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Antarctica before ice
Credit: Stuart N. Thomson/UA department of geosciences
Like Alaska's mighty Yukon, a broad river once flowed across Antarctica, following a gentle valley shaped by tectonic forces at a time before the continent became encased in ice. Understanding what happened when rivers of ice later filled the valley could solve certain climate and geologic puzzles about the southernmost continent.
The valley is Lambert Graben in East Antarctica, now home to the world's largest glacier. Trapped beneath the ice, the graben (which is German for ditch or trench) is a stunning, deep gorge. But before Antarctica's deep freeze 34 million years ago, the valley was relatively flat and filled by a lazy river, leaving a riddle for geologists to decode: How did Lambert Graben get so steep, and when was it carved?
[Full Story: What Antarctica Looked Like Before the Ice]