Mt Hope, which is sited in the part of the Antarctic claimed by the UK, was recently re-measured and found to tower above the previous title holder, Mt Jackson, by a good 50m (160ft). Hope is now put at 3,239m (10,626ft); Jackson is 3,184m (10,446ft). Some of its mountains have now been “moved” up to 5km to position them more accurately on future maps. Mount Vinson, which sits just outside the British Antarctic Territory, remains the undisputed tallest peak on the continent at 4,892m (16,049ft).
The map-makers at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) were prompted to take another look at the mountains because of concerns for the safety of pilots flying across the White Continent. “In Antarctica there are no roads, so to get around you have to fly planes. And if you’re flying planes you really need to know where the mountains are and how high they are,” explained Dr Peter Fretwell. There have been plane crashes on the continent and we believe some of them may have been due to poor mapping.
When this medium-resolution information threw up the possibility that Mt Hope had been underestimated, the researchers then ordered in some very high-resolution photos for confirmation. These pictures, taken from orbit by the American WorldView-2 spacecraft, allowed for a stereo view of the summits of both Hope and Jackson. The long chain of peaks that runs down the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. The chain was initially built some 50-100 million years ago when an oceanic tectonic plate slid under the Antarctic continent, said BAS geophysicist Dr Tom Jordan.