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Friday May 24, 2024
Friday May 24, 2024

Rare ‘ice finger of death’ strikes fear in arctic waters, freezing life in its path



Terrifying Brinicle phenomenon captured unleashing destructive ice column

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In the depths of the Arctic Ocean, a rare and chilling phenomenon known as a ‘brinicle’ is terrorizing marine life, freezing everything it touches in its deadly descent. Captured in a video that surfaced online, this haunting spike of ice plunges towards the ocean floor, leaving a frozen trail of destruction in its wake.

Despite common perceptions of the Arctic and Antarctic as desolate marine expanses, the Arctic Ocean is a thriving ecosystem filled with diverse life, including hidden coral reefs and the long-lived Greenland Shark, possibly reaching 400 years of age.

For less mobile inhabitants of the Arctic, such as starfish and anemones, the brinicle poses a unique threat. Unlike traditional marine predators, a brinicle is a natural occurrence that can take place in specific Arctic Ocean regions beneath sea ice.

The menacing process of forming a brinicle begins within the sea ice, where channels of highly salty brine develop due to the salt content in seawater. These channels, remaining liquid due to their lower freezing temperature compared to surrounding seawater, create the foundation for a potential brinicle.

Occasionally, bursts of extremely cold liquid brine, with a freezing temperature lower than the surrounding seawater, erupt into the ocean. As this dense brine sinks to the bottom, it freezes the seawater in its path, forming a descending column of ice known as a brinicle.

When a brinicle reaches the ocean floor, its icy tendrils spread out, freezing anything in their path. While swifter creatures like fish and shrimp can typically escape, slower-moving echinoderms such as starfish and sea urchins face a frigid demise.

Brinicles can grow several meters a day, expanding onto the seafloor and forming an ice sheet referred to as ‘anchor ice.’ Reports from a study in the Journal of Glaciology indicate brinicles as long as six meters have been observed in Antarctica.

Although scientists have understood the basic process of brinicle formation since the 1960s, it wasn’t until 2011 that the phenomenon was captured on film, featured in the BBC’s Blue Planet II series. Despite this visual insight, the full understanding of brinicles remains a mysterious and chilling aspect of Arctic marine life.


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