Weird Antarctica

February 25, 2011

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

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.)

Lake Ellsworth

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.

8 Responses to “Weird Antarctica”

  1. KathyB Says:

    The sea pig is awesome!

    As for the lake, I imagine that it contains a Kraken, and think it no coincidence that it will be investigated in 2012, just in time for the Mayan end of the world.

  2. cburrell Says:

    I confess that I don’t know what a Kraken is. But it doesn’t sound good.

  3. Janet Says:

    I really, really, really, really must have a Basket Star of my own. It looks like Tim Burton has been working at the antarctic.

    And the Sea Pig! I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life without knowing they existed.


  4. cburrell Says:

    So I was right, Kathy: not good.

    I loved the Basket Star too, Janet. Isn’t it odd that such a thing is an animal? It does look a bit like a Kraken though, which is a touch unnerving.

  5. Christina A. Says:

    Duh! Didn’t you guys ever read the Bible? Lots of great sea monsters there – cf. Genesis 1:21

    I still really like the Leopard Seal, but the Sea Pig is awesome too! These could fit really well into obscure, nerdy insults!

    “Don’t go out for all you can eat sushi with that guy! He’s a real Leopard Seal when it comes to raw fish!”

  6. Mac Says:

    Well, we know from The X-Files that there is a huge alien base in Antarctica (I’m sure it’s apparent destruction was faked), and they may be using that lake for purposes of their own.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    All the unusual things they are finding now ,and i will not be suprised as more are discoverd now that the ice is melting.They i belive have found bones of ancient animals also especially dolfin species, left on the rocky d-iced shore line.Realety is stranger than fiction i think.

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