If one thinks of snow, ice, mountains, penguins, and seals when one thinks of Antarctica, one has made an almost comprehensive inventory. But Antarctica is a big place, and here and there one finds things that are a little odd, a little strange, a little out of the ordinary.
Blood Falls, located on the mainland not far from Ross Island, is a spot where a great river of fresh blood wells up from a deep wound in the heart of the earth and gushes forth to bathe the fresh snow. The blood, they say, bears a distinct resemblance to an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater, and that is evident upon visual inspection as well as from chemical analysis. It is truly one of the most unusual things to be found in Antarctica, or anywhere else. (My thanks to KathyB for bringing it to my attention.)
The Sea Pig
The Sea Pig is an example of a sea cucumber, which — much to my surprise, and perhaps also to yours — is an animal and no vegetable. This invertebrate scours the ocean floor impersonating a cow’s udder. The species pictured here was discovered in 2009 during a trawl of the Antarctic coast. Quite a few other strange and wonderful creatures were discovered during the same survey, and pictures of them can be seen here. It is safe to say that the Antarctic ocean harbours yet more weird surprises for us. (My thanks to my sister for bringing the sea pig to my attention.)
Speaking of surprises in store, Lake Ellsworth may very well take the prize. Ellsworth is a large subglacial lake, buried under 3 km of ice, that has been sealed from the outside world for hundreds of thousands of years. Plans are afoot to drill down into the lake to discover whether and what life may be found there. Of course, we don’t know what will be found yet — the first samples will be collected late in 2012 — but there is at least the possibility that something weird will be discovered, and that, I think, is a comforting thought.