Still, there are other means to study the composition of the ice that makes it possible to recognize the seasonal layering.
Cores are recovered by drilling with hand augers (for shallow holes) or powered drills; the deepest cores recovered reach depths of over two miles, and can contain ice up to 800,000 years old.
Cycles of freeze and thaw carve drainages, rivers, canyons and even lakes under what seems, from the surface, to be an endless expanse of white.
Now, researchers have drilled down into one of these hidden landscapes, subglacial Lake Whillans in western Antarctica.
Approximately 98 per cent of the Antarctic continent is covered by the ice sheet which is on average about 2,500 metres thick and, at it's deepest location, 4,700 metres thick.
It is due to this thick ice mass that Antarctica is, on average, the highest continent.