Marine-geological and -geophysical data collected from the continental shelf in Pine Island Bay, Antarctica, reveal a complex paleo-subglacial drainage system controlled by bedrock topography and subglacial meltwater discharge. Significant amounts of freely flowing meltwater existed beneath former ice sheets in Pine Island Bay. Subglacial drainage is characterized by descriptions of glacial landforms imaged on the sea floor and sedimentary deposits collected in piston cores. Bedrock geology is characterized using seismic data. Large-scale landforms on the shelf include channels and cavities incised into impermeable crystalline bedrock. There is a transition from randomly oriented channels on the inner shelf to a dendritic pattern of elongate channels on the middle shelf. On the outer shelf, a change in basal conditions occurs where sedimentary deposits bury crystalline bedrock. No evidence for flowing meltwater exists on sedimentary substrates. Instead, meltwater formed at the ice–sediment contact was incorporated into the sediments, contributing to development of a deforming bed, which was sampled in piston cores. Characterization of subglacial meltwater processes that occurred in the past may aid in understanding the role meltwater plays in stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet today.