Humans may have conquered Everest and K2, but one set of mountains has continued to elude explorers: Antarctica’s Gamburtsevs, the setting for H.P. Lovecraft's famous tale "At the Mountains of Madness." Buried beneath four kilometers of ice, the mountain range has never been seen by human eyes, and its position near the center of the frozen continent has remained a mystery to geologists. Now an international team of researchers will burrow into the ice and finally get a first-hand look at the subglacial peaks.
In 1950, German explorers were surprised to discover the rocky peaks far from Antarctica’s shores. As mountain ranges usually appear near the edges of a continent, geologists have been at a loss to explain the presence of the Gamburtsevs. The area also shows no evidence that two separate landmasses may have collided there, nor that volcanic activity has occurred beneath the surface. Commented Dr. Robin Bell of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:
I like to say it's rather like being an archaeologist and opening up a tomb in a pyramid and finding an astronaut sitting inside. It shouldn't be there.
A highly-coordinated international team of researchers from the UK, US, Germany, Australia, China, and Japan has been assembled to explore the region, in part because it presents such distinct challenges from geological exploration anywhere else on Earth. Said Dr Fausto Ferraccioli from the British Antarctic Survey, "You can almost think about it as exploring another planet - but on Earth." To reach the mountains, the team will may dig up ice that is over a million years old. But they hope that, by understanding more about the Gamburtsevs and how they formed, they will get a clearer picture of Antarctica’s geological history, and how climate change could impact the continent. Images from the BBC. Expedition set for 'ghost peaks' [via Metafilter]