Gamburtsev Mountain Range – The Unexplored

By Anupum Pant

Unexplored

First, think of something that is 1,200 km in length, 3000 m in height and yet it is complete buried under the Antarctic ice. A whole mountain range called the Gamburtsev Mountain Range in Antarctica has remained unexplored, buried for centuries under a 2 to 4 kilometer thick sheet of ice. The range is named after Grigoriy A. Gamburtsev – a Russian geophysicist.

It amazes me how something of the size of European Alps, right here on earth, has remained unexplored for decades. Scientists estimate that these mountains are several millions of years old. But, till date they have no concrete idea on how they were actually formed.

In the words of Robin Bell, a geophysicist at Columbia University:

Amazingly, we have samples of the moon but none of the Gamburtsevs’.

Discovery: year 1958

In the year 1958, these mountains were discovered by a Soviet expedition. For exploration, this expedition investigated the surface using seismic sounding at around 10 points. During this time, not much detail was known.

Year 2000: It was only in the year 2000 that a project by British Antarctic Survey was able to produce a fairly detailed 3D map of Antarctica to date. As a result, some more information about these mountains was gathered. Still, it wasn’t enough for finding out their origins.

To solve the mystery of their origins, in the year 2011, aircrafts equipped with radars, lasers and various other meters were sent out by researchers to image the last unexplored mountain range on earth. They flew a distance of around 3 times the earth’s circumference over Antarctica – about 120,000 kilometers.
In the end, this flying around returned good results.

This Image gives you a rough idea about how deep these mountains are buried. [PDF]

I hope that in the coming years, scientists will be able to drill through the ice that has accumulated there for millions of years. And then, probably they’ll be able to retrieve real Gamburtsev rock samples for detailed investigation.

Note: Pardon me if I’ve been writing too much in the “Earth” category for the past few days. Trust me it is just a coincidence. In my defense, It is completely possible that a truly random die roll can land 6 consecutive 6s.

The Feynman point is one such example. It is a sequence of 6 nines somewhere in the decimal digits of pi. In short, you cursing me for writing under the same category for the past few days is not justified, logically.

Feynman point

Raining Frogs and Fish

By Anupum Pant

Raining cats and dogs is a bit unlikely, but there is nothing wrong about saying, “it is raining frogs and fish”. It happens more often than you think. So, don’t be alarmed if one day you wake up and find fish on your terrace.

When we talk about rain, the one place in India which stands out is Kerala. As we’ve seen in a previous post that Kerala has seen red rains, it has also seen raining fish. This isn’t a joke. On February 12, 2008, people actually saw fish falling down from the sky.

Not just that. I’ve seen reports of water birds, tomatoes, coal, and even a boats falling from the sky.

Raining Animals

After a few moments of awe, when you look at the occurrence of raining animals with the science microscope, you’ll find that it is not something very extraordinary. In fact, there is a whole Wikipedia page on raining animals. It turns out, several places around the world have experienced raining frogs, fish, spiders, worms etc. And as always, science has an explanation for it.

How does it happen?

Water Sprouts: When tornadoes move on land, they can pick up trucks, houses, trees and what not. They suck up several things from the ground and cause total destruction along the path they travel. But, when such storms travel on water, they suck up water, fish and of course, frogs.

This experiment proves how a low pressure can pick up things. – [Experiment]

These things can stay up with the storm for a long time. And eventually when the storm comes on land and weakens the animals may drop down with rain. As a result, we see fish and frogs raining from the heavens.

There Is No Lake Like The Taal Lake

By Anupum Pant

Geologically this is quite a phenomenon and might get a bit confusing to grasp if you stop paying enough attention. Here we go…

Island in a lake on an island in a lake…

Taal lake is a freshwater lake on the Luzon island of Philippines. Almost at the center of this lake, is an island called the volcano island. At the center of this island is another lake called the main crater lake. And in this lake is a small landmass called the Vulcan point. [map]

Now take a deep breath…in short, it is, Luzon island > Taal lake > Volcano island > Main crater lake > Vulcan Point.

The main crater lake: Even though the crater lake isn’t a very big lake, it is still claimed as the  world’s largest lake on an island (Volcano Island) in a lake (Taal Lake) on an island (Luzon). Of course it is, where else in the whole world would you find a lake on an island in a lake on an island?

Vulcan point: On this world’s largest lake on an island in a lake on an island, is a tiny land mass called the Vulcan Point which is the world’s largest volcano in a lake (Main Crater Lake) on a volcano (Taal Volcano). It isn’t even big enough to support a small house.

Home to Unique Species

But all that is just a part of what is interesting about the Taal lake. Ecologically it is another marvel in a way that it is home to a few species of animals that are found nowhere else on earth. In this lake you’ll find the only varieties of fresh water sardines, sharks and sea snakes.

Reason: This lake was not a lake several thousands of years back. Then, due to volcanic eruptions, it got separated from the sea. Now the only thing that connected this water mass and the sea was Pansipit river. Gradually, several hundreds of years of precipitation converted this lake from a saltwater lake to a freshwater lake. For centuries, animals living here have remained isolated and have evolved into unique species to adapt to this desalination.