitter account an image of a strange block of perfectly square ice . But this is just one of the many discoveries that appear on the white continent.

The ‘blood cataracts’, craters of more than three kilometers, repetitive urban legends about the UFOs and the ice pyramids, unknown species … are some of the mysteries that exist on the frozen continent.

A perfect rectangle floating in its waters

The curious appearance of a block of perfectly square ice that floats on the continent opens a debate about its origin. The image taken by one of the aircraft of the operation of the NASA only picks up a part of the enormous floor that could have more than a kilometer in length and that seems to have appeared naturally, according to have explained the experts.

The scientific community estimates that at one point there are 300,000 icebergs sailing in the Antarctic Ocean and surrounding the continent of Antarctica. The news about these phenomena does not stop. In July of last year it was the largest iceberg release in history, when NASA scientists managed to photograph in the foreground the huge block of ice that separated from one of the largest floating platforms. It is a block of 5,800 square kilometers known as A68 and currently moves to the open sea.

A crater of three kilometers of unknown formation

The mysteries about these craters and their constant appearance has not yet been resolved. An example is the sighting on December 20, 2014 and, since then, there is an intense scientific debate about its origin. The scientific community spoke of two hypotheses: meteorite or ice sink (which are round sinks, caused by a puddle of melting water formed inside the ice shelf), in which with the latest studies the second one seems right. If it is confirmed that this is the case, it would be necessary to find out where all the melting water that has caused such depression in the ice comes from.

The appearance of craters in the continent has opened several scientific debates throughout history. Under the ice cap it is considered that there are large impact craters like the possibly gigantic Wilkes Earth Crater, which recent findings date back approximately 250 million years .

The ‘blood cataracts’

A study led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College has solved a century-old mystery that involves a famous red waterfall in Antarctica . And it has linked it to a large source of saltwater that may have been trapped under the Taylor Glacier more than a million years ago. The first explorers of Antarctica attributed the red color to red algae, but later it has been shown that this phenomenon is produced by the presence of iron oxide.

The salts in the brine made this discovery possible by amplifying the contrast with the fresh glacial ice, “said study author Jessica Badgeley,” The brine turns red when the iron comes in contact with air. “ The team tracked the brine with sounding radio-echo, a radar method that uses two antennas: one to transmit electrical impulses and another to receive the signals.

The urban legend of UFOs and the ice pyramid

With all these mysteries that the white continent hides, it has always given rise to speculation. Being a continent unknown to many and with so many mysteries to solve, what people do is spread urban legends to explain what happens there. Hence, urban legends range from pyramids like those in Egypt to UFOs and secret bases.

Vestiges of ancestral civilizations, extraterrestrial ships or bases hidden in the ice are some of the myths about Antarctica that specialized scientists want to extirpate from the collective imaginary.

In the collective imagination persist beliefs that Antarctica there are hidden secrets related to extraterrestrial research. For years there has been an article circulating on the Internet that talks about the supposed discovery of “ancient pyramids made by man” that are nothing more than a crystalline structure of rocks. And thousands of pages that speak of the observation of UFO parades can also be found on the Internet.

Almost one hundred volcanoes of which there was no trace before

Scientists from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh have found 91 previously unknown volcanoes under the ice of West Antarctica, which may be the largest volcanic region on Earth.

According to the publication, two kilometers below the ice surface of western Antarctica there are 91 volcanoes that had no trace until now, with different heights (between 100 and 3,850 meters) and ice layers up to 4 kilometers thick . Scientists – among them geologists and glaciologists – say that these 91 volcanoes are added to the 47 that had already been discovered in that region of the world in previous centuries.

Animal species unknown to science

In 2012 a group of researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Southampton and the British Antarctic Service, has found that the seabed near Antarctica hosts species hitherto unknown to science , including a type of crab yeti , starfish, barnacles, sea anemone and octopus .

“Hydrothermal vents are home to animals that are not found anywhere else on the planet, which derive their energy not from the sun, but from chemical substances such as hydrogen sulfide,” explains Professor Alex Rogers of the Department of Zoology. from the University of Oxford, who led the research.

Meteorites that come from Mars and the Moon

It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 meteorites found in Antarctica. It is an important study material since they are formed at the beginning of the solar system. Such is its relevance, that in 2016 NASA received 570 new samples collected from the white continent by ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites), a 40-year program that has collected 10,000 since 1976. This program has helped to reveal information about the asteroids, other objects of our solar system and the red planet, which will help in the expected manned trip to Mars .

Samples recovered from recent seasons include rare and scientifically valuable pieces from Mars and the Moon , as well as rocks formed very early during the formation and evolution of the solar system that offer clues to the origin of volatile substances, planets and organic compounds essential for life.

Species ‘comehuesos’

Researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB) and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) have discovered a new species of marine invertebrate that feeds on bones and has been named Osedax deceptionensis. The species has been discovered simultaneously with the one named Osedax antarcticus – described by a team from the Natural History Museum of London – and it is the first two descriptions of a type of marine worm, the UB said in a statement.

It also highlights that although the majority of invertebrate species found in Antarctica had been extracted from depths ranging from hundreds to thousands of meters, the comet-eating worm is the first Osedax that is only 20 meters deep .

The detailed map of the unknown continent

Studied, researched and explored by many, but until recently there was no detailed map of the frozen continent. In September of this year the researchers announced a new high resolution map of the continent. The map will be called the Antarctic Elevation Reference Model (REMA, in its acronym in English), which they say makes the area the best mapped continent in the world .

The intention of the scientists is to see in depth how the area changes in the face of global warming. Ian Howat, the project’s lead researcher and professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University, and Paul Morin of the University of Minnesota, used data from several satellites orbiting that pole to create the images. The satellite information was compiled by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, part of the US Department of Defense. “Until now we had a more detailed map of Mars than Antarctica ,” Howat said.

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