Apparent ice-surface topography is observed at several scales on Landsat multi-spectral scanner (MSS) imagery. Digitally enhanced MSS scenes from Antarctica and Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, are compared with ice-surface elevations from aircraft altimetry (relative accuracy 2–3 m) to show that this apparent topography is real. Apparent ice divides on Landsat images fit closely with divides on altimetric records. Ice-surface irregularities within drainage basins are also shown to be real. On Byrd Glacier, Antarctica, apparent “flow lines” coincide with ridges on altimetric records. Synoptic Landsat data, calibrated by information from aircraft altimetric flight lines, are used to classify the surface roughness of the ice caps on Nordaustlandet and 40% of the Antarctic ice sheet. On Nordaustlandet, the roughest ice is of amplitude 15–25 m and wavelength 3–4.5 km. Drainage basins with such rough surface characteristics may be associated with ice streams or possibly past surge activity. The most rough Antarctic terrain is up to 60 m in amplitude, with wavelengths of <10 km. The roughness of the Antarctic ice sheet increases with distance from ice divides, reflecting changes in the parameters affecting the transfer of basal stresses to the ice surface.