The topographic and geologic characteristics of grooves and groove-like features in the south polar layered deposits near the Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2 landing sites are evaluated using Mariner 9 images and their derived photoclinometry, normalized using Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter data. Although both Mariner 9 and Viking images of the south polar layered deposits were available at the time of this study, Mariner 9 images of the grooves were selected because they were generally of higher resolution than Viking images. The dimensions and slopes of the grooves, together with orientations that nearly match the strongest winds predicted in the Martian Global Circulation Model and directions inferred from other wind indicators, suggest that they formed by aeolian scour of an easily erodible surface. Most grooves are symmetric and V-shaped in transverse profile, inconsistent with an origin involving extensional brittle deformation. Although the grooves strike along slopes and terraces of the south polar layered deposits, the variable depths and lack of terracing within the grooves themselves indicate that any stratigraphy in the uppermost 100 m of the polar layered deposits is composed of layers of similar, and relatively low, resistance. The grooves do not represent landing hazards at the scale of the Mariner 9 images (72-86 m/pixel) and therefore probably would not have affected Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2, had they successfully reached the surface. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).