Discover the “Grand Canyon” No Person Has Ever Set Foot In

Written by Janet F. Murray
Published: June 23, 2022
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There are still parts of our planet that we have yet to discover. And there is nothing better than exploring the wonders and mysteries of the earth. That is why scientists’ recent findings of Greenland’s Grand Canyon under sheets of ice are causing quite the buzz.  

In fact, there is not only one massive “Grand Canyon” like gorge across the word, but two that until recently have been hidden!

Governments and private institutions are pouring resources into exploring exciting finds in Greenland and the Antarctic Grand Canyon. This constant drive to learn renders magnificent rewards like revealing the hidden mysteries on our planet.

Additionally, these newly uncovered canyons fascinate scientists and researchers to no end. And, of course, we all know about the magnificent Grand Canyon in the United States. But these are something else altogether.

The Discovery of Greenland’s Grand Canyon


Contrary to its name, Greenland is covered by huge glaciers that cover a geography that includes massive canyons.


One of the strangest aspects of Greenland is its name. In contrast to how it might sound, Greenland is anything but green. Instead, the frozen landscape is a rocky and icy kingdom. And no matter how beautiful and ethereal it may be, its inherent character remains one that is stark and cold.

Interestingly, a whole world exists below its many icy layers. Over the last decade, several NASA airborne science missions revealed evidence of a previously unknown canyon in its depths.

The data offers a glimpse into valleys, river corridors, and an enormous canyon under the ice. Researchers say the Greenland canyon is “as deep as the Grand Canyon in places and longer than its famous cousin—spanning the distance from New York to Washington, D.C., twice over.”

How Did A Massive Canyon Form in Greenland?

NASA’s Operation IceBridge is responsible for collecting most of the data on Greenland’s Canyon between 2009 and 2012. Before this, the team had been collecting data on Greenland’s icy underworld for decades. So, the canyon’s find is the culmination of thousands of miles of airborne radar data.

Despite decades of exploration, Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography in the U.K., says, “One might assume that the landscape of the earth has been fully explored and mapped. However, our research shows a lot left to discover.”

You may be wondering how the Greenland “Grand Canyon” came into existence. But, intensive study on the topic has still not drawn an airtight conclusion. Instead, researchers believe that the massive Greenland ice sheet may have undergone repetitive cycles of thawing and refreezing. This pattern may be due to temperature fluctuations on earth over tens of thousands of years.

Teams of geologists and researchers propose that rapidly thawed ice in the bedrock could have broken through ice dams. In addition, the immense pressure of this outburst could have caused deep landscape scouring.

Another theory is that the Greenland canyon could result from erosion. Shifting glaciers, similar to the idea of the origins of the Great Lakes, could have caused this erosion. However, the canyon’s ancient status and the presence of veiny offshoots under the ice suggest otherwise. Instead, a more liquid source appeared to have caused the valleys and canyon.

An in-depth analysis of the canyons underneath Greenland reveals riverlike networks. Evidence shows that water flowed in the canyon as a mighty river system toward the coast before the existence of the thick ice sheet. Scientists lean towards 4-million-year-old river floods being the cause rather than ice erosion.

Geologists on the Frontier of Discovery in Antarctica


Antarctica, Grand Canyon beneath the water.

©Eleanor Scriven/

Greenland has an icy cousin that offers the same wonder and intrigue, which is the frozen land of Antarctica. Unfortunately, Antarctica is mostly a mystery, as over 90% is unmapped. To date, scientists have yet to thoroughly survey this largest region of the frozen continent, known as Princess Elizabeth Land.

A renowned geologist and researcher, Dr. Stewart Jamieson, from Durham University, had this to say about Antarctica and her mysteries:

“This is a region of the earth that is bigger than the U.K., and yet we still know little about what lies beneath the ice. In fact, the bed of Antarctica is less well known than the surface of Mars. If we can gain better knowledge of the buried landscape, we will be better equipped to understand how the ice sheet responds to changes in climate.”

The Recent Discovery of Antarctica’s “Grand Canyon”

In recent developments, a team of geologists from the United Kingdom began an extensive investigation of the area. First, they chartered an ancient mountain range buried beneath thick layers of ice, known as the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands.

Combined with satellites and radar data, the charter revealed a massive subglacial valley, a lake, and a series of canyons. This incredible subglacial valley has an astounding drop of 1.86 miles. Remarkably, the team of explorers found that the bottom of this valley extends over 6561 feet below sea level. At specific points, it reaches 186 miles and spans up to 15.5 miles across.

Antarctica is home to glaciers that are


larger than those found in areas like Alaska.


Scientists believe water is responsible for carving out this icy world and intricate landscaping. But some researchers theorize that it could have been in existence even before the Antarctic ice sheet covered the area. Two schools of thought; ancient landscapes versus water erosion beneath the ice. We may never know the answer.

Will the Antarctic Grand Canyon Mystery be Solved?

With so much of Greenland and Antarctica unexplored and unmapped, will we ever discover all their secrets?  

A NASA researcher, Studinger, makes this valid point:

“It is quite remarkable that a channel the size of the Grand Canyon is discovered in the 21st century below the Greenland ice sheet. It shows how little we still know about the bedrock below large continental ice sheets.”

The consensus is that researchers have not yet scratched the surfaces of these two majestic lands’ width, length, and depth. And now, we stand at an exhilarating point in our history. But with rapid technological advancements, we expect to see more mysteries being revealed about will reveal more exciting news about these majestic Greenland and Antarctic cousins.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sara Winter/

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

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