Ground Zero Glacial Awesomeness

World Trade Center dig reveals buried Ice-Age wonderland
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World Trade Center dig reveals buried Ice-Age wonderland

When I lived in New York, I used to wander through Central Park and wonder what those hulking, eroded ribs of schist jutting from the grass might be connected to underground. Now I know: The NY Times reports that while digging the foundation for the new World Trade Center, architects and geologists have uncovered massive rock features carved during the last Ice Age.

While searching the bedrock for a firm foundation, construction firm Silverstein Properties inadvertently revealed "plummeting holes, steep cliffsides and soft billows of steel-gray bedrock, punctuated by thousands of beach-smooth cobblestones in a muted rainbow of reds and purples and greens" not seen for 20,000 years.

The centerpiece includes a 40-foot-deep pit known as a glacial pothole; resident geologists have already started calling it "the Grand Canyon of Lower Manhattan." The bottom of the canyon lies about 110 feet below street level.

Already, NYC residents and even construction workers at the site are lamenting the fact that someday soon, the revealed landscape will get buried once again, below the new World Trade Center. Some wistful construction workers have resorted to collecting the polished pebbles deposited by the glaciers ages ago. Said one construction worker:

“I think they should keep it,” he said. “Turn it into an aquarium. Fill it with fish. Do something special — not just another building.”

Here's my idea: Keep digging. They may find an entire Yosemite buried underneath Manhattan. Can you imagine getting to the top of Half Dome II, taking a left down Church Street, and getting Dunkin' Donuts only minutes after your sea-level summit? I can practically taste it.

— Ted Alvarez

At Ground Zero, Scenes From An Ice Age (NY Times)