The remote sensing photography of NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission in Antarctica made an incredible discovery, when images revealed what some experts believe could be the existence of a possible ancient human settlement lying beneath an impressive 2.3 kilometers of ice.
The intriguing discovery was made during aircraft tests trials of NASA’s Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) lidar technology set to be launched on the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) in 2017, that aims to monitor changes in polar ice.
“There’s very little margin for error when it comes to individual photons hitting on individual fiber optics, that is why we were so surprised when we noticed these abnormal features on the lidar imagery,” explains Nathan Borrowitz, IceBridge’s project scientist and sea ice researcher with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“As of now we can only speculate as to what these features are but the launching of ICESat-2 in 2017 could lead to other major discoveries and a better understanding of Antarctica’s geomorphological features” he adds.
According to the leading archaeologist, Ashoka Tripathi, these images are a clear evidence of an ancient settlement. Some of the photos demonstrate clear features of human-made structures, which in some way resemble the pyramidal structures. This has nothing to do with natural geomorphological formations usually found in nature. These are the evidences of human engineering. The only problem is that these pictures were taken in Antarctica under more than 2 kilometers of ice.
“These pictures just reflect a small portion of Antarctica’s total land mass. There are possibly many other additional sites that are covered over with ice. It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements,” says Dr Tripathi.
Christopher Adam, Historian and cartographer at the University of Cambridge however believes there is a more rational explanation to the discovery. “One of histories most puzzling maps is that of the Turkish admiral Piri Reis in 1513 AD which successfully mapped the coastline of Antarctica over 500 years ago. What is most fascinating about this map is that it shows the coastline of Antarctica without any ice. How is this possible when images of the subglacial coastline of Antarctica were only seen for the first time after the development of ground-penetrating radar in 1958? Is it possible Antarctica has not always been covered under such an ice sheet? This could be evidence that it is a possibility” he acknowledges.
Further investigations of the area are set to be launched in May 2017, when NASA’s ICESat-2 (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2) will go on the mission for measuring the ice sheet mass elevation and sea ice freeboard.